Overall Activity Status: Except for some late-evening activity, warm weather has kept things stale. “Things have really slowed down since it got so warm,” says Jimbo Robinson in West Tennessee. “We were getting a lot of daylight trail camera pictures two weeks ago, but now, most of the morning activity is around 4 a.m. Deer are only moving right before dark in the evenings.”
Fighting: I haven’t heard any fighting reports in a while. I have heard a couple reports of bucks returning to bachelor groups. I saw two bucks together in a field the other evening, although there were half a dozen does with them as well.
Rub Making: I’m still finding a few fresh rubs, but the activity seems to be declining.
Scrape Making: Scraping activity has really slowed down.
Chasing: The larger of the two bucks I saw in a field a couple of evenings ago no doubt had an eye on the antlerless deer, but I didn’t see any chasing. Robinson noted a definite slow-down in rut activity down in West Tennessee, where the rut peak is often a month later than it is here. “They were chasing hard two weeks ago,” he says, “but it’s really slowed down since. Everyone says December 15 is the end of the rut around here.”
Daytime Movement: Although the warm weather has had a negative effect on daylight sightings, the deer do seem to be slowly recovering from the pressure of gun season. Late muzzleloader season is open now in Kentucky, and gun seasons are still open elsewhere in the Mid-South. Still, many deer hunters have either tagged out or lost interest by this point in the season, and it shows. Deer movement around food sources late in the evening is becoming almost predictable once again.
Estrous Signs: Not much around here. Does and fawns are together (like the doe and button buck in the photo, taken early last week), and in some cases, gathering into large groups for the winter. Again, in other areas of the region, things are different. Robinson says the mature does he’s getting on camera are still alone.
X-Factor: Acorns. While fall turkey hunting last weekend, I found a few scattered oaks—red oaks, mostly—that had quite a bit of deer sign under them. Traditional late-season foods such as cropfields and brassicas are your best bet right now if it gets cold. But red oak acorns that were ignored in favor of white oaks back in the fall will get more attention now because they’re about the only mast that’s left. If you don’t have any fields to hunt, oaks are a decent substitute.