Hunters cling to a colder forecast to salvage the season
This week felt a lot like Groundhog Day, as mixed reviews of rutting activity across the region dribbled in. A call with Christian Berg, editor of Petersen's Bowhunting, set up a string of disillusioned reviews of his recent rut hunts locally and throughout the Midwest. Like so many others, his overview told of how the warm weather that's plagued the calendar for most of November brought daylight rutting activity almost to a halt.
During the latter half of this past week, I checked the weather for several cities across the Northeast. From Baltimore to Bangor, forecasts detailed the mercury hitting hashes well warmer than average most days. As a result, the continued talk of limited rut activity prevailed with this week's reports.
Eric Hansen of Just Hunt Club's response to my inquiry about activity resulted in: I don't think I'm going to give you much of a rut report bud, but I'll try my best. Hansen, like many others, has been dealing with the ebbs and flows of this past week's downright hot weather and the resulting deer activity (or lack thereof). Tempering Hansen's feedback, we must qualify that he had a close call with a monster New York buck grazing on greens as he hunted over one of his food plots. That behavior is far from ordinary in the region this time of year, as many mature bucks are traditionally working the terrain to mop up remaining hot does.
Gus Congemi relayed details of a recent New Jersey buck harvest, in which he decoyed a unique-racked monarch into range before shooting him at a few paces. Again, that was a glimmer of rut-type activity in an otherwise unsuccessful and dismal series of days afield. With the exception of that hunt, Congemi recapped this past week's activity with a simple statement: The hunting in the Northeast has sucked lately. What rut?
I couldn't help but chuckle. However, he and Hansen's examples are what we've been experiencing in the Northeast for the better part of the past three weeks: high temps, inconsistent activity, and action spotty throughout, but not at any level of predictability.
Most of the region is in the middle of a dramatic shift in weather that crashed through just in time for the weekend. It brought in stories of increased deer and rutting activity. However, many are left asking whether it's too little, too late. Some believe the rut happened at night under high temps and a bright moon, leaving little for hunters to experience during daylight. Like any situation, there have been stories of success, but on the whole, this year has been one of the most challenging for Northeast hunters in the better part of a decade.
I recently drove from New York to the Midwest to hunt and back about 12 days later. Overall, I believe the number of road-killed deer, especially bucks, appeared to be significantly lower than in recent years. Of course, that's anecdotal evidence, but deer-car collisions are traditionally at their apex during the rut, and there didn't seem to be the activity or carnage I typically see on major highways.
There is a bright spot in the dark rut times: The long-term forecast is calling for normal or below-average temps, so we might be able to salvage what's left of the rut's best days. The pressure is on to pull it together as we start down the barrel of firearm seasons in many states and the dramatic shift from natural behavior most hunters experience during earlier parts of the year. Anticipation is high, and most people I've talked to this week are optimistic because of the forecast through Thanksgiving. Hopefully the weatherman is right and we can come full circle on the great start we had to the early parts of the 2022 season. Time will tell.