The best of the rut is over in the Northeast, but don't give up yet because big bucks are on the prowl for the year's final receptive does
It's not the scene you would expect to find playing out in the middle of a revolving mess of traffic, but there in the center of the roundabout were two bucks locked in battle. Adrenaline and testosterone had made them immune to the presence of vehicles twirling past at 30 mph, continuing their combat in front of a trio of does on the grass infield.
The fight would consist of more posturing and bluff charges than fisticuffs, but the larger buck did land a few good blows. In the end, the large 8-pointer would be victorious and the basket-rack 6 would slink away into the dunes. Don't feel too bad for the little feller, though. There are plenty of does to go around and I'm sure he'll find one.
Though this battle took place in broad daylight earlier this week, buck sightings are beginning to taper off a bit in the Northeast. Breeding activity is starting to peak, and many dominant bucks are locked down on receptive does. He'll stay with a hot doe until she's ready to breed, then he'll move on — a process that can take anywhere from three to five days.
If you haven't tagged out just yet, don't fret; concentrate your efforts on funnels between bedding and feeding areas. No matter what happens, deer still need to eat. Intercepting them on their way to a food source in the twilight periods is as reliable a strategy now as ever. You can rest assured that any doe you see now is likely being followed by a buck.
And don't be surprised if you happen upon a bigger buck that has already bred a doe or two expanding his range in pursuit of another. As the peak of the rut passes, bucks get desperate and widen their range even frther looking for receptive does.
It was like someone threw a switch, explains outdoor writer and bowhunter extraordinaire Michael R. Shea. He has nine cellular cameras spread out over four properties in a 30-mile triangle in central New York, and they all started to go off nearly in unison. It was all typical November stuff — until something happened and the deer all got turned on.
The woods lit up with bucks on the move, from dawn to dusk. Bucks were covering a lot of ground, making themselves more visible than they had been during the day. Scrape lines were getting worked hard, and new rubs were popping up. The bucks were chasing, and they were finding plenty of willing companions. The rut was on, full bore.
The blitz of activity was enough to pull Shea away from his desk, and his efforts were rewarded in a big way. Playing the wind, he was able to sneak to a stand on the edge of a field that was being visited by the chunky 10 he had been dreaming about. He held it together long enough to draw on the big boy, and his arrow found its mark.
Pennsylvania's woods have been alive with bear hunters over the past week, but that hasn't put much of a damper on deer activity. Ralph Martone of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association covered a lot of ground looking for bears, and stumbled upon a few bucks in the process.
There's always opinions over breakfast, says Martone. The scuttlebutt in bear camp revolved around what appeared to have been an early rut in the Keystone State. Hunters have already scored well, with many bucks in the 140 to 150 class, and a bruiser with a green score of 194 was taken in Tioga County. I saw sparring as early as October. It seems like most of the rut already happened.
But the fighting must not all be wrapped up in Penn's Woods, as a few hunters Martone was aware of were able to capitalize on the last parts of bow season by rattling. He expects the coming opener of gun season to be a successful one. My cameras are still picking up new bucks.
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.
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