SNYDER: Deer rut offers opportunities for Pa. hunters

  • Deer are in the middle of their annual rut.
  • Now is a great time for bowhunters to bag a trophy.
  • Rifle hunters should use the rut period to do some scouting.

Deer are amazing creatures to watch when the rut is on.

As the hormones rise, the woods are alive with the thrill of boys chasing girls.

Pennsylvania hunters will not be allowed to use semiautomatic rifles to hunt big game, such as the buck pictured above.

One of my favorite memories from a tree stand was watching a young buck frantically chase a day-old trail of a doe. His frustration as she eluded him was high and rising.

As a mammal that sports genes featuring a Y chromosome, I can tell you men do some pretty dumb things to gain the favor of the opposite sex. Poetry, flowers, misspelled tattoos and movie nights are just a few of the chapters in the comedy of errors that often precedes “settling down.”

Fortunately, our hormonal surge is spread out over a decade or so. For animals with brains as powerful and creative as ours, anything less would be trouble.

It's an entirely different story for deer. For the next few weeks and not much more, deer are looking for love. And as anybody who has driven down a local highway will tell you, the search for love leads deer to trouble. Road kill collectors are busy this time of the year.

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Now or never for bowhunters: For bowhunters, the rut is where it’s at.

With a full month of archery season in the books, the non-stop activity during the rut represents the peak of hunting. There’s more deer movement, more excitement and more opportunities to take a trophy in its prime.

With just a week left in the early bow season, it's now or never for many archers.

Rifle hunters need to scout now: While the ranks of bowhunters grows each year, the majority of Pennsylvania’s hunters still wait to hit the woods until the firearms opener on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

By then, the rut has mostly wound down. Rifle hunters miss witnessing the antics of a frantic buck. Even so, the next few weeks can play a pivotal role in a rifle hunter’s upcoming success.

Now is the time to be in the woods scouting for activity. Look for fresh scrapes and rubs. Determine where the deer are feeding and bedding. And track down their most commonly used trails.

Do it now while the signs are fresh and hunting pressure is minimal. Do not wait until the weekend before the big day. If you do, you’ll be sharing the woods with thousands of similar-thinking hunters.

Drivers must beware: Unfortunately, the whitetail’s increased activity does not stop at the edge of the woods. Take a sunset or sunrise drive down nearly any of the area’s roads over the next week or so and you are almost sure to see a deer or two.

With more deer looking for love on the other side of the road, collisions with vehicles are on the rise. With some 115,000 accidents involving deer each year, Pennsylvania is the nation’s leader in deer-vehicle crashes. When lust is in the air, deer don’t bother to stop for traffic.

We’ve all done dumb things in pursuit of love. But whitetails take it to a new level. It’s what makes hunting this time of the year so exciting.

We are not the only ones making mistakes.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at