NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #4 10-22-12
The message for the week– OK, you may see some rut related buck behavior but don’t bet the farm on it, keep hunting food sources, and whatever you do, tread softly. This is no time to put a bunch of pressure on the deer using your property.
Last week we observed 6.6 deer per hr. when sitting in stand. We hunted food plots as our resident deer clearly are back on our green plots. This is plenty of sightings to keep us awake, alert, and having fun through the entire sit. While we saw plenty of deer, older bucks were in short supply. And, as hard as we wished, the word that best described last week would be “calm”.
While we saw many of old young buck “friends” on both camera and sits, the bucks were the “same old, same old” with very few “fresh” bucks showing up to brighten up the sit or get their picture taken. The 2 shooters we have been tracking all fall never got in front of either a hunter or a lens all week. Behavior wise, the bucks were a little more restless, feeding along side does and fawns before leaving the plot for a new destination.
We are seeing the same “soft signs” (scrape making, rubs, using licking branches) by the young bucks but have yet to see an “estrus driven” chase. We are still seeing many bucks buddied up grooming each other and then doing a little gentle sparring. This is very typical of mid-October. The majority of bucks we photographed have very light tarsal staining. Again typical of mid-October.
Our cameras are starting to capture more “restless” behavior by bucks walking through the middle of a 3 acre field mid-morning without feeding and more pushing and posturing. What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg; good movement is soon to come. We have yet to see the older aged bucks show up on film with any regularity and when they do it is still under the cover of darkness. The bucks we are after always seem to be “fogged out” or “just out of range” (at least according to Neil). As we worked on this report this morning Neil did observe more than a dozen does and fawns “boil” out of a brushy hillside behind his house. They were acting as if something got them up on their feet and moving. A few minutes later 3 mid- aged bucks showed up from the same brushy hillside. They were obviously “bird-dogging” the hillside. Once the deer entered the food plot, bucks and does immediately settled down and grabbed a few late morning mouthfuls of clover.
About 5%-10% of you are starting to see more serious behavior by older aged bucks. The first possible “estrus chase” of the year was reported last night by a hunter who watched 4 old timers show up with a doe who was being “hard chased” by the biggest and baddest buck in the bunch. He ran her off of the field while the others stayed behind and decided to do some intense sparring or light fighting. Something about her was attracting some serious attention by this group of mature bucks. Our guess is, she just may be breeding as you read this report. If we had to guess, we would expect to see a real up tick in buck sightings by Halloween (for sure the week after).
As far as hunting this week, we’re going to continue to try to keep the pressure off. But, we pretty much have the luxury of hunting any time we choose and we choose to hunt hard when we know the big boys we are after are out and about operating in a fog of testosterone. This year at Kindred Spirits we just haven’t had a good buck set up in a huntable pattern during the early bow season. Hunting mature deer is a season long chess match. Our plan is to keep the pressure off for now and slide in and try and catch one of the big guys by surprise when the rut kicks in. That will be a few weeks from now. For us, it’s a percentage game; yes, we will hunt, and probably take a few more does this week but we will hunt the fringes of the core areas and try to do nothing to alert our older aged bucks to our presence. We will probably be out there when the cold snap hits our area later this week.
Road traffic is up 10 fold, hunting camps are open, posters are being nailed to trees, and 4 wheelers are in the woods. If you think experienced deer do not detect and increase in human activity you are nuts. The last thing we want to do is have one of our shooter bucks run into a hunter the first time he breaks his nocturnal movement pattern and starts checking out the does during daylight hours.
Craig ran into (from the cab of his truck) two very nice shooters last week leaving the neighbor’s corn just as gray dawn was showing. They both took off in a hurry and headed up the hill into Kindred Spirits to wait out the rest of the day. They are working this field after dark and the last thing he wants them to do is abandon their core areas on Kindred Spirits for a quieter place to lay up. In a couple of weeks they will be up and about looking for does and Craig will run into one of them with a bow in hand.
We know you are going to be hunting this upcoming weekend and you just might catch a buck or two with a nose full of estrus doe. The percentages are still quite low but they will improve every day from now until sometime around mid-late November. You should still be hunting food as the does will be there and this early in the season does are definitely buck magnets. Virtually any breeding data you review will indicate that a small percentage of does are being bred as you read this report and the frequency will gradually climb, but the peak of breeding is almost a month away. The peak of buck activity and the best time to hunt the rut will come a few days before the peak of breeding. This is discussed in full detail in our new book “Whitetails: from Ground to Gun” which we are taking orders for now.
Managing hunting pressure is the key to the game this time of the year. Over the years we have noticed that a hunting weekend followed by 4-5 days of rest will keep a property relatively fresh. Very few properties are situated in a manner to allow daily hunting pressure this time of the year. Our mature bucks are still cautious enough to go underground after smelling a 12 hour old man track.
Once the “hunter’s rut” is upon us you can generally get away with more pressure but a little restraint now will pay real benefits in a few weeks. If you can hunt 2 days and rest 5 in a row until the hard signs of the rut are upon us it should pay off.
Call Sharon at 315-331-6959 to pre-order your book now.