Whitetail Hunting photo

Although the whitetail breeding season is still weeks away, our panel of regional reporters is already hard at work, bringing you up-to-date information on what deer are doing in your area. And it seems that heat is having an effect no matter where you live.

South Central reporter Brandon Ray kicked off that theme, noting that dry weather has impacted food and cover conditions for deer. However, Brandon points out that some areas have received rain and conditions are better. Many hunters neglect the importance of spring/summer rains in the development of vegetation that deer use throughout the fall, and savvy hunters like Brandon remind us that scouting for those pockets of good cover can pay off during the season.

Northeast reporter Mike Bleech echoes other reporters in noting that most bucks are still in velvet, and that has delayed the start of rubbing. When those first early season rubs do appear, pay special attention, because mature bucks frequently make them. Mike has also begun his extensive preseason scouting routine, which includes long distance observation with optics, as well as tending to a long line of trail cameras. Both techniques are excellent methods for zeroing in on bucks to target for the first weeks of bow season. Mike also monitors deer activity to see how it is influenced by moon position; this is one of those detail-oriented activities that marks a keen observer of deer and can lead to better hunting opportunity.

David Draper’s report from the Great Plains brought excellent news: though warm weather is confining deer movement to the last slivers of light, whitetail does seem to have pulled off a good fawn crop…which will help a herd devastated by an epic EHD outbreak last summer to start the road to recovery.

Will Brantley’s Mid-South report showed why we always rely on Will for keen observations on deer behavior and hunting methods. Will notes that strong summer rains have cover and feed in excellent shape; white oak acorns are starting to drop, and farmers are eyeing cornfields for harvest. These two food sources can dramatically alter deer behavior and hunters need to be scouting heavily for buck sign near these critical early season feeding areas. Hunters who’ve watched bucks abandon late-summer patterns often complain that deer have “gone nocturnal” when, in fact, they’ve simply switched to the hottest local food source and changed their patterns in the process. Never forget that whitetails are highly fickle when it comes to feed and will switch to the newest, freshest source almost immediately. Keeping up with those moves requires constant monitoring of favorite deer foods in your area.

Finally, Jeff Holmes’ interview with successful Western hunter Tina Lind (who shot a great buck last fall) highlights a killer early season strategy; driving between ag fields to find those most favored by bucks. This highly mobile scouting style is perfect for learning where deer like to be, and crossing off spots where, for reasons known only to deer, they simply don’t. Tina also points out that, once she finds a buck using a field consistently, she monitors specific places the deer enter and exit that food source and uses the information to create great stand setups. It’s not enough to know only which fields a buck is using, but also how he uses that spot.

More states are opening their bow seasons in the days ahead, so more detailed information is on the way.