The big bucks are still playing coy, but that could change any day
In a nutshell, this rut is moving along as anticipated and cracking wide open in the Northeast.
This week was filled with stories of big-buck sightings, scouting camera activity, and a touch of heartache. For some, heartache came in the form of an errant arrow while for others, it was learning that their target buck was harvested by a neighbor. No matter the case, all this week’s feedback detailed rut-time activities that are in full swing. There were a considerable number of hunters who reported seeing seeking, stomping, chasing, and guarding while on stand, driving roads and as part of scouting camera activity. Morning and midday activity saw a considerable uptick, while after-hours movement was off the charts. It’s safe to say, bucks are on the move, but so far, the does aren’t ready for the 2023 rut party just yet.
We don’t seem to be to the point of full-throttle, all-out sprinting in the woods as it’s been mostly the zombified-look of young bucks stomping their way across the countryside. Though the wood lot antics have been prevalent in all of this week’s conversations, it’s been frequently noted that reclusive, older age-class bucks are still acting coy, and playing the field closer to the edges of daylight or even under the cover of darkness. Whether their activities are during daylight or after hours, bucks are definitely starting to cover more ground and in some cases, travel longer distances. It’s a great time to catch an unsuspecting traveler as he’s crossing town looking for love, as every day gets better from here!
It’s important to preface that feedback definitely tends to vary from state to state and even property to property. If your sightings aren’t mirroring what you’re reading here, don’t let that discourage you as the land you hunt may just be in a different stage of the overall rut cycle. Now is a great time to be in the woods and an awesome opportunity to break out the calls, decoys, scents, and whatever else you might use to entice a rut-crazed buck. Funnels, pinch points, field corners, and the downwind trails of bedding areas are all proving to be effective setups based upon this week’s feedback. Some activity is still taking place on fields, in wooded food sources and other open areas, but at a very diminished capacity as compared to the early season activity.
Across the region, abundant scrapes continue to be a common thread in this year’s feedback. In multiple conversations this week, their frequency and smaller-than-normal size was mentioned independently. It still has me scratching my head. The deer are certainly marking their home range with vigor, but the size of the scrapes seems to be an absolute mystery.
Most of the region experienced a favorable weather pattern the majority of the week with crisp, clean air that helped strip the trees of many of the clinging leaves. Some areas even saw the first skiff, or slightly more, of snow. With the calendar flipping to sweet November we are in the Holy Grail month for most deer hunters and the action should only improve from here. With more, and more, and more bucks daylighting, opportunities at interception are on the rise and there’s sure to be a glut of deer stories in the coming days. No matter what your stance is on rut triggers — disciples of the moon phase, photoperiodism, granddad’s theories on first frost — one thing everyone agrees on is that these are some of the best days to be in the woods and the best time for a rut-cation.
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