For the most part, the Northeast rut is finished, but the season continues in many areas
Each year I write this report, the crystalline fact of how much details matter in bringing together a successful hunt becomes clearer. We do our best to maintain control over what we can while making the most of each circumstance bestowed upon us. Sometimes things go right, but in most instances, they don't fall in our favor. Hunting certainly isn’t about winning or losing. However, there are days where it sure feels that way. On those days (especially when you have many in a row), it’s easy to feel like you’re dwelling in the L column. We have all been in the situation where a buck turns left when you needed him to turn right. Or, the wind betrays you just before the moment of truth, building our frustrations, but under the surface still bringing us elation for the chance. Each season finds its way to be special, successful, and memorable. 2023 was no exception. We were again reminded that it’s hunting, and it’s never really easy. That’s what keeps us coming back.
There was a lot of success during the 2023 season, and the Northeast saw many extraordinary bucks hit the ground. This was punctuated by a handful of very special diamonds in the rough, including one impressive 180-plus-inch 12-point harvested in my home state of New York. That deer has received significant national attention. From beginning to end, it was an exciting year. We continue to pump out quality animals, and it’s becoming more common to see grip-and-grins with heavy-horned Northeast beasts. Gone are the days of people thinking the region is plagued by spike horns and forkies, with our best bucks being stout 6-points. More than once during Fall 2023, I spoke with people who have abandoned annual big buck pilgrimages to the Midwest in favor of seeking the same quality right here, from Maryland to Maine.
The basis of this report, the rut, seemed to be challenged by a disruptive weather pattern and warmer-than-normal temperatures. The erratic weather presented opportunities and threats to hunters across the region, and a multitude of warm, wet, and windy weekends kept many from maximizing their time afield. Despite that, there were a lot of great days to go outdoors. Those who capitalized on cooperative circumstances found results, and many deer hunters put meat in the freezer and bone on the wall.
The abundance of scrapes and their use throughout most of this fall continues to be the talk of the town, even as the season winds down. The rut seems to again have trickled along — for the third consecutive year. An Indian summer took a strong grip during the rut’s annual prime time, the first half of November. High temps continue to grip the region on a rollercoaster pattern that grants us a few days of low seasonal temps that rise again, crushing deer movement. This has been especially true the past two weeks, with hunting pressure at its apex, changing deer patterns and, of course, the aforementioned warmer temps most days each week. And still, we press on.
Hunting seasons continue in most of the region, with good opportunities still ahead with muzzleloaders, bows, and, in some states, shotguns. The long-term weather forecast shows the return of consistent seasonal temperatures, which should help get deer back on their feet. Hopefully this brings the return of a few more sets of bloody hands, and smiles on hunters’ faces. For those still after it, best of luck to you for the rest of your season. It’s been a great year, and we’re grateful to have shared in your time afield.
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