Buck Sign and Deer Activity Increasing

Overall Activity Status: The past week has been full of classic fall weather. Strong cold fronts have brought windy, drizzly days and big temperature swings. But it's not taking long for the days to warm back up after those fronts pass. Right now, it's 80 degrees and sunny. I'm going crappie fishing this afternoon. But I still-hunted on Monday afternoon, and it was one of those rainy, windy days. It got cold right at dark. The deer were moving like crazy, too.

Most hunters don't think of still-hunting with a bow as a high-odds proposition, but that's a mistake on a day like that. Use the wet leaves and the wind to your advantage, and sneaking in close becomes easier than you might think. My best tip is to get within 60 yards of a deer, and then stop and hope the deer wanders toward you. You've got a 50/50 chance, and you can get ready for the shot. Think of it this way: when a deer's at 60 yards and you're in a treestand, do you move?

I drew my bow on two different does that were within easy bow range that day using that exact tactic. Small limbs and plain bad luck kept me from killing one. I was also within bow range of one small buck, and 80 yards from another one. It was more action than I've had from a treestand in weeks.

Fighting: Bucks are doing some sparring now. On the one hand, I wouldn't say fights are serious. But on the other, one of the two small bucks I saw Monday evening had a broken main beam. Did he break it in a fight? I can't say that for sure. But it's awfully suspect.

Rub making: Rubs are appearing with some frequency now. Chris Ryan, who works for the West Virginia DNR (that state's bow season opened last weekend), says he's been seeing scattered rubs for two weeks now.

Scrape making: I'm finding numbers of active scrapes earlier than usual this year. I wouldn't call it heavy activity yet, but it's definitely on the rise.

Chasing: None yet.

Daytime movement: Despite my numerous deer sightings on Monday, daytime activity has still been fairly slow, with most of it occurring early morning and late evening. Though bachelor groups are busted up and buck sign is appearing, hunting patterns are still dominated by food right now--especially acorns. In some areas, there's a lot of mast on the ground. That can make seeing deer in the daylight tough. But these cold fronts--another one is forecast for this weekend--are certainly spicing up the deer activity when they occur.

Estrous signs: None yet.

X Factor: Some early firearm-hunting opportunities are on the horizon in several portions of the Mid-South. Kentucky's youth hunters will get the first crack at the deer herd with rifles next weekend (Oct. 13-14) during the two-day youth season. The following weekend will be Kentucky's early two-day muzzleloader season. Muzzleloader seasons are already open in a couple of North Carolina's four hunting zones, and the eastern zone will open for modern firearms hunting Oct. 13. Tennessee's Young Sportsman season will be the final weekend in October.

While I don't expect any early rut miracles this year, the cold front trends we've been having so far have been a good thing for the deer movement. If some of these early firearm opportunities coincide with a jolt of arctic air, I expect a few big deer to be killed.