Overall Activity Status: Deer movement has been steady in Kentucky during the first couple weeks of the season. Deer are still entrenched in their early season patterns, with the best movement occurring during the last 45 minutes of daylight near major food sources, especially bean fields. Beans as a whole seem to be behind throughout the region thanks to late-summer rains.
“In much of Virginia, the beans are about six weeks behind,” says Matt Knox, deer project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “Beans are more drought-tolerant than corn, and in much of the state, they’re emerald green and waist-high, whereas the fields would typically be turning yellow this time of year. It’s created a deer paradise for sure.”
Fighting: Though there’ve been reports of casual sparring, a good number of bucks are still in full velvet and hanging tight in bachelor groups. Most sparring is still a couple weeks away.
Rub making: Jimbo Robinson, my contact in West Tennessee, says he’s found a few light rubs on his farm, but he suspects they’re from bucks attempting to shed velvet from their antlers. Though serious rubs are few and far between in early September, if you can find a rub line this time of year, hunt it. Chances are it was made by a good buck.
Scrape making: I’ve seen several bucks marking licking branches on field edges, but no scraping yet.
Chasing: None yet.
Daytime movement: As mentioned earlier, most movement is restricted to late evening and early morning right now, but it’s been consistent.
Estrous signs: None yet.
X Factor: Bucks across the region are shedding their velvet right now, so if a Kentucky velvet buck is on your to-do list (it is mine), you better get on it fast. The big buck in the photo above was taken by Kentucky hunter Joe Lacefield on the second morning of the season, and as you can see, the buck’s velvet is about gone.
Although I expect the beanfield pattern to hold up a little while longer, acorns are starting to fall–and that will change some things. “We’re looking at an average mast crop in West Virginia, and a spotty one at that,” says Chris Ryan with the West Virginia DNR. “Some trees are loaded, while others are barren. In many places, acorns are already beginning to fall. That’ll make finding those few productive trees especially effective.” West Virginia’s bow season opens Sept. 29.
Hemorrhagic disease (HD) continues to be something of a problem in the region as well. Though I’ve heard some reports of dead deer in parts of Kentucky, it seems we’ve dodged the bullet for the most part this year. Matt Knox says some Virginia hunters haven’t been so lucky.
“That’s probably the biggest whitetail news out of Virginia right now,” he says. “Generally, some localized HD is seen every year in the eastern part of the state, but this year we’ve had numerous reports from areas farther west, especially the southwestern Piedmont region. Those areas rarely have HD outbreaks, but this year is an exception.”