Trail Cam Photos: Rut Winding Down

Editor's Note: Craig and Neil Dougherty take hundereds of thousands of trail camera photos on their properties in upstate New York each year. All fall they will be submitting their most recent photos, as well as photos from their contacts across the country, to Outdoor Life to help predict deer activity. What a difference the weather makes. During the early part of this past week, temperatures remained cold. Cold temperatures force deer to burn calories and increase the rate of feeding during daylight hours. When the temperatures were cold, we picked up plenty of feeding behavior on our cameras during daylight hours.
The bulk of the biological breeding has passed for many of the bucks in the northern part of the country. Now that breeding is all but wrapped up, many bucks start to reform alliances and join back up in buck groups. We photographed many young bucks last week hanging together. As the weather continues to worsen, buck groups will often increase in size. For right now, it seems that younger bucks are the ones grouping, we have yet to photograph mature bucks hanging with younger bucks.
Young bucks are on their feet. This past week was the first week of the season that no two-year-old bucks or older deer were photographed. The combined effect of a couple weeks of rifle season with the end of the bulk of the breeding has most of the better bucks laying low trying to recover. We rely heavily on cameras to tell us what our deer are doing but over the next couple weeks cameras are only going to tell part of the story. Good deer still might be showing up on food pots but it might take a day or two of feeding for them to walk by the camera. They just aren't covering much ground right now. If you want pics of good deer, you better stake out trails and move cameras often. Keep in mind that if you bump a good deer now, and you might not see him again for the rest of the season.
Warm temperatures plagued deer hunters last week. Fifty-degree days are awful tough on deer with full winter coats. This fawn has bulked up its coat for the winter, any temperatures above the seasonal norm will typically reduce the amount of deer on their feet during daylight hours. Feeding during the cooler nights suited deer just fine last week.
Two food sources were drawing the most attention last week. This fawn is feeding in a soybean stubble field that was seeded with a rye grain prior to fall. The green combined with bean pods is a perfect combination for late-season deer. The other food that is attracting lots of attention right now is corn. Standing corn fields will dominate deer behavior as the temperatures drop. If you're trying to find deer now look for standing corn, they won't be far away.
Fall is a high mortality season for deer. Any number of things can result in a whitetail slipping away into a thicket never to be seen again. Last week while checking cameras, Neil came across a dead yearling doe that was very close to one of his camera sites. The nighttime cleanup crew had been at work on the fresh doe as half of the carcass had been eaten by the time of the discovery. Neil relocated his camera to take in the action, and within six hours, the feeding frenzy was on. This bear was the first to show up under the veil of darkness. Unfortunately, the bear dragged his meal away to more secure dining but the camera recorded on as dozens of foxes and coyotes visited the site. The camera averaged about ten visits from coyotes nightly for a week after the carcass was first discovered. The bear continued to come back all week despite the fact that only hair remained at the kill site. More than a week passed by before the fist deer was picked up by the camera. Who could blame them with all the toothy critters running about. Take note: remove any signs of a kill from the area surrounding your favorite deer stand. Field dress deer far and away from hunting areas to limit the amount of predators attracted to the area.

Check out these trail camera photos from last week and plan your hunt for this weekend accordingly.