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2021- the BIZARRE Year!!!!


Well-Known Member
Ha deer cough all the time, nothing new..

For us "here" (Central MO) - Super slow summer in terms of buck activity for us. All showed up in fall as usual though. We are a doe factory / fall buck importer property typically. But saw a lot less summer activity than usual. Could be due to increase of doe / fawn numbers...

Rut was odd. Myself and two neighbors that hunt close to 300 acres didn't see a single buck cruising in the entire rut between us. Bucks with does, trailing & chasing does, etc.. But no cruising.

Our numbers are increasing, especially does and fawns so our buck to doe ratios are getting more poor.. Number of bucks on camera inventory is consistent with last two years however. That is what we currently contribute the lack of rut movement / cruising to - increase in doe numbers..

Firearms came and went as usual. My target 4 year old shot by neighbor (buddy, happy for him), a nice 3 year old we were getting daylight photos shot by another neighbor a ways off during rut (bummer, he regretted afterward...). But not as many 2 year olds shot, which spells great news for future.. Had a big 10 show up in rut, trying to see if he's sticking around as I have best food in area for late season. Time will tell..

Deer do cough all the time but I had a certain buck this year that literally would cough for hours upon hours and I always heard him before I saw him

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Super Moderator
Staff member
Quite possible? I know deer have tested positive in several states and one providence in Canada. Some states had a 40% positive test out of several hundred captive and wild deer.

Might be the reason my two target buck disappeared in mid-September. No pics or sightings in almost 3 months which is unusual since there is little pressure near me. Last year they were all over in a square mile area around me with regular pics all late summer and fall through February.

My son has heard deer coughing and hacking on a couple sits while hunting, something's going on.
north of 80% tested positive in Iowa. Many other states similar.


PMA Member
I think it is likely a combo of a few things. Ages of does on the farm I hunt are somewhat spread out from back to back years of ehd a few years back. I think that may lead to them coming into estrous at times that are more spread out which keeps the rut feeling slower. I had several sits where I had does come through and never saw a buck. Typically mid Nov a spike would be hooked on them at min. I also think numbers are down and warm weather suppressed movement. My cams seemed normal though the summer but dropped way off when fall hit. I also think late harvest left alot of standing corn that hid deer.


Active Member
Global warming. :eek:

Saw a fair amount of decent deer on the cameras, seems I zigged, they zagged. I made a note that November 12 was a good day for big boy daylight trailcam pics. Anybody else note that?
My biggest buck on cam this year was somewhat regular up til Oct 20th or so. Then I only got 1 more pic and that was hot on a doe on Nov 12th, right past 2 of my stands at 8:30 am. Nothing since.

I agree with most of the sentiment here, a totally screwy year. No idea why. Also was able to bowhunt more of the rut than in many years, due to workload lightening up. In maybe 18 sits this year, I've seen 1 mature buck and I was fortunate to get him killed. I had quite a few does stroll past with nothing in pursuit other than occasional yearlings. Also never got a single pic of a stranger buck this rut. Usually get at least 1 per year.

seven twenty

PMA Member
Not following the covid comments. . . . . How do we know what % of deer have covid again. I heard this before, but were they doing swabs at the lockers or what?
Testing road kill

As for activity, same or slower as what everyone else is saying. Overall #’s seem down for some reason.


Well-Known Member
After reading all of the responses and how closely they match up with our experience in W Central IL....I’m leaning heavily towards the covid or some sort of health issue. We too commented all fall at how many deer we saw and heard coughing. We kinda laughed it off as covid but now starting to think there may be something to it. Also this has to be the only year I can remember that I never heard a buck grunting. Could be anecdotal but it was like the vocalizations and intensity of the rut was way less than typical. Also had 3-4 of our best bucks completely disappear in mid October. Kept thinking they’d show back up at some point and nothing. I know most of my immediate neighbors pretty well and they didn’t have these bucks on picture so I’m fearful that come shed hunting this spring I’m going to find some dead ones.


PMA Member
Lost their sense of taste. But not smell.
If covid really did take away a deers sense of smell, that could be a death sentence purely from a predation stand point. That'd be like taking away a person's eyes and throwing them out in the world with no help and asking them to survive.


PMA Member
I guess I didn't think the hunting was that out of the ordinary this year. We definitely lost some to ehd, that part sucks. But overall, I still saw rutting behavior, I still saw mature bucks, basically normal October- November movement. It was probably a little slower than normal but I kind of chalked that up to the ehd losses.


Deer, like sheep, are short-day breeders. As daylight hours start to decrease in the fall, both buck and doe hormones start to kick in. Daylight hours for each day of the year are the same from year to year. This causes the does to cycle at the same time every year, which causes fawns to be born at the same time each year. Follow the science...as they say, unless they taught me a bunch of BS in vet school. The person that I think has explained it best and has real world knowledge (because he bred deer) is Don Higgins.

If you didn't see much classic rutting behavior, it was because of local factors (weather, pressure, etc)....not because the does weren't coming into heat at the same time they do every year.


Active Member
I don't bow hunt so no input there. I do live on my farm and the wife and I drive around several nights a week to watch deer.

Trail cam pics went from 100 plus a week to less than 10 a week this year, some weeks i only had 2-3 pics. The best buck on camera this year might go 150, and I've only had pics of 6 bucks total. Last year I had 8 different bucks between 160-190 on camera, only 2 of them were killed that I know of. My farm is only 22 acres but its a great funnel so I get alot of deer cruising through.

The area I live in is normaly a high population area, its not uncommon to see 20-40 deer a night in the fall driving around the section, January there are nights we see over 100. This year we are lucky to see 10 deer a night and some nights we don't see any.

My area did get hammered by EHD in 2019, I found over 20 dead shed hunting on a couple hundred acres around home spring of 2020, 7 bucks the rest does. This past spring I found 8 dead, all little bucks or button bucks, not EHD deaths that I could tell. Several were fresh in February and March. Half jokingly I blame the UPS driver, He's told me before he hates my neighborhood because of all the deer and he just hits them.

I think the brutal cold and snow last February stressed the deer pretty bad. There seem to be more does than usual with no fawns or only one this year, and all the bucks I had on camera had shed by the first week of march. Another thought, as combines have gotten more efficient there is less waste grain for the wildlife. The neighbors field behind my house is 160 acres, was corn last year. There wasn't a single spot were the deer pawed through the snow looking for corn. I feed corn on the back of my farm in the winter and there was a beat trail from the timber a half mile south across that corn field to my corn pile, then they would cross the road by my house to the neighbors alfalfa field.

MN Slick

PMA Member
Due to work I wasn't able to hunt my usuall 10-14 days during the rut this year. I guess it was a good year to get hung up at work.


Every Two Year Election Covid Variant
This year I hunted five different county’s and drove several hundred miles and spent many nights in a tent and low budget motels. I only had one shooter buck in the red zone! I only seen three in all from the stand.

This year was very dismal for hunting and I can’t answer why but I feel there could be many reasons. I only have a couple cameras in just one piece and very few pics.
This year I seen very few does and many didn’t have fawns. Sign was around but very low compared to the previous years.
Some of my reasons for the crappy year. Last year was a great year for mature bucks and they shot a high amount of them. I still believe it’s a cycle thing and every 3-4 years in the cycle.
The weather was very mild with no major fronts coming through.
As Creitveld stated they had a hard winter!
This bizarre year happened in most whitetail states and they experienced the same stuff we dealt with.
This year definitely stings but after getting my chin off the floor it’s called hunting and after looking back still thankful for the opportunity to hunt this state.


PMA Member
I hunted over 20 days this year, easily the hardest I've ever hunted and I'd agree almost completely what Sligh stated. Very weird year and mature bucks were very hard to hunt. On 3 different occasions I heard deer coughing, I've heard deer cough in the past, but not as much as this year.

Weather was also very strange, lots of South winds, variable winds and very variable temps.
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