I agree with PA_hunt_fish_2013, who commented, “Don’t be surprised to see some chasing this week.” The rut is getting close, and hunting should be improving.
The peak is still two or three weeks off, depending on where you are hunting. The average rut peak in Pennsylvania is November 14, based on Pennsylvania Game Commission research. This should be fairly accurate across northern Ohio, New York south of the Adirondacks, New Jersey and some of New England south of the northern forest.
Martel’s Bait & Sport in Laconia, New Hampshire, reported that there has been no chasing yet, and no bucks fighting. But Old Trading Post at Hillsboro, Ohio, gave one of our more encouraging reports. Bucks have been fighting, and some bucks have been seen chasing does. There are fewer fresh rubs, but numerous scrapes. Some big bucks have been seen during daytime.
Central Pennsylvania hunter Jon Whitbred has been seeing many active scrapes in his hunting area, but saw no rubs until October 18, when he did some scouting after coming out of his stand.
Mike Stimmell and I made our regular deer-spotting loop in the western Allegheny National Forest last Thursday night less than an hour after hard rain. The temperature when we started was 63 degrees. We saw 28 does and fawns, six unknown deer and three bucks, for a total of 37 deer. That is a better than average total number of deer, but an indication that buck movement was still lagging. But remember, that was a day before colder weather moved in over the weekend. Two of the bucks had fair racks. I will guess they were both 2-1/2 years old. The third buck was pretty nice for this area, at least 8 points and about 16 inches wide on the outside, likely a 3-1/2 years-old at minimum.
Commenters are pointing out that an abundance of productive oaks, which is common this year, is making deer hunting difficult in forest habitat. You can find research backing that up in a report at the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources web site.
It indicates that abundant hard mast crops negatively affect deer harvests. The same, and maybe worse, conditions may be standing corn, which was also mentioned in our comments. Deer will bed in standing corn, and obviously do not have to move far to eat.
I believe we have some very experienced hunters making comments.
But bucks are getting anxious, and if a doe is in heat, forget about hard mast and corn. I still like to place my tree stand at funnels and concentrate on rut-type tactics such as scent trails (my favorite), rattling, grunting and bleating. Rattling may be done most effectively by team hunting, with the hunter doing the rattling on the ground about 30 yards on the opposite side of the stand hunter from the direction bucks are most likely to approach (which can be difficult to determine). The rattler might try grunting in combination. A doe-in-estrous scent line passing close to the stand hunter might help also. Go get them, ladies and gentlemen.