Overall activity status: Deer activity in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and eastern Louisiana is kicking into overdrive as the colder weather and onset of the rut stimulates rampant movement. The rut is here or very close in these states, and bucks are on the move looking for does and engaging in rutting behavior. The does are a week or two away at the most for these regions. The recent rain front followed by colder temperatures is also contributing to more movement.
Mature bucks are moving as many trophies are being seen and taken. Jerry Webb took a 160-class buck in Alabama that was trailing three does. A 242-inch toad was taken on Giles Island, Mississippi by Joshua Bruce (no relation) last week.
Fighting: A hunter in Clarke County, Alabama reported seeing two bucks fighting in the middle of a dirt road near his hunting area. In Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and eastern Louisiana, bucks are between pre-rut and rut, which is prime time for fighting. Using rattling antlers may very well bring in an eager buck now.
Rub making: Rubbing is ongoing for pre-rut bucks. Inspect each rub to determine its freshness as bucks have been scraping up saplings for several months. The freshest ones, with dripping sap, damp bark, and shavings on top of the leaves on the ground, are the ones to hunt near. Bucks will begin spending more time searching for does instead of rubbing as the weeks go on.
Scrape making: Scraping continues in rut states, but is waning as bucks are looking for does, chasing does, and competing with other bucks. Many scrapes will be made in passing, but one that is regularly freshened may be worth hunting near.
Chasing: Spotty chasing is being observed by hunters in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and eastern Louisiana. Younger bucks are first to start harassing does, but the older boys are not far behind. Hunters in Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, and western Louisiana may see some late second-rut action if they put in the time.
Daytime movement: As the rut progresses in Alabama, Florida, eastern Louisiana, and Mississippi, deer movement will soar night and day. Alabama’s Ryan Himmel capitalized on that movement to score his first buck this season. Himmel is a deer processor, and has a hard time finding the opportunity to get out in the woods. He was able to get out last Friday, December 21, to his Smith County property to hunt over a food plot.
He saw some does early on, then the double-beamed 16-pointer in the photo above stepped out. Himmel quickly processed the antlered venison with his rifle. “He was back-trailing the does that had been in the field,” said Himmel, shown at left with his trophy. “His neck was swollen, and he stunk.”
Estrous signs: The peak rut is a week or two away in most areas, but some early does are already coming into estrus in late rut states. Himmel said that another hunter noted seeing a buck chasing a doe in their Mississippi area. “I think the rut is a week or two away,” Himmel said. “It usually kicks in around Christmas. It may be late because it’s been so warm.” It’s not warm anymore—it’s cold and the rut is here.
X Factor: Pre-rut and early rut bucks are eager and aggressive. This is a good time to try calling with rattling, grunting, and scents. Anytime you see a buck out of range, some enticing grunts or rattling may bring him in.