Hunters are hitting the woods in big numbers now and many are seeing good activity. Firearms seasons have begun in several areas, so more good bucks are being seen and tagged. Most notable are the increased observations of bucks chasing does. In the pre-rut states of South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and portions of Louisiana and Florida, hunters are seeing a definite uptick in buck movement.
Those states are in the transition between pre-rut and rut. It's still a little early for does to be coming into estrus, but that's not stopping many young bucks from pursuing the females. Most of the bigger mature bucks are still waiting for the real thing. But most bucks are in the mood and are vulnerable to calling, rattling, and some doe-in-heat scent.
An example of the current temperament of southern bucks is what I observed last Friday morning. After setting up in my tree stand near acorn-dropping oaks, three does emerged and began feeding. Then a young six-pointer came out and ran at the does with his neck stretched out. The does quickly scattered and avoided his advances, then they all went back to feeding. Then a larger eight-pointer came out and began feeding. The older eight-pointer showed no interest in the does, only in the acorns.
Ben Miller hunts in southeastern Georgia on the Fort Stewart Army Base. His opening day of the firearms season was filled with buck activity and quite successful, as you can tell from the photo here.
Miller and his buddy, Jacob Lutz, located some promising spots on maps and went in and set up in strips of pines between cypress swamps. Ben describes the morning:
"Not long after shooting light began, Jacob had a spike come within 10 yards of his stand. Then a little later, two small does came out and were looking back from where they came. I texted him and suggested waiting to see if a buck was tailing. He texts me back that he agreed, because he already had some meat from his bow season does. I begin thinking, 'Well, Jacob has the hot spot today.'
"Then around 9:15 a spike runs a doe all around my tree for a few minutes, running her in circles," Ben continues. "They both tear back into a large pond, making a ton of noise crashing around and splashing through water. About ten minutes later I hear some rustling back where they ran in and turn my head only to see a solid coastal Georgia eight-pointer come out and charge straight to my tree, grunting the entire way. I bleated with my mouth, but he was still charging, so I bleated again and he slows down just a tad. By now I'm standing up and I shoot him straight underneath me as he ran by. He runs into the swamp drain and falls once. I lost sight of him. I saw blood everywhere so I knew he was hit good. Jacob and I talk on the phone and agree to stay longer since they're rutting. About 10-15 minutes later I believe I heard a grunt from the swamp drain. Then I spot a pretty decent six-pointer coming down the inside edge of the drain. I watch him sniff and sniff, looking for the doe that had laid a scent trail all around me, or my two scent bombs filled with Special Golden Estrus. I enjoyed watching him for about 15-20 minutes before he wandered off."
Clearly, bucks in the coastal section of Georgia are rutting, and they appear to be close in many other areas also. With the cold weather coming and pre-rut conditions being already here, now is a good time to see some buck activity.