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Mid-South

Reporter: Will Brantley

States covered: Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

When in high school, Brantley once woke his mom to help him load a 9-pointer he'd shot into the bed of his pickup. To this day, there are few things Brantley enjoys more than deer hunting, especially bowhunting in the Mid-South. He spends 40 to 50 days in a tree each fall, mostly near his home in Kentucky.

Mid-South

Photo Galleries

  • Giant Buck Alert: Kansas 18-Point Gross Scores 194
  • 199-Inch Wisconsin Monster Buck
  • Biggest Pure Kentucky 8-Pointer Ever Measured
  • New World Record 8-Point Whitetail
  • A Bizarre 23-Point Maryland Buck
Real-Time Updates From The Mid-South
  • December 24, 2013

    End of Deer Season: It's Time to Get Out There

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    By Brandon Ray

    Overall Activity Status: We are near the end of deer season. In Texas’ north zone, the general season ends on January 5. In South Texas, the season ends January 19. In Oklahoma, bow season ends January 15. It’s time to make time to get to the woods before it is over.

    Fighting: I’ve watched a couple of bucks around corn feeders lower their heads at each other and spar a little, but it’s mostly an older buck showing a younger buck who is boss and it only lasts a few seconds. Lots of reports of broken antlers in the northern half of the region on post-rut bucks.

    Rub Making: Old sign at this point in the season.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 17, 2013

    Final Report: What I learned from the 2013 Deer Season

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    By Will Brantley

    So here we are at the end of another deer season and another year of rut reporting. Thirty reports. Man do they ever go by fast. The Rut Report has become one of my favorite gigs as an outdoor writer because I've learned so much from it. It's like keeping a journal on the season, full of photos and added input from other hunters across the region. At the end of every season, it seems I learn several new things, too. Here's what tops the list from this year.

    Spotty Mast Equals Later Rut: With the exception of some localized areas, the mast crop was spotty across the Mid-South this year, and virtually non-existent in some places. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 16, 2013

    Survivors on the Move in Overlooked Places

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    By Will Brantley

    With gun seasons in the rearview across most of the Mid-South and the bulk of this year's deer harvest already in the books, it can feel a little hopeless heading to the woods right now with an unfilled buck tag. The hardest truth is that there are fewer deer alive in the woods right now than at any other time of year. Quite a few of them are packaged up and in freezers. Those that have survived have been jumped from their bedding areas and shot at over food sources. In case you haven't read The Total Deer Hunter Manual, deer don't like that stuff.

    But there's no need to be completely depressed. The buck in the photo above, for example, began showing up on my trail camera around the first of December, more than a week after Kentucky's gun season closed. And although he hasn't been an "every day" buck, he has been making fairly regular appearances at my corn feeder ever since he found it. Him aside, a big 8-pointer we've been hunting since September is still alive and well, too.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 11, 2013

    Late Buck Sign Appearing

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    By Will Brantley

    Overall Activity Status: Last week's tumultuous weather included 70-degree days early in the week and a severe winter storm on Friday night that left the landscape encrusted with ice. Trail cameras and personal observation both proved that deer moved very little in that mess, but things changed after the storm broke. A walk through the woods yesterday to pull a trail camera card and check some potential late-season stand sites revealed a world of fresh deer sign and numerous daylight photos within the past two days.

    Fighting: Nothing to report on the fighting end right now, although bucks are still flying solo.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 4, 2013

    Cold Weather and Late Rut Activity Boosts Hunter Success to Record Levels

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    By Will Brantley

    With weeks of late-season hunting opportunities ahead, it seems like several Mid-South states could be on track for record deer harvests this year. There's one overwhelming reason why: perfect deer weather timed with the rut and open firearms seasons.

    "Early November started out very slow, and then went off like gangbusters," says Virginia deer project leader Matt Knox. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 28, 2013

    Expect Good Deer Movement in Cold Weather

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    By Will Brantley

    Overall Activity Status: We took a drive through the countryside this morning to scout for ducks but the deer, not the ducks, stole the show. With temperatures in the teens, it was bone-chilling cold outside. Deer were everywhere. We lost count of the number of does, fawns, and young bucks we saw, and we even got a glimpse of one heavy-racked trophy running through the timber. Usually, there’s a period of very slow movement around here immediately following gun season. That certainly wasn’t the case this morning.   [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 25, 2013

    Primary Rut on the Downslide, Some Bucks Still Chasing

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    By Will Brantley

    It's the day after Kentucky's gun season and nasty cold outside as I write this. Harry Pozniak, owner of River Valley Farms in Cadiz, Kentucky, says that many bucks are locked down with does right now, but some chasing is still going on.

    "I think maybe we're halfway through the peak breeding," he said. "I shot a doe last night that wasn't close to coming into heat yet. The primary rut seems just a bit late this season, and it's been kind of spotty."

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 19, 2013

    Daylight Buck Activity Stalled by Warm Weather, Peak Breeding

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    By Will Brantley

    Overall Activity Status: Weather changes fast around here this time of year. After several days of outstanding deer weather in early November, Mid-South hunters were hit with a spell of abnormally warm air, high winds, and severe thunderstorms that put a major damper on daylight deer sightings. Still, with peak breeding underway, some big bucks fell over the weekend.  

    Fighting: The buck my wife killed early last week had an obvious tine gouge in his side from another buck. Bucks are definitely more concerned with breeding than fighting right now, but fights that do occur will be serious brawls. 

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 15, 2013

    Don’t Skip That Hour-Long Hunt!

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    By Will Brantley

    You know those afternoons when you think, “I’ve only got an hour to hunt. Might as well stay home.”

    If you’re skipping those hours this time of year, you might be missing out.

    Michelle — that’s my wife, I’ve written about her a bunch — is a school teacher. During the early bow season, she’s able to hunt a full sit virtually every day if she wants. But after the time switch, her daylight is fading fast when the end-of-day bell rings. She had a west wind Monday evening, though — the first one since Kentucky’s gun season had been open — and she had a stand where she wanted to sit. We’d gotten trail camera photos of a good buck in there on several consecutive days last week, but it’s a touchy, west-wind-or-nothing spot. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 14, 2013

    The Rut Gets Off To A Rockin' Start

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    By Will Brantley

    Overall Activity Status: The switch was flipped the middle of last week, and the rut is nearing full speed in much of the Mid-South. Small bucks are chasing does to the point of exhaustion at all hours of the day. The more mature deer seem to be biding their time just a bit longer, although plenty of good ones were shot over the weekend. Carl Doran, owner of Snipe Creek Lodge in western Kentucky, says that this past weekend was the best gun opener in memory at Snipe Creek. And he believes the best is yet to come. "We lucked out with some favorable weather for a change, and our hunters have already killed some great bucks (including the two in the photo). I only expect it to get better as the week progresses. We have a serious cold front on the way, and more does will be coming into estrous later in the week. When the girls are telling the guys that 'it's time,' that's when you start seeing your big mature deer up on their feet."

    Fighting: I heard several reports of fighting from the weekend. Encounters between two mature deer aren't likely to be friendly right now.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 5, 2013

    Unusually Slow November Kick-Off: ‘We’re In An Atypical Funk’

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    By Will Brantley

    Overall Activity Status
    From the bow shop to the hunting talk forums to my own personal observations from sitting in the woods and checking trail cameras, the activity report in this region for the first of November was unusually slow. I hunted Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and though I saw deer each day, the pace was lackluster to say the least. I don’t have a Kentucky buck tag right now, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I did. The only buck I saw from the stand was a young 6-pointer that was focused on acorns. [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 30, 2013

    Seeking and Chasing Activity on the Rise

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    By Will Brantley

    Overall Activity Status: All reports say deer, bucks included, were moving like gangbusters last week. And why wouldn't they? It was cold and calm most days. My trail cameras showed significant activity, particularly in the mornings, all week long.

    This week has been a different story. It's been warm and windy. A huge front is forecast to move through on Halloween, and I'm banking on pretty good movement once the weather settles in its wake.

    Fighting: I referenced my buddy Sully rattling in that fine buck in this week's previous post. Bucks are fighting right now, and they're serious about it.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 28, 2013

    Pre-Rut Bow-Kill from the Mid-South

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    By Will Brantley

    John Sullivan works at Hinton Archery in Murray, Kentucky. If that shop sounds familiar, it's because it has been the "unoffical" pro-shop of several Field and Stream bowhunting projects in the past two years. Owner Danny Hinton (The Barrel-Chested Irishman) was one of the panel testers for Scott Bestul's Flagship Shootout bow test this past spring.

    Sullivan (Sully for short) had been watching the weather carefully last week. A big cold front was moving through Kentucky on the heels of a full moon, and Sully says morning sits under those conditions are his absolute favorite.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 25, 2013

    A Mid-South 13-Pointer

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    By Will Brantley

    My previous post referenced the terribly slow deer activity of last weekend. I saw but one deer from the stand over the course of two hard days of hunting Kentucky's early muzzleloader season, but I suppose, as the saying goes, it was the deer that counted.

    I was in a box blind overlooking a 5-acre field on our family farm. Two sections of the field are planted in food plot: clover on one side of the box blind, and a blend of clover, chicory, and turnips on the other side. The field is surrounded by a mix of cover, including some new-growth thicket, hardwood timber, and clear cut. It's where I've grown up deer hunting, and it'd be tough for me to hand-pick a better-looking spot.

    [ Read Full Post ]

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