Most of the U.S., including half of the Southeast, experiences the whitetail rut in mid-November. Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama are the exceptions.
Alabama has one of the latest ruts in the country, with bucks chasing does into January and February. That means that November is rather slow for deer activity, and December is just getting warmed up with some pre-rut signs. While Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas are all in post-rut, Alabama hunters are just now seeing early rubs and scrapes, with an occasional early chaser.
Shane Dempsey hunts in north Alabama and reports the following: "We are starting to see some signs of pre-rut activity going on in North Alabama, with exception of Bankhead Forest. The rut there is wide open and several 160-inch plus bucks have been killed over the past few weeks chasing does. For the most part, December is the pre-rut phase, and January is normally the month where most of North Alabama sees big bucks chasing."
For example, hunters in Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, and Tallapoosa counties are observing only a few rubs and scrapes. A Chambers County hunter reveals that he's seeing lots of does and small bucks, but no big bucks. Until the peak rut arrives, seeing mature bucks can be tough anywhere, and this seems to be the case in Alabama.
Dempsey said that bucks are still in their bachelor groups in their hunting areas. "I've hunted this area, Madison and Jackson Counties, my whole life, and generally the rut (seeking phase) comes in January. December is typically the pre-rut, and you'll see a few young bucks start chasing around Christmas in most areas but the big bucks don't start falling until mid-January," said Dempsey.
With bucks in early pre-rut, hunting food sources, rub lines, and early scrapes are the best strategy. Locating a patternable bachelor group of bucks can also be a hot tactic for filling a tag. That is what Dempsey's friend, Will Dunlap, did recently. He saw a seven bucks running together in a bachelor group, picked out the biggest one, and put an arrow through him. The big 8-pointer, shown above, scored 135 3/8 inches, has 12-inch tines, and a 16-inch spread.
The best is yet to come for many Southern hunters, especially those in Alabama, as their whitetail bucks are getting closer to the rut and sign will become increasingly visible in the next few weeks.