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Where Leaves Are Down, Deer Are Warier

I'm seeing a transition in the woodlands of Georgia, with Arkansas and South Carolina seeing similar changes. Mid-November is prime time for the rut in these states, and deer movement is high, though activity seems to be waning.

The week before, my son and I hunted a favorite area and we saw numerous deer, including five different bucks. My son scored his second bow kill of the season with the nice six-pointer above. Deer were very active feeding and checking each other out. There was almost non-stop activity and it was one of those special days in the woods that we think about all year.

But last week, we hunted the same location with different results. The weather was a bone-chilling 30 degrees, with strong blustery winds that made you want to shrink your head down into your coat with each blast.

Together we saw a total of one deer. It was a nice eight-pointer that got within 40 yards, but would come no farther. The buck was very nervous and stood and stared my direction for several minutes. Then he started bucking his head into the air sniffing the wind trying to pick up scent. Still not comfortable, he slowly walked off and I did my best to imitate a deer with bleats and even a desperation snort-wheeze. But the buck knew something wasn't right and walked off as I hung my bow back up.

I attributed his skittishness to several factors. Deer have been hunted for several months now and I have hunted this location many times no doubt leaving some scent. The buck may have encountered other hunters in the woods and was on alert. Most of the leaves have fallen in my area, which aids visibility but makes the deer more vulnerable and exposed. Don't think they haven't noticed this. Deer are more visible in the woods and many are more uncomfortable in open areas and have moved to thicker parts.

On my way back to the truck, I scouted a thick area and found a well-trodden trail and fresh rubs. I think I'll hunt there next time and hope to catch a buck in an area with denser brush where they feel more comfortable.

Hunting a WMA quota hunt with limited hunting pressure is another way to score on a southern buck. Seth Mixon of Ridgeland, South Carolina got drawn for a three-day hunt at the Donnelly WMA in Colleton County. This WMA has buck harvest restrictions of four points on one side, or a 12-inch spread. Mixon scouted the land and found a well-trampled trail leading into a thick wet weather pond. He posted up near it in his stand and soon spotted a buck chasing a doe. The pair disappeared in some brush and then re-emerged. Mixon put the buck down with an 80-yard shot with his Browning .280.

The Low Country bruiser, shown here, had eight points with a 20-inch spread. He weighed in at 185 pounds and scored gross 144 inches, a remarkable Palmetto State buck.

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