The RUT-FUSE IS LIT, and this week’s feedback indicates it’s anything but a slow burn. For the most part, cool air continues to grip the region and the deer population is taking notice. There’s been a distinct swing in the deer activity in both a positive and negative way. This week, we heard a number of stories of bucks of various age-classes up on their feed during daylight hours. Nudging and bumping were all sighted, while deer are continuing to hit food sources with relative consistency. It’s a cornucopia of deer activity! Although their individual behavior patterns were different, there were many recounts of buck sightings, while the number of does and fawns being reported, especially on food sources, certainly took a slide.
Several reported the infamous “October Lull” while others were buzzing with excitement after witnessing various-aged bucks express rut-time rituals and exploring the timber. However, in traditional form for this time of year, the variety in the behaviors witnessed was vast. Several great bucks were arrowed across the region, so it’s hard to believe the lull even exists! Under the right conditions, they call it Bucktober for a reason.
On the heels of shooting a fantastic buck in the New Jersey the week before, Live the Wild Life’s Gus Congemi arrowed a Connecticut giant this past Wednesday. Gus told of how the 6.5-year old Constitution State monarch leisurely fed in a clover field at 4:30 in the afternoon, without a care in the world for the other deer surrounding him. “It’s been all about food” said Gus as he ran through the details of his back-to-back buck kills just a week apart from one another. In both instances, Gus was taking advantage of food sources and witnessed no rut-style activity whatsoever. But he anticipated a major change coming soon, and was planning accordingly for his hunts in New York. “I know it’s about to shake loose and I’m planning for bucks to be on the move,” he noted.
Meanwhile, a multitude of the area’s reporters painted a contrasting picture with numerous stories of bucks already stalking local woodlots at the fringes of daylight. Their search for early love has also hindered doe activity on food sources that in previous weeks were finding consistent utilization. Although each version was different, this week’s reports all told of bucks working rubs or scrapes and how each buck was working the wind without a care for food at the time. Ben Williams of Ol Tin Cup Habitat Consulting chronicled his account with a heavy-horned mature buck that was shamelessly badgering a doe under the cool morning temperatures of first light. Both were near food but weren’t actively feeding.
One consistent comment among all of this week’s feedback was the abundance of scrapes popping up nearly everywhere. Several people have proclaimed that this is one of the most active scrape years they can remember in a long time. All pointed to the cool, wet weather that’s settled in as a contributing factor, and I can’t disagree. Rubs continue to pop up with numerous bucks starting to use the same signpost to detail their presence. They’re using terrain and tip-toeing around to check things out. Although we may not be at the door step of seeking and chasing, it doesn’t seem too far off given this week’s behavior and movement.
Although we never know exactly when the powder keg of the rut might fully fire up and explode, we do know that it’s getting closer. As discussed in years past, those who believe in the moon’s influence should be encouraged by the October 28 full moon as a trigger for this year’s rut. The late Charles Alsheimer always referred to a scenario like we’re setting up for this year as “barn burner rut” when the buck population’s testosterone peaked in conjunction with a full moon. 2023 is potentially shaping up to be one such a sequence, and many of this week’s reports show that we may see on the most active and intense breeding seasons we’ve experienced in some time. Fire in the hole — it’s about to blow up!
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