Things are happening now in a big way. But it some places, at least, we are not yet into the peak of the rut, though the definition of peak differs. Looking toward the northern end of our Northeast Region, Ken Eldridge, speaking from Martel’s Bait and Sport in Laconia, N.H., said he does not think the rut peak is yet near. Some hunters have seen bucks chasing does, and some have reported bucks fighting. However, deer sign is scarce. It looks like bucks are just starting to make scrapes. Eldridge did point out that bucks are not plentiful in his north woods area.
Toward the southern end of the region, Jason Smith, owner of Crawdaddy’s Outdoor Store in New Carlisle, Ohio, also said sign is scarce.
“It’s nothing like years past,” he said after 22 days of hunting.
No chasing has been reported. However, big bucks have been moving during midday. Still, he is anticipating that the rut peak will be later than usual.
“I’ve been bowhunting 25 years, and this has been one of the strangest seasons I’ve ever seen,” Smith said.
From Erie County, Pa., close to the center of the region, Kirk Rudzinski, owner of East End Angler, said he has been seeing several bucks, including a couple of big bucks that have eluded him by not stepping into clear shooting lanes.
Rudzinski said rubs and scrapes both are abundant. For the first time this fall, he has seen good rub lines. This is something that has been lacking this fall from many places. I have not seen a rub line yet, and that is after tromping many miles of woods and fields.
Rudzinski’s tree stand is between two scrapes. He has seen different bucks coming from each scrape. Bucks have been moving at various times of the day, however, most sightings have been early morning or late afternoon.
A very important reminder: trail cameras have been a big part of these rut reports. They may be the most significant hunting tool, particularly for hunting whitetails, to come along in my lifetime. Take the case of T.J. Danielson, above, who got this buck mostly because of trail camera photos. His stand was where it was because of trail cam photos of some nice bucks.
Hunting near a food plot, Danielson dropped a 9-point buck at 5:30 p.m. that weighed 189 pounds after being field dressed. That is a jumbo buck for northwest Pennsylvania.
“He was one of the bucks I wanted,” Danielson said.
This is a good lesson from the start of deer hunting season until the end. You should start setting out trail cameras before season opens. As we get into the peak of the rut, bucks tend to travel farther than at other times. You may be very surprised by what you see on a trail camera. Even if a camera doesn’t directly lead to success, it may do so indirectly by providing the enthusiasm needed to stay in a stand. I will admit that hunting with a trail camera has become almost as much fun for me as hunting with a bow or rifle.