Overall Activity Status: If you follow many of my posts, you know I frequently reference what my wife, Michelle, sees when driving back and forth to work each morning as a gauge of deer activity. Michelle has a 30-mile one-way trip through rural farm country that’s loaded with deer. All last week, deer sightings were slim or none. Wednesday morning, she saw 20 and called me with a question: “Could some deer still be rutting? Because there was a big buck chasing a little bitty doe all around a beanfield on the side of the road.”
That is, of course, a classic sign of the “second rut,” when some does, especially young ones, come into estrus late in the year. Chris Ryan, with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, says West Virginia hunters in the field and check stations alike have reported similar late-rut activity this week.
Fighting: I haven’t heard any fighting reports in a while.
Rub Making: A stroll through the woods to pull a trail camera yesterday revealed three or four fresh new rubs.
Scrape Making: I also checked a couple of last week’s scrapes while pulling my camera yesterday. Neither of them had been hit in several days.
Chasing: See above. The intensity of the second rut will rarely match the primary rut, but if a buck gets a whiff of a hot doe, you can bet he’ll chase her.
Daytime Movement: Things had been agonizingly slow for a week or more, but there seems to have been an uptick in activity this week. The trail-camera picture shown above, taken under a feeder Monday morning, was the first daylight buck photo I’ve gotten in a while. There was continued daylight activity under that feeder all week, albeit from does and young bucks. Interestingly, this uptick in activity was timed perfectly with the end of gun season, which closed last Sunday in Kentucky.
Estrous Signs: While there has been some late-rut activity this week, as referenced above, things are about over for the year. In fact, I saw two big doe/fawn family groups feeding in green fields yesterday evening.
X-Factor: Deer hunters need two things right now: a hot food source and a cold weather forecast. Although late-rut activity holds promise, plan your hunts right now around the food: crop fields, turnip plots, remaining acorns, and bait piles where legal. Deer don’t have an abundance of options now, so good food sources will concentrate them. Cold weather causes them to burn more calories and often gets them on their feet during shooting hours. If that Arctic air forecast ever materializes, bundle up and get in the stand.