Overall Activity Status: Deer activity these days is dependent on weather and location. Hunting is winding down in Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas and heating up in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana. Scott Perrodin hunts in Louisiana and hunted the western part of the state and is now focusing on the eastern zone. “I had a good season so far, killed two bucks and one doe, but nothing big. The deer in my area have gone underground. It's just that time of year. I will be hunting in the eastern zone next week with primitive weapon. The rut action is on, seeing a lot of scrapes in the woods there.” Louisiana has two rut periods, and, as Perrodin mentioned, it’s winding down in the west but the rut is intensifying in the eastern portion near the Mississippi River.
Fighting: Bucks in the late-rut states of Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are twisting tines more and more as competition for the early estrous does increases. A hunter in Trenton County, Alabama reported that he saw five bucks together chasing and fighting.
Rub making: Rubs are increasing, with bucks marking territory and working out on saplings in late-rut states. Look for a concentration of rubs to indicate a buck’s core area, but he may be straying from his home range searching for does in the near future.
Scrape making: Alabama hunters have been noticing more and more scrapes. A Tallapoosa County hunter has been seeing fresh scrapes since Christmas, and scrapes are staying active in Jackson County, as one hunter observed. Scraping should be very active in Mississippi, eastern Louisiana and Florida as well.
Chasing: Chasing is definitely on the increase, particularly in Alabama. Shane Dempsey hunts in the northern part of the state and believes that prime time has arrived: “It's basically here in northeast Alabama. There have been several 140-class bucks killed in the last week. I have seen a few young bucks chasing does, but nothing big yet. There has been an explosion of deer sign put out in the past two weeks. I fully expect the next two weeks to be white hot for the rut, and expect to see some big bucks fall,” reports Dempsey. Many other Alabama hunters are seeing chasing, mainly by younger bucks so far. Winston County and Trenton County bucks in particular have been seen chasing and other areas should heat up soon.
Daytime movement: Late-rut states are seeing more daytime movement as their rut approaches. The weather has stayed cool lately, which helps movement. Last week’s Arkansas snow gave hunters there the chance for some rare southern hunting in the white stuff. Jacob Darnell, left, was hunting in Kemper County, Mississippi in late December and killed his first buck. He said that he heard it walking about in the woods until it finally emerged into a field at dusk, when he shot it. The bucks had dark hocks and smelled strongly, all indications of a rutting buck.
Estrous signs: Observations point toward early does in estrus in Alabama and Mississippi. Does in eastern Louisiana and Florida should be close behind. Reports vary in some of the late rut states, with some areas being red hot while others are slow to warm.