You might be hunting in short sleeves this week, but bucks are cruising in search of does
The calendar indicates we're well into November, but you wouldn't know it from the weather. With temperatures in New York climbing above 70 for more than a few consecutive days, wetlands that should be silent but for the sounds of ducks are alive with the choruses of spring peepers. Fowler's toads are hopping along the beachfront, and biting flies of all varieties are still doing their thing.
But life must go on, and the rut continues in spite of the heat wave. While activity during the warmest days has been somewhat limited, bucks are out there energetically looking for does. Rubs are increasing as testosterone builds, and bucks are expanding their range as the search moves up a notch. I thought I was going to witness a very one-sided fight, with a forkhorn challenging a big 8, but the young buck thought better of it before he was put in his place.
I'm mostly seeing bucks during the day. The does have been suspiciously absent, says Sean Langevin, regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. Langevin believes the warm temps have decreased the calories deer need, and as a result, the does haven't been as active. But the bucks have other things on their mind. The bucks I've been seeing are actively cruising for does.
Even though the weather's warm, the rut is still on. Langevin has been concentrating his time on stands he's placed on the edges of bedding areas, capitalizing on bucks looking for receptive does. The does may not be moving much, so I'm putting myself between them and the bucks.
Speaking of receptive does, Langevin's cousin has been working a big shooter for the past week. I don't know if she's quite ready yet, but that buck sure thinks so. He's been on her tail for three straight days. He just won't leave her alone. Unfortunately for my cousin, she's been a lot warier than that old buck.
This is the first year we've been able to archery hunt during the third week of November, Perry Burdick of Burdick's Lodge in Pennsylvania says. Burdick's anticipation for the coming week is high, thanks to historical patterns and the increased presence of sign he's encountered this year. When I was younger I would turkey hunt this week. And the entire time I'd be watching deer, wishing I could hunt them instead.
Burdick has seen a major uptick in the local deer herd in recent years, which he credits for the increased rut activity. We've had more rubs this year than ever before, and they seemed to start earlier, he says. Does are getting chased by more than one buck at a time. The deer herd is just the best it's ever been. There's just a tremendous amount of shooter bucks around.
While Burdick hasn't seen much in the way of fighting, some of the lodge's guests have had success rattling bucks in. As we near the peak of the rut, that aggression should continue to build. And with lows in the 40s predicted for next week, you can expect to see rutting behavior ramp up even more.
With weather more reminiscent of dove season than deer season, hunters in the Northeast are learning just how sweaty one can get shimmying up a tree. And when it comes down to it, sitting in a treestand wearing short sleeves can be downright pleasant. Now's the time, so get out there.
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Northeast reporter Joseph Albanese hails from New York. He began his career in wildlife management and has worked for multiple state and federal agencies. These days, he writes full-time about fins, feathers, and fur.