null Skip to Main Content
Rut Activity Continues to Decrease Across the Northeastern States

White-Tailed Deer


Rut Activity Continues to Decrease Across the Northeastern States

 by  Tim Kent

As we enter the year’s final month, it’s been a quiet week for rutting activity as the red-hot days slip further and further away

The radiance of the 2023 Northeastern rut continues to lose its ambient glow with fewer and fewer hunters telling of rut-related activities amid their time afield spanning the last week of November. Overall, hunters seemed to be taking a breather as we received a fewer number of reports than in previous weeks. This week all was pretty quiet across the area’s swath of states.

Pennsylvania hunters took to the field with firearms in hand, with very few detailing accounts of deer driven by sexual urges. As expected, the bulk of this week’s accounts from The Keystone State and others reflected deer on travel and feeding patterns, with less and less talk of anything sexually-driven. This was especially true as the week went on.

I received one strong report of breeding last Saturday from a New York stringer who watched a buck court a hot doe, close to the hunter’s perfectly situated afternoon perch. The trophy-class buck, throwing caution to the wind, paid careful attention to his love lady. Having already filled his Southern Zone Regular season buck tag, the hapless hunter peered helplessly as the two courted well within his rifle’s range. Though tempted (we all would be) he maintained steadfast to his upstanding morals, and took in the twilight peep show — never raising is gun. With an unfilled Bow/Muzzleloader tag burning a hole in his pocket, hopefully he has the opportunity to catch up with the wide-racked whitetail again during the muzzleloader season.

Hunting food sources and transition areas closer to feed has become the name of the game, with numerous hunters heralding success using this strategy. Several took the cool-off in buck activity as a welcomed opportunity to work on antlerless deer harvest. If there was an overall theme to this week, that would likely be it. Many of the reports of field success we received detailed successful does hunts. As stated the week prior, greens, grains, and hard mast continue to be the selected food sources, though we did hear about several deer being harvested while binging on browse. Scrapes have gone all but dormant and new rubs are fewer and further between, with more and more deer following the food.

More and more bucks are being seen together, with the season’s current survivors reforming their fraternal summer groups. Meanwhile, doe groups appear to the combining, with more and more hunters telling of seeing larger and larger groups of antlerless deer with each passing day.

This is the time of year where many of us start to wonder if we might be chasing ghosts, and how many or what bucks remain on the property they hunt. I spoke with one reporter the other day who expressed his frustrations of not having “any” good bucks on his property this entire season. He went on to detail how each of his personal sightings and scouting cameras were devoid of “anything worth shooting.” This feeling seems to become more and more common as the season wears on and more and more deer meet their demise. However, as we cascade later and later into the season, I personally believe it’s important to remember that our cameras are only showing us a key-hole view of each wood lot’s activity, and it’s hard to always be in the right place at the right time. Similar to the rut, late season can become frustrating for many hunters, with the feeling being amplified if their rut-related time afield was lukewarm, at best.

With each passing day we’re closer to a second round of breeding activity — perfect for rekindling the cooling embers of the rut. Unfortunately, the likelihood it will take in the previous month’s level of fuel is uncommon — it’s still certainly something to look forward to. We haven’t received any reports of this just yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the heat turns up, even if it’s just a little bit!


  • Day Activity

  • Rubbing

  • Scraping

  • Fighting

  • Seeking

  • Chasing

  • Breeding

Exit off-canvas