It was only about a week ago that it felt like summer, with temps here in New York hovering in the 70s. Unseasonably warm breezes caused the deer activity to come to a standstill. But this week, the winds of change blew hard across the Northeast landscape bringing with them snow, cold temps, and an increase in activity as deer scrambled to feed and breed under the new and more seasonable conditions.
Unfortunately, most of the rutting activity seems to have already come and gone, with some contacts saying they saw more active patterns the last few days in October, specifically Oct. 27-30, before the warm weather settled in. Several reported an uptick in activity starting around November 11, with the onset of changing weather conditions in the forecast. This included more seeking and chasing on the part of bucks, but not at a feverish pace by any stretch. Several mentioned seeing bucks come to food sources to check things out, but also feeding within close proximity to does without much motivation to check them, and certainly without dogging them through the timber as we would expect this time of year.
One of our New York counterparts labeled this year as a “trickle rut,” which seems to be a very accurate statement based upon the range of feedback we have received from folks across the region. It stands to reason this has been very much related to the weather.
This weekend was the opener of New York’s Southern Zone regular (firearm) season, and a number of those taking to the timber reported moderate activity. Personally, I had a great morning with numerous deer sighted until about 2 p.m., before things slowed down through twilight, with only two fawns seen between 2 and 5:12pm. During the morning’s flurry, I witnessed a multitude of deer feeding hard on crops and browse, none of which seemed even the slightest bit concerned about the rut. Several bucks walked leisurely through the timber, checking does when they encountered them but not making a strong effort of it.
On the other side of town, my friend Jason bemoaned how he hadn’t seen a single deer all day during a sit in a spot where a trophy-class buck had bedded in one of his prime “rut fields” the day before. The described stand was perched over an old ag field full of tall grasses and successional growth where bucks traditionally work the cover hard in search of does. But that day … nothing.
From New Hampshire we heard of one reporter who spent nearly a week on stand, dark to dark each day, with only one deer sighted. It’s no secret the Granite State sports some low deer densities in the area he’s hunting, but this report was even more sparse than usual.
Meanwhile, on the flip side, one of my hunting partners harvested a beautiful 8-point buck yesterday morning at about 11:30 as he slowly cruised the timber in search of the last doe in heat. During his retrieval and drag he came upon two additional bucks in different areas rubbing trees and refreshing scrapes through the fresh blanket of snow. The theme here appears to be that the bucks are still active, but not out of their minds crisscrossing the countryside with love-sick ambition.
The big news seems to be the big snows that hit the Buffalo, New York, area with some places receiving up to 7 feet (yes, you read that right) of the white stuff as the lake effect machine fired up hard, bringing national attention to an unprecedented November event. This brought deer reports from the area to a standstill. However, when we zoom out, this is just another indicator of what a weird and wild weather year we’ve been having in the Northeast in 2022.
“It seems like the deer are in shock from the dramatic weather change,” said one reporter. “I went from seeing little daylight activity from the heat, to little daylight activity because of the cold and snow; we just can’t seem to catch a break.”
It can’t all be bad news, and frankly, I hate to think that this year’s reports from the region are coming across that way. With seasonal weather settling in, there’s bound to be more normalization and I think we’re already seeing that with some of the reports coming in. With plenty of hunting season left there’s still a plenty of opportunity to capitalize. Now might be the time to shift your attention back to transition areas close to food or to the food sources themselves as the major periods of the rut wind down and we return to more of a normal bed/feed activity pattern.