Overall Activity Status: Last week, I predicted that this week’s movement—due to the full moon and time of year—would be slow. I have to eat a few words. I’ve hunted several times over the past week and have seen multiple deer every sit. Furthermore, my trail cameras have been alive with daylight activity. Typical of a full moon, much of that activity has been in the mid-morning and early afternoon hours. Several hunting buddies in my area reported lively trail camera action all week as well.
Fighting: I saw two bucks sparring on Saturday evening. Interestingly, they were two of four bucks still running together in a bachelor group. A buddy from Tennessee sent me the above trail camera photo of three bucks. The dandy buck in the foreground is the focal point, of course, but the two younger bucks in the background are fighting.
Rub making: As of last week’s second post I hadn’t found the first rub of the season, but since then I’ve seen a dozen or more good, fresh rubs.
Scrape making: I can’t remember a year when I’ve found so many big, active scrapes this early in the game. The nighttime trail camera photo below is from my farm, and the scrape that buck is working is probably four feet in diameter. He was one of several bucks to freshen the scrape that week. Bucks have been marking the licking branch over that scrape since early September.
Chasing: Nothing to report yet.
Daytime movement: The weather has had its ups and downs, with a pretty even mix of cool mornings and warm afternoons. I’ve been hunting a stand on an oak flat 50 yards from the edge of a standing bean field this week, and have seen deer every sit. Although a few of them have crossed through the beans, most have been on the hunt for acorns. As mentioned above, much of the activity has been well before dark, too.
Estrous signs: Nothing yet.
X Factor: Bill Jordan, owner of Realtree, gives this classic advice for hunting the rut: “Food, does, bucks.” Although locating bedding areas, buck sign, and pinch points are all elements of an effective rut-hunting strategy, pinpointing doe activity is the deadliest strategy of all. Right now is a good time to begin doing that.
The deer woods undergo landscape-level changes almost by the week in September. But autumn is here now. Crops are harvested. Woodland browse is dying off. Acorns and soft mast are falling. Fall food plots are replacing dormant forbs as the best areas for deer to get a bite of “something green.” Groups of does can become easier to pinpoint right now simply because the food options are fewer. The options that are available will remain fairly stable until true winter weather arrives.
The woods right now are beginning to look much like they will during the heat of the rut. Although there will be some pecking order changes, does are largely eating the same things right now that they will be a few weeks from now. So while I’ll maintain that’s still a good time to shoot a doe or two for the freezer, it’s also time for early reconnaissance work. Areas with good numbers of does in mid-October will probably still have good numbers of does—and a few good bucks—in early November, too.