BY Timothy Kent December 15, 2021
The theme of this year’s rut definitely appears to be “right place, right time,” with the notion continuing through today. With a few Southern exceptions, most of the nation is now past the perennial time frame for breeding behavior, yet we continue to receive reports of “blips of activity” across the Northeast. A recent story from New Jersey told of how a buck gingerly followed a doe to a food source and stood with her as she ate, stately and ready to ward off anyone willing to test his fortitude. Meanwhile, rifle hunters in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and most of New York have echoed “the rut is over” dialogue. Many have described daylight activity on the part of young bucks and does feeding alongside one another on food sources, while mature bucks are making themselves scarce during daylight hours. A recent recap from a friend who covers Maryland and Pennsylvania told of how this was the best rut he’d ever experienced; others continue to lament a long and testing autumn. The dichotomy in this year’s feedback is astounding, but the overwhelming majority have stated how utterly challenging this year has been.
In contrast, over several recent days I witnessed two different bucks doggedly covering ground in what appeared to be a search for a hot mate, and one of my scouting cameras sent images of two young bucks fighting well into the later part of the morning today. These are telltale signs of a potential second rut, where activity spikes but in a pale imitation of last month’s vigorous and colorful activity.
Nonetheless, this is still a great time to be in the woods, and deer continue to find their way in front of hunters’ sights as reported from Maine, Connecticut, and Maryland. With the waning days of hunting season staring us straight in the face, even given this year’s disparity in rut activity, or the lack thereof — we still have plenty of time to make something happen in the field.
I’m hearing that food sources are key, with most sightings happening in the evenings on food or closer to bedding areas in the morning. Strategies harkening to food-driven patterns are back at the forefront, with morning hunting of less significance when compared with evening activity. The East continues to be plagued with what appears to be a six- to seven-day cycle in which unseasonably warm temperatures spike, followed by strong fronts and increased deer activity on the heels of the dramatic change. The coming week appears to be no exception as primary hunting seasons wind down in many states.
For those still at it — we applaud you. It only takes a second for an entire season’s outcome to change. This is still a good time to hunt. Just keep at it no matter what the rut activity. Deer are continuing to do deer things all across the Northeast, and there’s no reason not to continue to enjoy Mother Nature even during the twilight of the 2021 season.
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