It's a mixed bag of activity in the Northeast but in general, daylight deer movement is on the rise
This week was marked by sweeping changes in regional deer behavior, as the buck activity picked up and does scattered to avoid the unwanted advances. Fewer and fewer doe sightings are being reported in open areas, while buck sightings are on the rise. Deer-car collisions are on the rise, too, with roadside evidence showing that Mother Nature is stoking the flames of a red-hot rut to come.
Heavy rain socked much of the Northeast last week, but it wasn't enough to dampen the excitement. We received widespread reports of significant increases in daylight activity among bucks in the 1.5 and 2.5-year old age-class. Mature buck sightings in the daylight, both in person and on camera, remain limited. Many observers noted younger bucks with noses to the ground in lustful search of a willing mate, but we're still a little far out from breeding time. Simmer down, Junior!
As usual, there were areas of opposing information. Petersen's Bowhunting Editor Christian Berg arrowed a big-bodied Pennsylvania bruiser as it worked a series of rubs and scrapes that brought him directly into range of Berg's run-and-gun ambush. Delaware contacts reported that warmer temps and wet weather stifled whitetail activity to a degree, but the introduced Sika deer were in full bugling mode, and sounding off in the saturated swamps.
Meanwhile, one reporter from West Virginia said, Our target buck has narrowly avoided death the past two nights, and added, little bucks are bumping does big time. Big bucks are hitting scrapes hard at night and are starting to daylight in the mornings, but they are still mostly interested in food. Scrapes are getting pounded and new bucks are showing up at night making the rounds.
What does this mean? Now is a great time to be in the field! The intersection between an increase in around-the-clock buck movement and a decrease in doe motivation to stay visible is a fantastic time to hunt, giving you a great chance to fill a tag with a buck or doe either one.
With big changes on the horizon, the following days build toward a single spark of doe estrus spreading a spectral fire of activity in local woodlots. Every buck in the local area can converge around one hot doe, making for magical hunting if you're in the mix — or a dull sit if you're out of it.
General feedback this week has been an increase in rut activity within the timber and near the thickets. Now might be a good time to move off the open food and field edges and drift closer to known bedding areas, as well as leveraging pinch points, funnels, and corners.
Last week, I mentioned the rut creating the opportunity to make hunters a hero or a zero, and these are the days that can challenge us the most. The best way to combat the slow days is with time spent afield and by making wise decisions with regard to areas to hunt. Find spots where bucks can work the wind, while doing your best to limit their eyesight. These spots make them have to work harder and stay within a zone longer, giving you the best chance of getting a shot.
Cooler temps are forecast for the coming week, with yet more rain. However, no weather is going to extinguish a deer's instinct to breed. Get out there and enjoy what the woods has to offer during this one special time of the year.
Timothy Kent is a land specialist for Whitetail Properties and brand strategy consultant for Phenix Branding, where he represents hunting industry companies. He spends as much time as possible in the New York deer woods every fall.
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