NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #2 10-09-12
We managed to get in a few sits since the NY season opened and can only state with total certainty it’s all about food! Unfortunately most of our sits were on the wrong foods.
The sightings while on stand at Kindred Spirits are less than 1 deer per hr. This is the lowest weekly tally in years but what is —-is. Old habits die slow and we are still taking “inventory” so Craig spent most evenings watching different green food plots that normally are used by a half dozen to a dozen deer each evening. After 3 zeros in a row on 3 different areas, he was ready to take up fishing. Finally on his last sit of the week he got into some real deer and was able to log some observations.
Our cameras are way off as well. The number of photos are still down 60% from past years as are our buck counts. The only cameras holding their numbers are in transition zones from our bedding areas and sanctuaries to our woodlands. We were unable to add to our unique buck count this week nor was Neil able to photograph the “shooter” he is trying to pattern. However most evenings the area he has been photographed at has been fogged in with few pics being taken. We have put more cameras on acorns this week and fewer on green plots and fruit trees that have already dropped their fruit.
Neil has been watching deer all week at his home farm. His green plots and soybean fields are filling up with deer and he has started filling his freezer with meat for the winter. He is seeing good buck numbers and reports that most of the bucks are still hanging together.
So how can both Dougherty properties be so different? In a word—acorns! The food sources (clover, chicory, brassicas, and rye) at Kindred Spirits are surrounded by thousands of acres of oaks who have just finished dropping their acorns. The crop is not as huge as some years but it has only been available for a few weeks and they are all over it. Our fruit crops have dropped and are already cleaned up.
Neil and Craig checked cameras yesterday around noon and as Neil was leaving the hill where Kindred is located he counted almost a dozen deer (in ones and twos) in the oak woods as he was driving off the hill. Bottom line, the deer here are spread over thousands of acres of oaks and we are not set up to keep an eye on them. We have moved more cameras into the hardwoods to try to catch them but without traipsing all over the place looking for signs, it is a little tough to intercept them in the oaks. The last thing we want to do this early in the year is start putting pressure on the deer using our property.
Neil’s farm has some nice plots including soybeans and corn but his deer are all over his green plots and the soybean fields. He watches them all day long from his office window and reports heavy feeding each evening and periodically during the day. The older bucks are coming to the plots just before dark. So what’s the difference? Neil does not have the acorn crop Craig does. He has some oaks on and near his farm but nothing compared to Kindred Spirits. Bottom line, they are definitely food driven and deer being deer, they are going to seek out those foods they like best and acorns almost always win.
As far as rut related behavior goes we have received scores of reports this week (and a big thank you for this). 90% are reporting deer in a feeding mode with few signs of the approaching rut. Many are reporting buck groups still hanging together with no interest in doe groups. A few “soft chases” have been reported and one or two chases lasting for 10-15 minutes. It is not uncommon for the occasional doe to go into estrus this early but from the description of things, these chases were testosterone driven as opposed to estrus driven. Scrapes and rubs are being seen as well as one very smelly buck but by and large it is still all about food with some “soft” rut related behavior. Our bucks are working the food and are not much distracted by does at this point.
We will hunt a bit more in the oak woods at Kindred this week to try to catch something working acorns. But, truth be known, we have yet to locate and pattern the shooter we saw 2 weeks ago and we want to hang back and watch until things start to happen. We are not taking does yet from Kindred as we are not sure how many or if any need to be taken this year. Our fawn recruitment thus far seams to be near almost one fawn to each doe which is pretty good for here. We will hunt acorns next week but be careful not to impact the property too much.
We got all kinds of reports this week of some nice bucks being taken. Most of them were animals that had been patterned and most of them were food driven deer. This is a great time to pattern and take a good buck. Your next chance to pattern them on food will be in early December after the rut.
Bottom line, as far as next week’s hunt goes, if you know what a good one is doing and it’s all about feeding, go ahead and set up on him and get ‘er done because in a week or two things will change in the woods and they will start to slow down on the food. Good bucks often go nocturnal during this period as they are no longer “on the feed” and not yet ready to start after the does. If you don’t have the one pinned down yet, there is a long season ahead and the last thing you want to do is put your deer on red alert this early in the season so hunt low impact and keep your eye on what foods they are on.
Your reports have been really terrific. Please keep them coming we try to answer them and definitely read each and every one of them.