Overall Activity Status: The roller-coaster ride of weather patterns in the last few weeks has affected deer activity. There have been frigid cold snaps, humid warm temperatures, and rain fronts. Overall, movement is decent, but much depends on the weather when you are in the woods. We're in pre-rut in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are getting close to the rut in many of these areas, which increases activity.
The rut can vary as much as the weather does. Brandon Rider hunts in Louisiana and had this to say: "I hunt three different rut activities in the state of Louisiana. I start off hunting in southwest Louisiana and the rut is on at the end of October to the third week in November. Then I head up north around Jackson/ Bienville Parishes of Louisiana and their rut is from the end of November till the third week of December. And now I am hunting 30 miles from my house near the Mississippi River Delta. Those deer are just starting to turn on. The bucks were in bachelor groups a week ago and now they're just starting to turn into the rutting phase, and it'll go to the middle of January hard," said Rider.
Fighting: Pre-rut deer should be testy and eager to lay down sign and show their dominance. Rattling may work in these circumstances. Look for sparring in the pre-rut states.
Rub and Scrape Making: Rubbing and scraping by pre-rut bucks should be increasing in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Though none of my contacts mentioned seeing more rubs and scrapes, they should be occurring more in these states, and other hunters are no doubt seeing more rubbing and scraping. Trevor Fitzgerald of Southern Arrowhead Outfitters is not seeing much rut sign yet, though, on his northwest Florida property. "Nothing in the way of rutting or pre rutting activity. Our bucks just now broke up out of bachelor groups. We have had a couple decent bucks harvested, but nothing great. I'm pulling a bunch of cameras next weekend so I will send you a pic or two if I have anything good," said Trevor.
Chasing: We are on the verge of chasing in the pre-rut states, and it should break out within a week or so. Hunters should have dramatically more action when this happens. However, not all hunters are seeing great activity yet. Scott Perrodin of Louisiana reports a slow start so far. "It has been a very slow year. The rut seemed to be a little late starting this year, and is now over for the most part in this area. To my east, however, it's just getting ready to kick in. Late December into January is the peak for that area," said Perrodin.
Daytime Movement: Movement is increasing in pre-rut states provided the weather cooperates. Movement is slowly increasing in Florida, though the rut seems to be still several weeks away. "Nothing pushing my does right now," said Jimmy Hurst of Florida. "I usually begin to see pre-rut bucks in daylight around now, walking my hammocks. I'm not seeing many bucks at all. I think the heat is the problem. I'm hoping activity takes off on the next cold snap."
Estrous signs: None being reported yet in pre-rut states, but early does should start popping.
X-Factor: The rut varies within states and even regional areas. If the rut action is slow in one area, consider trying another area of the state that has more activity. Stay in contact with other hunters in your state to see which areas are hottest.