Overall activity status: I encountered a strange mix of deer observations last week. There were areas with excellent feeding activity, thanks to the first significant snowfall of the season. Then those reports turned less than stellar as warm temperatures and rain moved in. Iowa’s second gun season ended last weekend, which should wrap up the major firearms pressure in the region for the year. Whitetails will be back in “natural” movement mode.
Fighting: I noted earlier last week that bucks are starting to travel together again in the post-rut, and my trail cams captured some sparring. I expect this jousting to become more frequent as bucks re-form bachelor groups.
Rub making: I was pleased to see a fresh rub while on a scouting mission recently; the hashed-up prickly ash tree was close to an isolated food plot, and there was green bark lying on top of the snow. The majority of the fresh buck sign we encounter now will be at or near food sources.
Scrape making: I noticed one area that seemed to have been scraped, but the snow had melted just enough that I couldn’t get a good read on the sign. I do feel fresh scrapes will start appearing at food sources now.
Chasing: I had a report from a late season muzzleloader hunter in Minnesota that he’d missed a giant buck that was following a doe out of a patch of red cedars last week. Though the trophy buck wasn’t chasing the doe, he was shadowing her every move.
Estrous signs: See above. There are some reports of fawns being badgered by bucks at food sources, so some late-rutting activity may be on the horizon.
Daytime movement: We’re having some certifiably weird weather right now, and I suspect that’s going to influence the amount of daytime deer movement we see. If temps continue to stay moderate and snow stays off the radar, this could be a difficult stretch for hunters.
X Factor:** Sudden storms. As noted, the region is in a kind of weather funk right now, and deer movement has been pretty lackadaisical. That said, mid- to late December is famous for sudden snowstorms that can blow in, dump a few inches of snow, and be followed by a week of cold temps. That’s what happened a week ago here in Minnesota, and that’s what got the buck in the photo above moving. After taking his photo in the middle of the snowstorm, my trail camera also caught him up and about in the middle of the afternoon the next two days. In my opinion, we need a good shot of winter like this once a week!