NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #6 11-5-12
As predicted, last week was an excellent hunting week for hunters across our network. The pics started rolling the day after the storm slowed up and haven’t stopped yet. We predicted 10 days of action so if you are going to be out there this week, you should see some action.
We are clearly in the “hunter’s rut” as you read this. The “hunter’s” rut is characterized by a significant uptick in buck activity. The markers we look for during the “hunter’s rut” are a change in buck to doe ratios (favoring bucks) on camera and during sits, older bucks pursuing does, older aged bucks during daylight hours, deer with mouth open (heavy breathing) on camera and an increase in new bucks (uniques). These are pretty much our “money markers” and when taken collectively never lie. We did observe what may be the beginnings of does being harassed off of feeding plots by bucks. Last night Neil observed over 20 deer on one feeding field and most of them were young bucks and fawns without momma. We will be watching this closely as it signals breeding activity and low big buck sightings.
Our sits the first part of last week were highly productive from the standpoint of deer sightings. We averaged 5.6 deer per hr. sighted from stands. We worked food plots and more deer per hr. than anytime during the season. A few of these sits were weather driven which typically results in heavy plot use. We passed on many shots on does and have pretty much decided to leave the does as “bait” until sometime during the gun season until we can do an efficient harvest and not spend a lot time during “prime time” tracking and dragging and disrupting the mature bucks that are now up and about.
The second half of last week we pulled back from plot hunting and started hunting known big buck travel routes on ridges and travel corridors. As expected, it cut down the number of sightings but put us in better position to intercept a good buck. Our buck sightings last week was almost 50% of all deer sighted (not counting fawns). Prior to last week for some reason, buck sightings were around 10% of all deer sighted which had been pretty alarming. Last evening Craig almost got the chance he was looking for with a beautiful mature buck who was working a 100 yds. downwind from a food plot full of does. Our mature animals typically check plots from afar and this guy was no exception. Unfortunately dark came before the buck and Craig had a story but no shot.
Speaking of stories, we were reviewing last week’s pics yesterday when Neil let out with a hoot. There he was the nice 10 point he has been trying to corner since the season opened. The hoot came because he was breeding a doe right there in living color for all the word to see. Neil has probably looked at a half million pics over the years and this is his first actual breeding shot. He did have one of a buck dismounting a doe, a few years ago. The breeding occurred Nov. 1 at 4 in the afternoon. Six of them were taken over 8 seconds. Anyone out there have any breeding shots?
As the rut progresses more and more does will be breeding or have been bred. We are probably about at the 20% rate about now. In a week or so this number will climb rapidly and buck activity will actually slow down for a few weeks while most of the breeding occurs (“biological rut”). Tarsal staining gets darker every day. That’s why now is when you want to be out there while they are still doing more looking than breeding (“hunter’s rut”). These ruts are discussed in Craig’s “Outdoor Life” November article which is on the newsstand now and is discussed in depth in our new book Whitetails: From Ground to Gun (available soon).
Right now about 70% of our reporters are reporting high buck activity. Some properties are yet to have seen much in the way of rut activity. If you are one of them hang tight, it’s just that it hasn’t kicked in yet or you are missing it on your piece of ground. It will kink in any minute so you had best be ready.
This week’s hunting strategy will be to get out there and hunt. Hunting the “hunter’s rut” has a certain randomness to it. A chase can break out any time or any place. Try to set up in known doe areas and put in some serious time. Evenings are still good but mornings as bucks are headed back to bedding areas after being on the prowl now become very good as well. Mid-day is also excellent as well. If your deer respond to rattling, now is the time to give it a try and grunting is highly productive as well. Hunting all day is a good play now and changing locations 2 or 3 times per day can yield good results as some buck doe chases go on for hours without ever leaving a 5 acre area. We favor ridges and funnels where bucks are likely to travel from one place to another. In a week or so scrapes will go “cold” for the rest of the rut so we wouldn’t spend much time hunting them unless they are in a high traffic buck travel areas.
Bottom line, call in sick, take vacation, cut class and skip school. This week should be good. The only thing that can slow things down are temps 15 degrees warmer than normal. That will force action into the cooler evenings.