Overall Activity Status: Just normal for early October, deer are keying on food. This could be just a feeling, but it seems that bucks are becoming a bit interested, maybe curious, about the does.
Fighting: Still no one has talked about watching bucks in a serious fight. It is happening, though. More lone bucks can be seen now.
Rub & Scrape Making:** Rubs are all over the place, but in many areas there are not as many as usual. More scrapes are being seen, but there have been no reports of the sudden appearance of numerous scrapes that precedes the serious part of the rut. The long-held notion that the bigger bucks rub the bigger trees has a lot of merit, so watch for it. Look for tine marks on those trees. Also look at the ground by the tree. More mature bucks will be increasingly enthusiastic with rubbing, and they may dig up the ground with their hooves. Young bucks probably will not do this.
Chasing:** It is too early for bucks to be chasing does in rutting terms. One hunter in New York reported seeing a small buck making a nuisance of himself with a small group of does and fawns, but if that was due to the rut he would have singled out the doe in heat.
Daytime Movement: Unseasonably warm weather has been holding down deer movement, especially during daylight hours. This is just one of the variations from the norm that happen every year. I have never seen any long term weather that was average.
Estrous Signs: No signs yet, although after each passing day the possibility increases.
X Factor: Hunters all over the region, with the exception of the far north, have reported harvesting bucks. This just shows how patterns do not apply to all individual bucks.
A grunt tube can be very effective now. In fact, I have seen deer responsive to grunt tubes virtually year-around. Usually I use two monotone grunts about a second in duration, separated by about a second. I grunt sparingly, and usually after spotting a buck that otherwise would not get within arrow range. Later I will describe a grunt that has brought in some of the best bucks I have ever seen in hunting season. It is a very specific rut grunt.
The major scrape I have been watching since late August still is a cause of bewilderment. At times I suspect that another hunter may be playing games. That is probably foolish. However, I am at a loss to explain why this scrape was so active from the last week of August when I found it until the second week of September, but then it was ignored by all bucks and visited by only one doe until this week. That’s when the very nice 8-point I mentioned in the previous report made a showing. I should have noted that there were no signs in the scrape that it had been there. Maybe that was washed away by rain because something, the 8-point I assume, had pulled down one of the limbs than hang over the scrape.
When examining deer tracks, look very carefully at the front edges of big tracks. Bucks wear off the sharp tips of their hooves while scraping. This may be the best clue, other than finding tracks at a rub or seeing a buck in the tracks, for deciding that a buck made the tracks. I have no scientific evidence to back this up. A friend who is an excellent deer hunter told me about it many years ago and I believe it.
A point that I try to make to deer hunters (without much success) has been demonstrated along the driving loop that a friend and I have been making about a couple times per week. Sometimes we see very few deer, maybe two or three does and fawns. Many hunters would be quick to pronounce that the area has very few deer. But then every once in a while we will see many more deer including several bucks. Whatever is not seen proves nothing, at least not without numerous repetitions. On the other hand, seeing many deer even just once proves that you have a pretty good area.
I have picked out a nice-looking big woods 6-point that I will make a serious attempt to arrow. It is far from the best buck we have seen in our primary hunting area. I just like it. Add brow tines and it would be a lot better.