Sep 29, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT
The Rut is hitting in a few areas, but the majority of our great country is still in the pre-rut pattern. And most of that is early pre-rut. I know a lot of bow seasons are open or opening this weekend: What are your plans to take on the challenge of the early-season pattern the deer are in right now? Are you hunting food sources, escape cover in hopes someone bumps a trophy your way? Or are you just looking to fill the freezer with a nice doe or two?
I know in a few weeks I’ll be going on an early-season doe-only muzzleloader hunt. I love these early-season hunts as they are a great way to have a true shakedown of me and my equipment along with another excuse to spend some time in the outdoors. Speaking of spending time in the outdoors, let’s hear from the guys who make their living hunting and what they’re seeing in their neck of the woods.
Mali Vujanic, Tecomate Associate Conultant – Maryland and Delaware
Here in the north our bucks are out of velvet and the acorns are falling heavily. Reconyx cameras on field edge scrapes will identify the local bucks and soon the traveling bucks. The Big Show is still 4-5 weeks away and bachelor groups have already begun to dissolve. Look for increased rubbing and scraping activity and keep your in-woods disturbance to a minimum.
Allen Treadwell, co-host of 100% Real Hunting:
I’m in Montana right now hunting deer and elk with central Montana outfitters. Kansas last week was tough; deer movement was slow. Especially, mature deer hunting has been slow. Talked to a couple buddies of mine—one in Missouri and one in Oklahoma—and they have not had a picture of a mature deer during daylight hours on their trail camera for over a week. It seems to just be that lull across the country from summer patterns til the weather cools off and big deer get on their feet making scrapes and rubs getting ready for the rut. It could be slow on mature buck movement for the next couple weeks but I’m sure it will turn on soon! We saw bachelor groups breaking up in Kansas and the deer are starting to become more solitary animals! Good luck everybody!
Dr. Mickey Hellickson, Tecomate Associate Consultant– South Texas
Finally, a short reprieve from the drought with parts of eastern South Texas receiving 0.5 to 6 inches of rain last week. Unfortunately, the rain was very spotty with the majority of South Texas still dry. Last week I also learned that average rainfall for the state of Texas was the lowest recorded since the 1950s and that average summer temperatures for Texas were the highest ever recorded anywhere in the U.S. since temperature records have been kept – wow!
I’m three weeks into my fall helicopter survey schedule and have flown a total of 8 surveys to date. Fawn crops have been surprisingly good given the record-setting drought conditions. Fawn crops are averaging around 40% with the highest at 80% so far. Keep in mind, however, that the vast majority of my clients are intensely managing their ranches for trophy deer. Most of these ranches are providing year-round supplemental protein feed, have long ago removed the cattle, and are managing the habitat with deer as the priority. The lowest fawn crop was 18% on a ranch with a low feeder density (1 feeder/800 ac.) and a moderate stocking rate of cattle. This ranch was nearly out of grass cover.
Antler quality appears to be suffering more than the fawn crops. Past research has shown that average gross B&C scores of fully mature bucks will shift up to 20 inches when comparing a dry spring to a wet spring. This year’s total lack of spring rains have resulted in gross B&C scores at least 20 inches less than optimum. In fact, I would guess average scores are down 25 to 30 inches. I am seeing the fewest number of bucks over 150 B&C inches that I have ever seen from the helicopter.
Obviously, this would be a good year to be extra conservative in your trophy buck harvest. In fact, I would recommend that you only harvest trophy bucks you feel are 7 years old or older. Give your 5- and 6-year-old bucks the chance to experience a wet spring next year or in 2013. They will likely be 20 or 30 inches bigger as a result.
Lastly, I learned a hard, new lesson on the second survey of the year. This second survey was flown over a 1,200-acre high-fenced ranch that had been intensely managed for trophy deer for the past 6-7 years. The hunters had built up a very impressive deer herd over that span of time. Tragically, the ranch ran completely out of surface water around 2 weeks before the survey. As a result, we counted 27 deer from the air and 23 were dead! Within a span of only 2 weeks, 23 deer had died of thirst. Most of these deer were in good body condition. I had learned through college and graduate school that deer could survive without any surface water. And that they could at least maintain themselves on preformed water (water gained from eating plants alone) and metabolic water (water produced during digestion). I know now that this is not true – deer need surface water to survive during times of drought and high temperatures. Please don’t let your ranch run out of surface water!
Wade Middleton, host of Yamaha Whitetail Diaries:
I spent time in three different parts of Texas this last week, and in the central parts of the state between Austin and San Antonio I was fortunate enough to see several young bucks sparring, trying to make rubs on very small trees and basically acting like young bucks do this time of the year, which is always fun to see.
The other two areas of the state that I was in near Del Rio and down south towards Cotulla I didn’t see much activity to mention probably because it was pretty hot both of those days. But we did get some stands adjusted and scouting cameras out to give us some ideas of what’s going in those areas. I also was able to check a few scouting cameras and as you can see in this photo near a free choice protein feeder that these bucks are fighting more over food than anything else right now. We’ve seen this a lot this year in photos, which is more evidence about the competition for natural food sources.
We’re still weeks from any real true rutting activity; however we’re only days from seeing some good deer on the ground as well as hunters with big smiles since the Texas season opens on the 1st of October. I expect to see a few good bucks hit the ground early in the first few days of the season for those hunters with patience to sit all day around any water or food sources in those areas that have been hard hit by the drought, as there simply aren’t many other options for the deer to visit right now.
Brett Miller, Online Hunting Editor at NBCSports.com
The deer in my area seem to be disappearing more and more each day, not October-Lull disappearing, but the big boys are slinking more and more back into the darkness. I know they are still there; they just are coming out more in the dark of the night than they are in the daylight. The days are getting shorter and the ash trees in my yard are changing to their red foliage and loosing leaves. This means a few things to me; first my wife will want the leaves raked up soon, but it also means that hunting season is approaching.
Archery season opens here this weekend statewide, but I won’t be out there. I have my spots pre-scouted and will be waiting. This time of year you can mess up an area very easily if you’re not careful. The deer are there even if you don’t see them in the daylight, but you can bump them in the dark, and educate them very easily right now. The next few weeks can be very hit or miss as the bucks are adding fat and readying themselves for the rigors of the rut. If you can get off a food source and set up on a travel route back to the bedding area it can pay off big time. Just be careful, though; your scent can float into that bedding area and blow Mr. Big out of it for a while. Good luck out there and let us know what you are seeing!