NCW Deer Report #10 12-3-12
For starters we would like to thank you all for your kind remarks about our Deer Reports. It seems like just yesterday we started sharing our observations with you and here we are at rut’s end. If our reports were “on the money” as many of you remarked, it was in no small part because of the hundreds of updates we received from all of you in the field. Thanks to you all for sticking with it.
Speaking of sticking with it, the rut may be winding down but there is some great hunting ahead if you are lucky enough to live in a state with seasons extending well into December. This is one of our favorite times to hunt as mature bucks gradually shift from “the need to breed” to the “need to feed”. And, that’s just about where we are now.
The “biological rut” is just about, if not totally, over. There will definitely be some “second time around” mature doe breeding and first time fawn breeding this month but it will be sporadic in nature and will not dominate overall herd behavior. A doe in heat will draw a crowd and result in a “buck outbreak” but it is a blip on the radar not a pattern. We don’t subscribe to the “second rut” theory.
This week’s sits were very productive from a “head count” perspective. We are back hunting green plots and each sit resulted in at least a dozen sightings. Trouble is, almost all of the sightings were of doe and fawn groups. Our buck sightings were few and far between. Most of our sits were evening sits and most of the deer came to the plots within the last hour to half hour of shooting light. They poured into the plots anticipating the safety of the cover of darkness. We did some mid-day sitting and saw some decent activity from 10-2 but the bulk of the activity was just before dark. We are averaging somewhere around 6-8 deer observed per hour.
Our camera activity was way off this past week. Not much moving around except for coming to food sources in the evening. This is undoubtedly due to the “biological rut” winding up and the effects of over two months of hunting pressure. Most of our bucks are back to nocturnal behavior and will not start moving during daylight until hunting pressure slacks off or harsh and cold weather drives them to move during the warmth of daylight hours. Bucks rebuilding their bodies aren’t big on burning life saving calories by moving about during the cold of night.
Neil watched a nice 3 year old buck last week from a box blind in a large CPR and food plot complex. The buck bedded near him and stayed put most of the day. Neil spotted him at dawn and was able to track him all day. He got up at 9:00 a.m. and fed in the goldenrod field for 45 minutes. He covered all of 40 or 50 yards and returned to his bed. He was up again at noon and fed again for 30 minutes. He bedded 30 yards from where he started feeding. Multiple doe groups were quietly moving about in the weeds within a hundred yards of him and he showed no interest at all. As darkness began to gather he walked about a hundred yards to a food plot and fed along the edge for 15 minutes before lying down again. His rear end never left the edge cover of the plot, he wasn’t about to expose himself by trotting out in the plot; all this caution on a 1,000 acre hunting property with very little pressure. Anyone wonder what all the older age bucks are doing?
This buck would have snapped into action like a frog on a June bug if he even got a whiff of estrus doe but no whiff was to be had that day in the weeds. He had no desire to walk or trot or cover ground in any manner looking for does as he had been doing a month earlier. For him it was time to rest, repair, and recover. Deer experts often refer to this time period in the rut cycle as the “recovery stage”.
On the good news side a very nice shooter showed up last week for a photo op. We hadn’t seen him since last year when we photographed him repeatedly; he wasn’t sporting much in the antler department last year so we gave him a pass. This year we hadn’t seen him all season and wrote him off as “gone”. He swung through last week (after dark) to check out his old stomping grounds. Last year’s winter had treated him well and this year he is a first class shooter. He worked the area where Neil killed that large dominant buck earlier this season. After seeing the pic, we set up on the area once or twice but for now he is a one pass wonder. Our working theory is that he moved out of last year’s territory to make room for the buck Neil killed. It is a doe rich area and we keep it quiet so with the void created by Neil’s success he came back to his old stomping grounds to hang with the does, eat at our table and avoid all the neighborhood hunting pressure. Severe weather will be our ally but with none in the forecast we can only back off, and give him some room to set up shop in his old territory. We’ll keep you posted we believe he is 7 or 8 years old.
We are actively filling freezers as we write this. The mild weather makes for comfortable sits and the does are back on the feed. The only trick here is trying to take them away from the core areas which are home to our shooter bucks. One shot kills and low impact recoveries are the name of the game in the doe harvest business. The last thing you need is a 1,000 yard blood trail!
This time of year it is always a trade off between taking does and waiting out the old fellows.