You may have noticed that reports this fall have sometimes been conflicting and confusing. Welcome to deer hunting 2013.
Overall Activity Status: Deer activity is high in most of our Northeast Region. A big increase in highway mortality is clear evidence of this. However, in some areas at least, few of the bigger bucks have been among the road kills.
Fighting: There have been some reports of bucks fighting still.
Rub Making: During a year when rubs have been scarce over much of the region, there has been a recent increase in rubbing, most notably rub lines. I found this sign for the first time this fall in the area of my trail cameras in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.
Scrape Making: Scrape making, likewise, has been less than usual this year, and like rubs, more scrapes have been seen over the past few days.
Chasing: There is more chasing that we have seen so far this fall. But if the peak of the rut happened over the past few days, it was not as intense as usual in much of the region.
From my bow stand Friday evening I watched a doe run past, followed by a buck. Both stopped no more than 25 yards from my stand, and the buck mounted the doe. But the brush there is thick, so I could not see how big the buck was, and certainly did not even consider risking a shot. The next day was the last day of the season, and I was in the same stand when I heard what seemed to be the same thing as the previous evening. But I saw even less. I would be stretching things to suggest that it was another case of a buck chasing a hot doe. Still, it was an exciting end of the bowhunting season.
Daytime Movement: Daytime movement increased on the day of the full moon. Sights like the mature buck shown above, captured on one of my trail cameras at 16 minutes past noon a couple days before the full moon, were common, though most were does. But not much daytime chasing has been reported.****
Estrous Signs: Does are coming into heat in significant numbers. This started about 10 days ago, when a group of bowhunters on the Allegheny National Forest enjoyed a great hunt.
“We had deer running everywhere,” Dave Zofko said.
Zofko was part of a group of five hunters, the only one who did not get a nice buck. But he did pass up shots that he determined to be too far. And a bowhunter at a neighboring camp saw three bucks with three does. It is most likely that the bucks were there because at least one of the does was either in heat, or just about to be.
Estrous scents were an important part of this hunt. The group used various brands of scents with good results: Their tally included a very nice 6-point and three 8-points. One of the 8-points rough scored 145 points. The others were also very impressive bucks for the big woods (“nut crackers,” as Zofko calls them).
Of course, these are all good, experienced bowhunters in the woods during the peak of the rut. One of the 8-points was with a doe, and the bowhunter who got it was able to stalk within bow range.
X Factor: We may be in the peak of the rut, and from reports I have heard the peak may be drawn out for a few days, since it has not been very intense. This does not mean that there will not be more breeding later. As suggested in the previous report, use hunting tactics related to does in heat.