With the second week of October upon us, we are solidly in the “need to feed” stage of the fall whitetail cycle. Bucks, does, and fawns are busy packing on the pounds in anticipation of the upcoming rut.
Last week we received hundreds of reports from whitetail watchers from around the country all identifying the same pattern: food, food, and more food. Unfortunately, there is so much food available, that it is extremely difficult for hunters to figure out what foods whitetails will be on next.
Video shot on Cabela’s Outfitter Series trail cameras._
My son Neil hunted this week and set up in a location that allowed him to watch an acorn flat, a green field and a few apple trees. The deer walked from the brassicas to the apples then back into the woods to pick up a few acorns. In the process, they even managed to spend some time on a new seeding of winter hardy rye. We’ve had dozens of similar reports in the past two weeks.
We have also had some reports of buck behaviors that can easily be confused with breeding or rut specific behavior. The whitetail watching corps is reporting scrapes, rubs, sparring, and all the other stuff that comes naturally to testosterone driven deer. There have even been a few reports of breeding trickling in. But this does not mean the rut we are all looking forward to is on, or even close to being on. I observed a breeding party with my own eyes two weeks ago, but it was the only one I have ever observed this early in the season in 50 years of deer watching; the same goes for Neil. It was a freak event, an outlier, and there will always be outliers. The trick to calling the rut is playing the averages and looking at behavior patterns.
Our cameras are telling us that the bucks are still not interacting much with does, and are pretty much keeping to themselves in feeding locations. We are seeing some pushing and shoving going on, but no serious battles. We are also seeing bucks hanging out together and not traveling much. As the rut approaches, new bucks will start showing up on film and familiar bucks will start showing up in where they have not been before.
How to Hunt This Weekend
We have yet to see much in the name of older aged bucks. These guys are pretty secretive in our neck of the woods and are not all that anxious to show up in camera locations or where they have been hunted in the past. Most of the mature buck reports we have been receiving are of nocturnal bucks who have not yet ventured out during daylight hours, that kind of careless behavior is still weeks away. The takeaway? Don’t push a stand too hard too early if a mature buck isn’t showing up during daylight hours.
Right now it is all about food and smart hunters will have their food sources located, and be all over them. Real smart hunters will know which foods sources are ending and which are just beginning and be out in front of the deer parade. If you happen to have a mature buck using your hunting property during daylight hours, you had better get him killed in a hurry because he is sure to feel the pressure and probably will get scarce.