Fall came with the calendar this year. This happens rarely, just as average happens rarely. Now, you probably are getting the idea that these statements are leading up to something. Sorry to disappoint you, but no, this is all about observation.
Reports have been coming in about bucks shedding velvet, or not shedding velvet, about rubbing, about scraping. One thing should be kept in mind when listening to reports about bucks. Reports generally are based on observations which were made over the past few days, certainly not within the past few minutes, so no report can literally be up to the minute. Of course we all understand this, but sometimes we should remind ourselves when it is time to choose a stand location.
Reports from central Maine told of bucks having shed velvet. From lower New England it was reported that some shed, some did not. From Ohio all bucks one observer had seen had shed. So in general it seems safe to say that by the time you read this it is an unusual buck that has not shed its velvet. If you see antlers still in velvet now you may have seen the rare doe with antlers, or an injured buck. Maybe it just has not yet shed.
Rubs are common now. I had not seen many before last weekend, but other hunters in my area said they had seen several rubs as long as two weeks ago. Reports of rubs have come from all over the region. It was an old hunters’ misconception that bucks rubbed to get the velvet off their antlers. Perhaps they do, but that is not the main motivation for rubbing. We can only guess what that motivation might be. Likely they are strengthening their neck muscles, or testing their antlers.
Scrapes are less common now. One hunter in northeast Ohio has seen a few. The major scrapes that are visited by several different deer are around a lot longer than those usually smaller scrapes that we will start to see when does start coming into heat. Science shows that some does come into heat during October in our region, increasingly more as the month progresses. The first couple weeks of October are a bit early.
From what you folks have been reporting, it looks like a very good year for acorns across nearly all of the region, excepting northern Maine, the Adirondacks and anywhere oaks are scarce. Hopefully beech nuts make up for it this year. Likewise, the apple crop apparently is very bad across the region. Here in the Allegheny National Forest, I have found some at higher elevations, but they are small and not plentiful. Find an apple tree dropping apples and you should see plenty of deer. Apples are right up near the highest priority on the list of things deer prefer to eat. But those acorns might make it hard to get close to deer. They are also high priority, especially those from white oaks. Acorns will even keep deer from feeding in crop fields as much as usual, and probably are the reason you might not be seeing as many deer while driving the roads.
Since it is either the start of or very close to the start of bowhunting season in a good chunk of our region, it is time to get serious. I will be using my climbing stand by well-worn trails, particularly the one that has that big scrape I have been writing about. The problem is, the last time I was there it looked like the deer had abandoned it. Another leads toward a place where I have been seeing bucks. So many acorns are on the ground that walking is difficult, but there are acorns all over that area.
My best suggestion now is to look for trails that pass through funnels, or run between bedding areas and feeding areas. It might be necessary to get closer to the bedding areas than usual if deer are dispersing very shortly after leaving. Funnels are just about always very good places to stand. Deer do not have to move as much this year as they do when mast is scarcer, so be satisfied with seeing fewer deer.
Big woods, rolling farmland, woodlot, swamp, ridge and valley–this region features every type of whitetail terrain imaginable. Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.