Despite on-and-off action, invest as much time as possible in the deer woods. A giant could walk by at any moment
The 2021 rut … it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but one thing is for sure — many times this week we have received news of the deer woods action we've all been waiting for.
With a major dip in mercury across much of the Northeast and more hunters consistently hitting the woods, there have been numerous accounts of big buck action. Like clockwork, the calendar's flip to Nov. 1 seemed to re-script this year's rut-time monologue. I've received several reports of buck kills. Most who experienced success spotted big bucks intently cruising the countryside, and a few observed deer holding tight to a chosen doe. As the week has progressed, mixed action has been the norm. Some have noted, with frustration, What rut?
Personally, I have witnessed various stages of behavior on the part of bucks and does, including both sexes feeding on the same source last night while acting as if the other deer didn't even exist! Wait — didn't they get the memo that it's breeding season? Meanwhile, that very same morning, not a quarter mile away, I watched as a young buck pushed a doe vigorously through the tight timber patch. So, where do we stand? Based upon the reports‚ we're all over the place.
Considering the moon phase (if you believe in such things) and the research of the late Charles J. Alsheimer, it could seem as if we're encountering a classic trickle rut. Under this definition, we could experience mixed breeding-cycle behaviors across a wide variety of time frames. Meaning, you could see bucks and does feeding in the same field one minute, chasing the next, and breeding — all in the same evening because of the various stages each deer is cycling through within the herd. Just a few miles away, your neighbors could be experiencing something completely different than you are. In some ways, this has been validated by the commentary this week from a wide swath of Northeastern reporters.
From New Hampshire, I heard that the big boys are up cruising, but there are still many does feeding unmolested in the fields and in the woods.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, I was told, It's on. The Free State's reporters anchored several trophy-class bucks to the dirt over the last few days after noticing they were roaming thick areas close to food sources of grain or acorns.
In addition, New Jersey came across the lines with similar feedback detailing excellent action in areas, with quick transitions from thick bedding cover to feeding areas as the magic bullet to punching tags.
In my home state of New York, several of my cohorts have reported mixed experiences on stand. One friend expressed significant frustration due to the lack of overall activity in his area, followed by several angry-face emojis in our text string. Many have described a noticeable lack of chasing activity and very few sightings of breeding parties, which make us wonder: Are these yet to come, or are we just missing the action? But to play devil's advocate, I can't help but say that although these behaviors are cool to witness, I'm personally not always convinced they lead to increased shot opportunities, which is the ultimate goal after all. Many have talked about long days on stand with limited action followed by quick bursts of activity that have led to success.
Now is the time to be out there no matter what the activity, weather, time of day, or even your work schedule. My decree is to quit everything for the next week except hunting!
Warmer weather is once again on the horizon, followed by another distinct cooldown. Will this be the factor that continues to ramp up this year's rut? Time will tell, but for now we'll all keep our butts firmly planted in the seat waiting for the unexpected to happen. Time on stand is the secret to success this time of year with midday hunts near bedding areas offering the chance to score big. Stay positive. Stay focused. Stay in the tree and enjoy the rut because in the blink of an eye it will all be over — and we'll be counting down the days until Nov. 1, 2022.
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