Talk about daytime movement. A couple of days before the September 19 full moon, some friends and I took a drive through Pennsylvania elk country in the northcentral counties. From about 11:00 a.m. until about 5:00 p.m., which I will call the end of ‘daytime’ movements, we saw 29 deer moving and feeding. Most were in fields grazing, even though there was a good acorn crop in the area. There was not a cloud in the sky.
So why was there so much daytime deer movement?
Before we see actual breeding, deer movements can not really be thought of as rut-related activities. Every one of those deer were feeding. Relatively low temperatures may have had a good deal to do with it. At the beginning of the time I started counting deer the temperature was 52 degrees. It was still only 54 degrees when we drove down from the top of the plateau into the valley where the temperature was 62 degrees. These are not unseasonably cool temperatures, but they’re cooler than what we’ve been having.
And finally, all of the deer we saw were does and fawns. The majority were in groups of a doe with two fawns, which is a great sign of good recruitment.
Checking one trail camera Wednesday evening in northwest Pennsylvania supported that daytime deer activity with 224 photos. On the evening of September 16, I set that trail camera looking toward an apple tree. That first night until midnight, the only activity was a gray fox. After midnight, on September 17 at 12:36 a.m., the first doe appeared, then was joined by a fawn. They stayed just about a minute, then left.
The next deer, a doe, arrived in broad daylight at 11:02 a.m. It stayed until 12:41 p.m. There was no activity until 4:45 p.m. when a doe appeared. Deer moved in and out of view until 6:00 p.m. The only activity from then until midnight was a gray fox that climbed the vertical trunk of the apple tree.
At about midnight, 12:03 a.m. on September 18 to be precise, a doe appeared and stayed 10 minutes. A doe and a fawn appeared at 3:01 a.m. and stayed 5 minutes. It was light again when the next deer arrived at 8:21 a.m. It stayed 10 minutes. No more deer came until 6:18 p.m. and stayed until 6:25 p.m. A doe appeared at 7:11 p.m., then was joined by a fawn five minutes later. I scared them off when I checked the trail camera at about 7:20 p.m.
Deer are generally more active three days before the full moon and three days after the full moon. This information seems to strongly support that, since it is the first large-scale deer movement I have seen since we started reporting on the rut this year.
Previously I reported that the Pennsylvania Game Commission had completed a study which indicated that moon phase has nothing to do with the rut. Still, I cannot shake the belief that moon phase can affect deer activity.
Checking that trail camera happened during the usual loop Mike Stimmell and I make through the Allegheny National Forest. We saw about 30 deer during that loop, which is better than average. Only four of those deer were bucks, three forkhorns, and a buck with more points but a spread of only about 11 inches. We have seen no big bucks yet since the rut report began.
The previous evening, Stimmell found a couple of fresh scrapes behind his house.
Elsewhere, from Connecticut, Rob Rogan reported on seven bucks, one an 8-point, all out of velvet.
In central Maine, outdoor writer Steve Carpenteri reported that five deer that have been coming to a feeder got caught in a rain this week and lost their velvet overnight, the fastest he has seen it happen.
From Broken Arrow Archery Shop in central Ohio, Levi Lease said that bucks have shed their velvet. He saw rubs Wednesday night, but no scrapes. Big bucks have been moving in his area.
From Marty’s Sports at Bennington, Vermont, Marty Harrington said bucks just shed their velvet. Big bucks have not been seen moving. Does were moving during the daytime in the last couple days before the full moon.