Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.
Overall Activity Status: My roving trucker friend said he has been seeing an increased number of dead deer along roadsides, which is a reliable indication of increased overall deer activity.
Fighting:** Bucks are right in the heat of the fighting period. Though the odds for actually witnessing bucks seriously fighting are slim, it is worth the effort to get out there and try to catch them at it. The fury of a serious fight is awesome.
Rub Making: If you do much scouting, it is likely that you may see fresh rubs just about every time you go afield now. Most experienced deer hunters use rubs as gauges for antler size. I have faith in this myself, to some extent. As the logic goes, the bigger the tree that is rubbed, the bigger the antlers. If you see a rub on a 4-inch sapling you can be reasonably certain it was made by a nice buck. Another thing to look for is gouges made by tines. It stands to reason that a lot of tines will make comparatively more gouges.
Chasing: Hunters have reported seeing bucks chasing does, but all of these hunters expressed the opinion that it did not appear to be actual breeding. It seemed more like playfulness.
Daytime Movement:** Unseasonably warm weather has kept down daytime deer activity to a great extent. My own trail cameras on the Allegheny National Forest indicate that I am seeing the same bucks repeatedly, but they have been exclusively nocturnal lately. Judging by the weather reports I have seen, this may be changing right now.
Estrous Signs: Still no positive signs of estrous have been reported. However, this does not mean it is not happening. Most likely some does have been bred.
X Factor:** Pick your stand locations now based on food sources and the weather. Most deer movements are related to feeding. This is something I have paid more attention to this year than ever before. Assuming that this year is normal, bucks do not quit feeding during their pursuit for hot does quite as early as I was taught. They are still putting on weight.
Stands should be situated along routes to feeding areas. If the weather is unseasonably warm, get farther from the food sources, but without disturbing bedding areas. Turn-arounds in temperature from warm to cool likely will urge deer to move more, including during daylight hours. This can be a good time to harvest a doe.