With the majority of bucks around the Northeast Region having shed the velvet from their antlers, some things should start happening soon, or have already started happening. Some bucks still are in velvet, reports Martel’s Bait & Sport Shop in Laconia, New Hampshire. In my own home territory of Northwest Pennsylvania, in the middle of last week it appeared that roughly a quarter of the bucks still wore velvet. That probably has changed by now. From Mark’s Sporting Goods, Cumberland, Maryland, Westley Marks said that all of the bucks are out of velvet.
Bigger bucks have only just started moving around. Mostly does or fawns are being seen. The big-woods 12-point I wrote about earlier this month was still in velvet. Martel’s Bait & Sport echoed comments in some other areas, saying that the only big bucks observed have been caught on trail cameras.
Older big-woods bucks have to be careful while their antlers are soft. Still it is quite common to see antlers that have been damaged while in velvet. The 12-point was photographed on a high ridge, on a trail that is clear of most obstructions that could damage antlers. It is a location that is rarely seen by people except during deer hunting season, because of walking distance and very steep terrain. Even after antlers have hardened, it may be weeks before the older bucks do much roaming.
Writer/editor Steve Carpenteri, in central Maine, saw two 6-point bucks traveling with two does and a fawn. I often wonder if, in such situations, the bucks and does might be siblings. Carpenteri has not seen any territorial activity, or any rubs or scrapes.
But do not jump to conclusions about date differences for rut-related physiology between the northern and southern areas of our region. In the patchwork quilt-like habitat that produces most of our biggest bucks, bucks are seen more often because of the more open country. In the big woods, viewing distances may be less than 20 yards, whereas in the patchwork habitat deer might be seen from a mile away. This can seemingly affect the timing of rut-related observations.
Bowhunting is underway in some parts of the Northeast Region, and soon will be in other parts. The best tactics for hunting whitetails now probably relate to either food or funnels. Since the older bucks likely will move mostly at night, bowhunting now can be challenging.