Overall Activity Status: Reports from around the Northeast region paint a slightly conflicting picture about overall activity. Deer activity has picked up generally since the thermometer dropped, but then reports come in about deer activity waning. Discount those drop-offs in activity; they’re just brief swings.
Fighting: Bucks have been seen fighting in the southern Adirondack region, according to Frank’s Gun and Tackle Shop near Gloversville, New York. You can bet some fighting is going on all over the region. The amount of it probably depends to some degree on the buck to doe ratio, or buck density.
Rub Making: Some hunters this fall have mentioned seeing fewer rubs than usual. This has been my experience here on the Allegheny National Forest, in Crawford County and in McKean County, adjoining counties that stretch from the Ohio border to north-central Pennsylvania. I can never recall seeing so few rubs. I might have thought this just coincidence, except that it covers a broad area, in places where I usually see plenty of rubs.
But there are places where rubs have been numerous this fall, like the Adirondack area, where John Havlick has see numerous rubs and scrapes. “I’ve seen the most deer sign ever,” Havlick said.
Delaware Outdoors in Smyrna, Delaware, also reports plenty of both rubs and scrapes.
When I was a young hunter we were taught that bucks rub to get the velvet off their antlers. We know different now. Scrapes are scent markers, typically visited by several deer, likely every adult deer that passes. Rubbing seems to be used to build neck muscles. Deer, of course, have no concept of this. Also rubs are done out of aggression. Big bucks will tear into trees and brush, twisting their heads, pushing, pulling, breaking branches and tearing smaller trees out by the roots. Many hunters will not even recognize this as being done by a deer. As the above video, of a brush-thrashing buck in the Ottawa, Canada region taken yesterday shows, this is prime time to look for such sign. Whenever I find it I take it as a very good sign that a big buck is in the area.
Scrape Making: Now that moist leaves are on the ground in most of our region, hunters are noticing more scrapes. As with rubs, some areas are seeing fewer scrapes than usual.
Chasing: Bucks are chasing does all over the region. Reports from Delaware Outdoors in Delaware, S&S Taxidermy Archery in western New York, and Frank’s Gun and Tackle Shop in northern New York all mentioned bucks chasing does.
Robert Rogan, hunting in southeastern New York this most recent Saturday, encountered two bucks, a 6-point and an 8-point. “The 8-point was chasing a doe all over the woods,” Rogan said.
Daytime Movement: Rogan said he has not noticed any recent daytime activity in his area by older bucks. But younger bucks have been moving in daylight, and he has gotten several photos of big bucks moving at night on his trail cameras recently.
Field & Stream Executive Editor Mike Toth hunted New Jersey over the weekend and saw two bucks moving in daylight. The first day at about 11:30 a.m., while hunting a wildlife management area in central New Jersey, he watched a 6-point cruising for does. The next day at about 9:00 a.m., while hunting in northwest New Jersey, he watched a 5-point doing the same thing: “Alone, moving, not feeding, obviously in search of a willing female.”
Estrous Signs: It might seem that so many bucks chasing does is a good sign of does in heat, but this is not necessarily so. Bucks might just be very anxious. Or maybe they can tell when a doe is very close to coming into heat.
A very different report comes from Delaware Outdoors, where Steve Russ said not much has been going on for the past three or four days. He thinks the rut peaked in his area around Halloween.
X Factor: Get into full estrous hunting methods and tools now. Reports from just about everywhere in the region point to this. Don’t let low temperatures deter you from hunting. This usually means deer will be active.