Overall Activity: Activity is good to excellent throughout the region. Reports from Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin all speak of bucks actively seeking does and moving well during daylight. A cold snap, and even a little snow, seems to have created some urgency to breed. The first big group of does has definitely come into estrous, and yet I’ve heard few reports of lockdown.
In short, it’s prime time.
What little talk of of lockdown I’ve heard has come from the more northern states. In some parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, mature-buck sightings have been limited to deer between mates. But that doesn’t mean hunters haven’t had success. My neighbor’s daughter, Melissa Olsen, took this 145-inch 8-pointer just last Sunday.
Fighting: Bucks are definitely locking horns. This week should be prime for getting aggressive with rattling antlers, as well as with other calls–grunts, bleats, and snort-wheezes. Just remember, if a buck can clearly see that there’s no deer from where your calls are emanating, you’ll have a tough time pulling him in. Use a decoy or call only in dense cover, so the buck has to come looking.
Rub Making: Bucks are spending more time looking for does right now than raking trees. That said, any new or freshly worked rubs are very important; they tell you that a buck is in the area, not a mile away chasing does on another property.
Scrape Making: It’s the same story here. Bucks aren’t spending a lot of time tending core-area scrapes, but when a fresh patch of dirt pops up near doe feeding and bedding area, it should definitely factor into your hunt plan.
Chasing: Oh, yes. My reports range from short, investigatory chases to bucks dogging does clear across the landscape. Basically, the chasing phase is in full swing; it’s just a question of intensity from area to area.
Daytime Movement: Very good, as noted above. As long as the weather stays cool, or, more likely, gets cooler, daytime movement should be excellent, until we hit lockdown.
Estrous Signs: Several of the hunters I’ve spoken to this week, especially in more open country, have seen bucks bedded down with does, confirming that some of the latter are definitely ready to breed. I’ve also personally seen does acting restless, as well as fawns out wandering on their own–a strong indication that adult does are breeding.
X-Factor: The key now is to hunt where the deer are most active. The peak of the rut is extremely dynamic: bucks may be chasing hard on one property and totally locked down on another. If the action slows where you are, and you have access to another property, pick up and make a move. It can make all the difference this week.