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Rut Is on, Activity Is Spotty

Overall Activity Status: I killed my buck the Friday before, so I’ve been sleeping in. It’s been great. But there’ve been plenty of updates from hunting buddies and contacts in the mid-South. It’s been a cold week up until now, and things are happening.

Muzzleloader season opened in Tennessee last weekend and my buddy Brandon Gavrock shot the big buck in the photo above Monday morning. Monday was cold, and Brandon says there was no doubt this buck was covering ground and looking for does. Brandon is a Tennessee game warden, and a good one. But he’s been stuck in bed for weeks, battling Lyme Disease that he contracted from a tick back in the summer. This hunt was his first time back in the woods in quite a while. After what he’s been through, he deserves a dandy buck like that. Congrats, buddy.

Fighting: Fights right now are going to be serious. I got the attention of two different bucks with hard rattling sequences late last week. Although neither buck gave me a shot, it’s a fun way to hunt. Keep the horns handy, and when you see a buck cruising out of range, try him. You never know.

Rub making: Rubbing activity is holding steady.

Scrape making: It’s common to see a decline in scraping activity during peak breeding, but I found several fresh, active scrapes while checking trail cameras Wednesday evening.

Chasing: Personally, I saw a lot of chasing last week. My Kentucky buck was dogging a doe all over creation. But the chasing reports are scattered, even from one farm to the next. I have some buddies who hunt hard, but have yet to see a chase this year. That’s not too uncommon, though. On any given year, much as we try to make across-the-board generalizations, rut activity is always local.

Daytime movement: Trail camera photos from the past week showed good movement in the morning, up until 10 a.m. or so, and again in the evening. I didn’t see much evidence of that tireless, all-day rut movement.

Estrous signs: Although I’m seeing quite a few does and fawns running solo, I did see a big family group of does and fawns out feeding Wednesday evening. Not all does come into heat at once, so that’s not too unusual. Some does have already been bred, no doubt, but I don’t think we’re quite to that peak breeding, lock-down phase just yet.

X Factor: I write this on the eve of Kentucky’s modern gun season. Near record-high temperatures are forecast for the next several days. That will put a damper on the opening weekend harvest (and hunter morale), but it’s still no reason to stay at home. The rut happens regardless, and even though warm weather can stifle daylight activity, high hunter activity in the woods can do a lot to keep deer on their feet.

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