Weekend Whitetail Forecast

Last weekend saw some subtle changes in deer behavior and significant changes in where deer are spending their time. All week long we observed does and fawns "trying" to use food plots but being run off by young bucks. By week's end, the does had shifted from lounging around the plots to feeding briefly and moving off the plots to quieter places. The net result being, fewer hours logged watching feeding deer and more hours logged watching squirrels and blue jays.Outdoor Life Online Editor
This week we've observed 43 does and fawns and 17 bucks from stands in 30 hours of sitting for 2 to 2 1/2 hours morning and evenings. Total deer sightings were down with fewer deer seen per hour, but buck sightings as a percentage of total sightings was up dramatically. Bottom line the girls are starting to get scarce and the boys are starting to show up. Does and fawns are still hanging together but large groups of does and fawns are less in evidence. It is basically mom and one or two kids. Not mom two aunts and four cousins. Bucks are working solo coming together to do a little dominance bluffing and sparring occasionally in food plots.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Most of the harassment is being done by young bucks and is still for the most part-- random flushes of doe/fawn groups followed by brief chases. Some extended chasing and trailing is being observed with more and more does bouncing in and out of plots and wooded areas. Haven't seen any deer come by out of breath and obviously running hard. Few bucks have been sighted nose to the ground, beagling through the woods. We are beginning to hear more grunting by bucks but no real tending behavior has been observed. We have observed only two chases involving 2 1/2-year-old bucks. All others have involved yearlings.Outdoor Life Online Editor
The food plot harassment has shifted some of the activity to wooded areas and locations where few deer were observed just two weeks ago. Our woods sits and cameras have been much more productive as the deer have spread out from being concentrated on feeding sites.Outdoor Life Online Editor
We photographed six new bucks this week making the total 30 unique bucks thus far. Of the four new bucks photographed, three were two-year olds or older which suggests some movement by older bucks. One 2 1/2 showed up that had been hanging on a neighbor's place (we share photos) 1/2 mile away. Our buck sightings so far have been: 1 1/2 = 60%, 2 1/2 = 27%, 3 1/2 = 10%, 4 or better 3% and we expect to see more in this class as the season progresses.Outdoor Life Online Editor
At this point, we have not seen a significant up-tick in mature buck sightings. The young guys are doing the majority of the moving and the old boys are still, for the most part, sitting on the sidelines or at least not showing up on cameras and in stand locations. We've noticed some browsing in the woods but that is largely due to deer being run off the plots. As usual, they will eat what's handy and if they have been run off the plots leaves and twigs start tasting pretty good. Overall, they are still feeding in food plots and corn but not for extended periods of time like earlier in the season. They are in fast-food mode; in and out of the plots.Outdoor Life Online Editor
As the week went on, our food plot sits became less and less productive as were our camera surveys. We believe we are now in the calm-before-the-storm seen each year. Most years the calm is over by now, but the cameras and observation data don't lie.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Our hunting strategy will be to hang back from the core areas of the property and give the food plots a much needed rest. We'll hunt observation stands for a while and monitor feeding areas from a distance. We will hunt close to core areas but be extra careful not to queer an area that will be productive next week or so. We will also keep an eye peeled, for fresh aggressive rubs on big trees, new scrapes showing a 2 1/2-inch or better tracks or evidence of a violent chase or even a fight in the woods.Outdoor Life Online Editor
We expect to see some hard chasing, aggressive grunting, and maybe even some tending behavior by older deer sometime near the upcoming weekend and into next week. We'll know it's time when we begin to photograph 3- to 4-year-old bucks on food plots after dark. Typically, they will be visible by day three to four days after they show up at night. At any time, a hot doe could show up and then all kinds of action will break out. But right now things are moving along the path prescribed by nature.Outdoor Life Online Editor
We'll stay the course, stay calm and let things unfold as they always do. It's important not to over hunt at this stage and put too much pressure on the property. The high drama days lie ahead and they will come. This will be a good week to give the binoculars a good workout. Neil and Craig Dougherty of North Country Whitetails compiled this report from field observations and strategically placed trail camera photos taken on their two properties (700 acres) in upstate New York. northcountrywhitetails.comOutdoor Life Online Editor

Neil and Craig Dougherty with the scoop on deer movement.