Harvest reports are trickling in, but there's still no clear picture of the season
There’s a little less daylight with each passing day, and the calendar is fading into the end of most of the Northeast’s hunting seasons. With the days ticking by, many hunters have fading optimism for tagging a buck, too. But this is far from a good reason to hang up your camo, as there’s still plenty of great post-rut hunting to be had. This past week’s report is a prime example of why. Deer activity was high, with almost everyone I spoke with telling of a surprising number of deer sightings during their time afield.
As bucks and does filter between food and cover, the guessing game the rut presents has all but vanished. Some weak-hearted rutting activity continues to crop up, but the majority of it is behind us. We’re back to what I referred to earlier in the year as, “food is the mood” hunting patterns, and some great opportunities come with that. Those with access to a reliable food source and preferred bedding areas will find that deer can be easily patterned this time of year. Sprinkle in a little remaining lust, and you have a recipe for success.
From New York, we heard from Just Hunt Club’s Eric Hansen who detailed the conclusion of a two-year quest to kill a wide-racked mature buck he had gotten to know quite well. Eric had multiple encounters with this buck in 2021, and again in 2022, but was struggling to close the deal during this year’s rut. But with a post rut hunger, the massive 20-inch-wide monarch made his way to food and encountered Eric’s well-placed bullet, putting an end to the multi-year saga. “This time of year you just need to keep poking around the edges and keep the pressure down. They’re going to hit the food, even this deep into gun season, if you don’t let them know they’re being hunted. My entry and exits are really low impact and let me keep hunting these deer every day,” he said. Eric also talked about how exceptional the number of deer sightings have been these last few weeks, since the temperatures moderated. This sentiment has also been shared by several others this week from nearly the entire region. This brings into questions last week’s comments about the lack of mature doe sightings and activity. Were they just locked down and in different locations? This week’s reports certainly suggest that, but there’s no question this has been a unique hunting season.
I too experienced some success afield this past week. Last Monday afternoon, while perched under an overhead moon, I sat in vigilant watch of a freshly-cut corn field. My hope was to intersect a mature buck as he succumbed to his appetite before a weather front’s advance. My hunch was right, and my aim and bullet were true. As a result I was able to wrap my hands around a beautiful set of 10-point antlers well before the day’s sun set. The distance from bed to feed was short and the buck fed among nearly a dozen other deer — both bucks and does. Like Hansen, I would also agree that since the weather has normalized, the deer activity has been unseasonably good, even in the face of heavy gun hunting pressure.
This is simply a great time of year to capitalize on deer activity, when deer are slaves to their stomachs, especially if we do our best to keep the pressure low and our enthusiasm high. The biggest challenge seems to be maintaining a good attitude when the tailwinds of the rut aren’t blowing in our favor, especially as the mercury drops and the sting of late-season headwinds chills our bones on an overcast day. However, as this week’s reports have proven, bucks and does are still active and still huntable. Take advantage of the remaining opportunity.