Overall activity status: Bucks in the north are on a classic late-season pattern–they’re on the move later in the mornings and earlier in the afternoons, headed to food sources. The downsides to late-season buck hunting in this region are broken antlers and low body weight. It’s difficult to judge age, and it’s even possible for a buck you’ve targeted to lose his rack before you get him! If you’re hunting does, look close to make sure it’s not a buck that has shed his antlers.
Fighting: No reports of fights, but lots of posturing of bucks to each other. Bucks are fatigued at this time of the season and would rather save calories and energy by glaring at their neighbor insead of starting a brawl.
Rub making: Old sign at this point.
Scrape making: Shawn Hoover reported finding a fresh scrape in the snow in western Oklahoma on December 24.
Chasing: According to Robert Sanders in South Texas at the Temple Ranch, “Still chasing but slowing down a bit. Bucks dropped a good 20 pounds so far and not consuming much feed.”
Daytime movement: Last week I saw six different bucks on my afternoon hunt. Two of those have been reclusive for the past month, but now that the need to feed has hit, they are more visible in daylight.
Estrous sign: In the north, I’ve seen does in groups of three to six. There’s no sign of a second rut in my neck of the woods.
X factor: I found something unexpected on December 25–a fresh shed antler laying by my stand! Typically, white-tailed bucks in my area shed from January to March, so this is early. Early shedding usually indicates the animal is under stress. It’s likely due to stress from cold weather, lack of food, or overexertion during the rut.