Little bucks are on the move, but you can still score on bed-to-feed patterns if you act fast
Not a half hour after I submitted last week's rut report, a friend called and told of how, over the weekend, he had witnessed a buck tending a doe in a suburban New York timber patch. I had previously stated that I was surprised there hadn't been any reports of such activity during the earlier portions of October, and then I heard several reports of similar activity over the next two days. By the middle of the week, though, things got quiet again.
In some circles there was talk of a dramatic downturn in overall deer activity, though a handful of others described seeing rut-style action. Admittedly, I'm always skeptical of such reports as it's easy to see a buck walking a timber line at a hurried pace and think he's seeking or two bucks sparring on a field edge and describing it as a rut fight. Classically, it's this localized behavior that often causes some to shout, rut on while others are asking, What gives?"
With that as the benchmark, this week's reports were as inconsistent as I've heard all season. Perhaps it was a result of the extreme changes in temperature as much of the region went from unseasonably cool to unseasonably warm nearly overnight. I received feedback from New Hampshire describing does getting fat on food without much concern while a source from West Virginia said there were early signs of more intense rutting activity.
Here at home, the warmer weather limited the activity of the deer and the hunters, though several people did communicate stories of doe harvests. However, buck kills were few and far between this past week without a single report from any of the people I spoke with. Any accounts of buck kills were distant friends of friends who had allegedly found success.
Adding to the polarity of this week's reports and encounters, on Friday, while temps hung in the upper 60s, I had a long-distance sighting of a heavy-massed, likely mature 8-point buck nudging a doe as she tried to feed in a green field. Their courtship lacked intensity, but it was apparent he had one thing on his mind, and she, another. Meanwhile, just a handful of yards across the adjacent hedgerow, numerous bucks and does of several age classes fed alongside one another, all in the same food plot without much interest in one another. Talk about a dichotomy of deer behavior! But, I think it sums up what many of the Northeast's hunters have been experiencing recently.
Activity from young bucks in the area continues to increase as seen by the number of spikes, forkies, and small basket racks now getting an unplanned sun tan in the median of state highways and higher traffic roadways. This is further validated as most of the Northeast's troop are recording a major upswing in the number of rubs and scrapes on the land they hunt. Several have also spoken of a transition from light sparring to all-out fights as bucks encounter one another, especially near food sources.
I anticipate this resource protection will continue to increase more and more each day as each buck's testosterone level continues to rise to its apex somewhere in the first few days of November. My anticipation is that activity this coming week on open food sources will diminish significantly as harassment of does starts to increase, especially on the part of younger bucks. As a result, activity near thicker, wooded areas should increase, and hunters should adjust accordingly. Meanwhile, morning activity should be on the rise, too, as more bucks start to cruise the timber surveying both the land and its population of female suiters. For now, there still appears to be plenty of opportunity at or around food sources, but the right weather pattern can change that almost overnight.
It's only a matter of time before one doe goes into heat and draws in the entire area's population of bucks hoping for their opportunity to breed. In the meantime, we will continue to look for the changes in rut-time routines and the abrupt transition from food to reproduction. The only consistent theme this time of year seems could be the inconsistency, with dynamics and behaviors changing from one wood lot to the next.
(Don't Miss: How to Hunt the Phases of the Rut)