With weeks of late-season hunting opportunities ahead, it seems like several Mid-South states could be on track for record deer harvests this year. There's one overwhelming reason why: perfect deer weather timed with the rut and open firearms seasons.
"Early November started out very slow, and then went off like gangbusters," says Virginia deer project leader Matt Knox. "Muzzleloader season opened the first of November, and the harvest was down 6 percent. Gun season opened in Mid-November, and the harvest was the same as last year. But by the second week of the season, which was that last week of November, the harvest jumped by 99 percent."
Knox credited the Thanksgiving holiday, which gave people time off work to hunt, alongside "the most fabulous deer hunting weather in history."
"It was bitter cold with a breath of constant, stable wind," he says. "It doesn't get any better than that."
Knox says he personally saw rut activity all month, and is still seeing some activity right now. "The first deer I saw in November was on the 2nd, and it was a buck chasing a doe. And then the other day, on the 30th, I saw a buck chasing doe. Some days were better than others, of course, but for a 28-day period, we were seeing rut activity. It'll be interesting to look at the fetal data later on to see when the majority of the does were bred."
Kentucky, too, is on track for a record year. The photo above was snapped yesterday at Hinton Archery and Taxidermy, and all those racks are from deer taken this season. Shop owner Danny Hinton has been up to his elbows in big buck skull caps my for the past three weeks.
Bluegrass hunters killed a record 101,076 deer during the modern gun season. That, combined with the early bow totals and the remainder of the season (which includes a week of muzzleloader hunting), is definitely on track to eclipse last year's record harvest of 131,395 total animals.
Although it's warm as I write this, another round of bitterly cold weather is forecast to move through the Mid-South in the coming days. If you're man (or woman) enough to sit in a treestand while it's in the teens, the deer activity should be pretty good near key food sources like corn, soybeans, and brassica plots.