Overall Activity Status: Deer are becoming increasingly active. This will be more noticeable when daytime temperatures become lower.
Fighting: Fighting could start any time. No fighting has yet been reported, but this does not mean much since fighting is not often seen. Scouting on the Allegheny National Forest this evening by using a spotlight while driving back roads, we saw a pair of young bucks in the 4-point to 6-point class, with spreads of less than 10 inches, laying side by side in a field.
Earlier in the evening while checking trail cams, I saw two very nice bucks by a chestnut tree. They bolted just as I came into view, and since it was getting dark, I did not see their relative size, and the only thing I clearly saw was that the rear buck was a very nice 8-point. Neither of these pairs of bucks engaged in fighting, but that could start any time after the bucks lose their velvet. This is a largely misunderstood process. Before fighting starts, bucks are in what many hunters term as bachelor groups. The common notion is that they become loners after fighting determines dominance. In fact, however, it is not unusual to see bucks together after fighting. Deer can not think in such complicated concepts as disliking or hating one another.
Rub & Scrape Making: Bucks should be starting to rub, but as yet I have not found any fresh rubs. Since many of the bucks in our region have lost their velvet, this demonstrates that rubbing is not done to remove the velvet. Scraping is another matter. Some major scrapes are used for an extended period. The smaller, more numerous scrapes more closely associated with the rut have not yet appeared. The big scrapes might be visited and used more often by does than by bucks, as the above photo of a Pennsylvania piebald doe at a scrape last week illustrates.
Chasing: Not yet, except for playful fawns and yearlings.
Daytime Movement: Nothing related to the rut.
Estrous Signs: Although bucks are alert for the odors of estrus, it is too soon.
X Factor: During the past three days in the area where I do most of my scouting, which includes the Allegheny National Forest and more gently rolling terrain that is used primarily for agriculture in northwestern Pennsylvania, bucks have been losing their velvet. Bucks that have lost their velvet get increasingly active, so they are more likely to be seen. Since bucks with antlers that are still in velvet are not as active and thus are not as likely to be seen, it is impossible to determine what percentage of the bucks have lost their velvet.
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.