It is beginning to happen; we are seeing plenty of rut-like activity. Just not everywhere – every time. The does are still “on the feed” but the bucks are in the “starting gate” and ready to go. It is nothing to see a wall hanger buck just standing near a bedded doe or staring at a group of does while they feed, and then keep on feeding. Eventually he loses his patience and rushes the group, or just loses interest and moves on hoping to get lucky, hope springs eternal in pre-rut bucks. The doe-fawn groups are beginning to be separated and the does are giving the bucks plenty of room, (you never know when a buck’s testosterone will make him forget his manners).
Bucks are feeling the first rushes of testosterone, but the older ones are mostly moving on a pattern. Ignore the scrapes along field edges and other open places. Follow a rub line back from a feeding area into the woods and set up where you find a cluster of rubs, a place a buck is staging before heading out to feed. These will often be on finger ridges that come off larger ridges or on points between bottoms. The best time to hunt is still in the evening, but that is about to change and is not the hard rule it was in early to mid-October.
With the cold front hitting much of the mid-western US in the past few days, coupled with the rutting moon of October 28, deer movement has been at a peak and will remain that way through the next few days. The Red Moon peak activity hours coinciding with the morning sits are proving to be successful for most hunters this week and will stay that way into the weekend. Colder temps, moon phase and the calendar flipping to November are a recipe for high activity sits on stand, and the chance of catching your buck on his feet are increasing daily.
This week you want to be in travel corridors between a buck’s bed and food, especially when cold fronts pass through and immediately after. You want to carefully—with good entry and exit strategies—hunt these transition places where bucks move between feeding and bedding while scent-checking does. Evening sits should put you just downwind of well-worked scrapes located back in the forest and as close to bedding cover as you can safely get. Bucks are checking on does, but at any given day some does may be coming into estrous. Mature bucks will be the last to move now.
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