We noticed a marked decrease in deer sightings this past week as did most of our whitetail watching network. It’s clear that hunting pressure is starting to build. The deer are running into hunters all over the place, back road traffic and ATV activity is up, and there’s an increase of human scent in the woods.

On Stand Observations
Stand sightings on our property went from more than 4 deer per hour to a little more than 2. This 50 percent reduction is very consistent with reports from around the country.

The decrease isn’t totally the result of pressure however, it’s also the result of ever changing food sources. We are in the season of plenty as far as deer foods go. This week we are seeing whitetails filling up on acorns and apples as well as standing corn and soybeans. They are munching on fresh fallen leaves, sprouting winter wheat and rye, and frost sweetened brassicas. This spreads them out over an entire hunting property and gives them plenty of ways to steer clear of human intrusion. Their use of green plots has reduced significantly since late summer but that is understandable considering all the food options they have to choose from. It is also understandable considering that we, as hunters, have a penchant for hunting where the deer were last seen, and where we want them to be; not where they actually are. For many of us, that means targeting the green plots that were put in to attract deer. The so called October lull is best attributed to a combination of changing and abundant food sources and increased wariness by whitetails that have seen hunting movies before and don’t like how they end.

As far as buck behavior goes, we are beginning to see an up-tick in buck activity. It’s not the kind of rut action we are anxiously awaiting, but action none the same. Older bucks are beginning to show up in feeding and gathering areas. For the most part, they are still giving the does plenty of room but they are starting to show up more on camera and beginning to show some interest in the does. Bucks are still hanging in loosely organized groups. Our whitetail watching brigade is beginning to report lip curling and scrape making, but for every hour a buck spends thinking about does, he’s spending a half dozen hours filling his belly. It is still all about food for the majority of bucks out there. Most of the bucks we are tracking are still staying relatively close to their home territory. We see them repeatedly and seldom pick them up on cameras outside their well defined home territories. We are not seeing an influx of strange bucks in our area either and we are not seeing a lot of dark staining on their tarsals and lower hind quarters. We have begun to see an increase in dead bucks on the highway.

How to Hunt
Every one reading this report has seen an exception or two to the above but when it comes to tracking the feed-breed-feed fall hunting cycle it’s a game of averages. And right now, the averages say hunt food sources. Bucks on the feed are far out numbering bucks getting ready to breed.

The does are spending most of their time on food sources and so are most bucks. While bucks are beginning to reach out your main target areas should still be food sources. The trick will be to hunt next week’s foods not last week’s foods. We’ve heard more than one hunter complain of too many apples in the woods.

But here’s one exception to the food focus: If you happen to run into a hot doe this weekend, try to get in the middle of the action because she will be covered up by bucks. Don’t spend the weekend watching apples when all the bucks are back in the brush with the only estrus doe in the county.