Overall activity status: Deer movement has been generally good across the region, although a slight warming trend has tempered the frenzied feeding activity that occurred just a week ago. The forecast—with temperatures soaring close to 50, even in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin—does not hold much promise for things to improve greatly.
Rub making: I have seen no fresh rubs during recent hunts in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Some re-working of established rubs continues, however.
Scrape making: I just returned from a three-day blackpowder hunt in Wisconsin and found one fresh scrape as I scouted a fresh clearcut. The buck appeared to have used one of the downed aspen tops as his licking branch, and he pawed through several inches of snow to establish the scrape.
Fighting: Nothing to report, though I do expect some brawls to occur as bucks (usually strangers to each other) congregate at prime winter food sources.
Chasing: None to report.
Estrous signs: I haven’t witnessed any does that appear ready to breed, but I anticipate seeing just that in the days ahead. We’re about a month past peak breeding right now, and any unbred does and some fawns will come into heat, which should kick-start some secondary breeding for bucks.
Daytime movement: Whitetails have been moving fairly well during daylight hours. I sat the edge of a fresh clearcut on my northern Wisconsin muzzleloader hunt, and saw four deer during legal shooting hours. This was on public land just days after the general firearms season had closed. The next morning, my host Tom VanDoorn and I watched a mature 10-point buck feeding in an open area well after daylight. The buck had injured one of his front legs and was visibly limping. Tom had seen the buck chasing does a month ago, and felt the whitetail was feeding hard to make up for his efforts during the rut and to help his injury heal.
X-Factor: Hunting pressure and weather continue to have the greatest influence on how well whitetails move during daylight. Iowa and Illinois just hosted gun hunts over the weekend, and that influx of pressure will curb natural deer movement for several days. And, as noted above, a rise in temps may dampen the urgency of whitetails to feed.