Weekend Deer Report

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. They have been documenting hunting season deer behavior for over 20 years and update their field reports weekly. Previous reports can be found at northcountrywhitetails.com Last week's report marked the beginning of a behavior pattern which we refer to as the frequent-feeding syndrome. Does and fawns are once more united in family units. Bucks are starting to hang out together and spend more time feeding than fighting and chasing does. Food is once again king as breeding behavior subsides and winter survival becomes a priority.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Speaking of survival, the deer using our property and neighboring land have been hunted for the past 7 weeks and it shows. The old does are extremely wary, the mature bucks are coming to food plots only during the last few minutes of legal shooting time if they come at all and it doesn't take much more than one foot-stomping doe to run a whole herd of deer out of a food plot. Not only have the neighbors been hunting hard, but we have taken numerous does as we attempt to keep the population under control.Outdoor Life Online Editor
With that as a backdrop, last week we observed 18 bucks and 71 does and fawns in 13 hours of hunting. The majority of these deer were observed on food sources with corn being the major draw. Corn is a high carb, weight-gaining food which is sorely needed for the long winter ahead. Acorns and beechnuts are equally sought out as valuable pre winter foods.Outdoor Life Online Editor
For the first time since early fall no new unique bucks were recorded by our game cameras (we only checked 50% last week). Our cameras indicate more nocturnal activity by bucks. The daytime walkers we photographed frequently over the past months are probably dead as taking mid-day strolls in gun season is definitely a season ender for any buck foolish enough not to stay put during gun season.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Cameras located in close proximity to high-impact hunting properties (deer drivers, ATV runners etc.) recorded few deer photos and clearly told the tale of neighborhood hunting pressure. Cameras internal to the property revealed a different story, plenty of photos of deer activity a sure sign that many of the deer in the area have been driven into the food and security.Outdoor Life Online Editor
A high point of last week's hunt was the return of a bachelor group of four full-racked older aged bucks to a cornfield. Reproductive rivals for the past month, these bucks were willing to tolerate each other in the name of a pre-winter feeding frenzy. For a magic 20 minutes at the end of the day every time the binoculars came up they were looking at a full head of antlers.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Another mature buck even occurred a few days later when an apparent shooter appeared at the far end of a cornfield in the middle of a day's end snow squall. This guy was "on the muscle," marching about, head high, telling everyone in the area he was in charge of that end of the field. The lesser bucks left in a hurry, not at all interested in a face-to-face stare down with Mr. Dominant. He got a "poor visibility pass", and was issued a rain check for the "early bird corn special" next week. We are looking forward to getting a better look at this buck next week as he just might be the one we have been waiting for.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Our strategy for the rest of the season will be to camp out on high-carb food sources to take advantage of the late season feeding frenzy which is ramping up rapidly. Hard charging bucks have lost up to 25% of their body weight chasing does and fighting with each other over the past month and Mother Nature is telling them to pay attention to their stomachs or die.Outdoor Life Online Editor
In past years, extreme temperatures late in the season have forced mature bucks to feed during relatively warmer hours of daylight. Mild temps have allowed them to remain nocturnal. Sorry, but we're hoping for severe weather till season's end mid-December.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Particularly attractive will be high carb food sources located near dense thermal cover like spruce, pines, and hemlock thickets. We recovered a doe in one of these areas last week and it looked more like a barnyard than anything you would ever encounter in the wild. Hunting pressure and early winter conditions has reduced deer movement dramatically, so any time you can find early winter thermal cover and high quality food in close proximity it is bound to be a hot spot.Outdoor Life Online Editor
This is definitely the time of year when a well managed property comes into it's own. Corn, clover and brassica located in close proximity to thermal cover and security doesn't just happen it's created. Perfectly located stands where deer can be observed without putting undue pressure on the hunting site are designed to work that way. Properties that "attract" deer when other properties are "deerless" are created, not found. Management matters, especially this time of year.Outdoor Life Online Editor

As the rut begins to wane in some areas, food sources have again become the hotspot to hunt.