Overall Activity Status: Movement was painfully slow last weekend and early this week, but the strong cold front that rolled through on Tuesday changed that. The weather is seasonal now, with crisp mornings and warm afternoons. I’ve been seeing plenty of deer on their feet (mostly does and small bucks) well before the end of shooting light the past couple days. White oak acorns have been the ticket.
Fighting: Bachelor groups are a thing of the past now, and big rub lines in the woods tell the stories of various bucks establishing their territories. Bucks have been sparring for the better part of a month already. Serious fights will be breaking out now.
Rub making: Rubs are abundant in the Mid-South woods.
Scrape making: I’ve seen a couple of small scrapes on field edges, but haven’t found any big, primary scrapes yet.
Chasing: Nothing to report yet. I bet that changes in a week.
Daytime movement: Bucks aren’t on their feet and running wild at all hours of the day yet, but each cold front is producing a good trickle of activity. As mentioned above, lone white oaks, where you can find them, are producing outstanding action right now. I can’t remember a better acorn situation, from a hunting ambush standpoint, in a long time. The hot trees are few and far between, but when you find one, it’s unmistakable. The deer sign underneath gives it away. I haven’t killed a deer in the oaks yet, but I should have. I’ve had plenty of opportunities and abundant bad luck.
White oaks aside, crop fields and food plots are continuing to produce as well. We’ve spent a lot of time watching a cut cornfield this month (that’s my wife Michelle tucked into a fence row with a crossbow in the photo), and are still seeing deer there virtually every sit. Getting them in range has been another matter.
Estrous signs: None yet
X Factor: Rattling horns. Although we think of aggressive rattling sequences as a trick to use just before and during the rut, I’ve actually rattled in the most deer at this time of year, during the pre-rut. Bucks are still bedding near their food sources right now, and most of their activity is still at night. Heavy buck sign near a good food source (rubs and scrapes within bow range of a hot white oak, for example) is a dead giveaway of this situation. So I like to treat the horns not necessarily as a “calling all bucks” tool this time of year, but as a curiosity call. Making one good rattling sequence from the stand the last hour before dark can be just enough to get the buck you want out of his bed and on his feet before shooting light ends.