Overall Activity Status: I'm seeing less activity here in Georgia due to what I believe is the waning of the rut. Deer are still active, but the peak appears to be over. Despite some frigid temperatures, movement seems subpar where I hunt, which is likely due to rut-weary deer and several months of being hunted.
This is not case in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama, where whitetails are inching closer to the rut. Some reports of early chasing are coming in and pre-rut activities are cranking up.
Fighting: Bucks in pre-rut states should expect to see an increase in sparring and some fighting as bucks establish their pecking order for the upcoming rut. Some head-banging can break out when two buck vie for an early estrous doe.
Rub and Scrape Making: Scrapes and rubs are on the uptick in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The last state is where Brian McGregor of Tennessee likes to hunt deer on public land. Last Monday he was hunting in Lauderdale County when a good buck began making a scrape near his stand. The buck, above, had ten points and scored in the 140s.
As McGregor witnessed, bucks in Mississippi and other pre-rut states are increasing their scraping and rubbing and hunters should be looking for this sign in these states.
Chasing: McGregor also reports that he has already seen some chasing in Mississippi. It's still a bit early for the main rut in these states, but the bucks are eager and will check out most does they encounter.
Daytime Movement: The difficulty of hunting mature bucks is that they are primarily nocturnal, so hunters have a hard time seeing them during shooting light. George Simolke of Dubberly, Louisiana has been getting trail camera pictures of a large double drop tine buck for six years. But all the pictures were taken at night, which prompted Simolke to dub him "Nighttime Roamer." This all changed on November 20 when the old buck finally made a daytime appearance at some rice bran that Simolke had out, and the 68-year old hunter made an 80-yard shot with his 7mm. The buck, shown here, had 13 points and a 21 ½-inch spread along with his matching drop tines. The rack was green-scored at an amazing 187 5/8 inches. For details, go to louisianasportsman.com.
Estrous Signs: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are starting to see a few early estrous does, but the bulk will turn in the next few weeks. McGregor said that he observed some actual mating in DeSoto County, Mississippi on December 2 last year.
X-Factor: Pre-rut bucks are big on laying down sign such as rubs and scrapes. This is the time to locate rub lines and areas with active scrapes if you hunt Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. With few does available to breed with, bucks are leaving calling cards, and hunters should be keying on them now.