Bruce: The Pre-Rut is Here

Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.
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Oct. 26:** The southern woods are going through a major transition now and it's evident everywhere you look. The cooler temperatures and the explosion of colorful leaves evidence that its autumn everywhere. But the most important transition for deer hunters are what the bucks are doing right now.

Whitetails have been mainly feeding on acorns and many of them still are. However the bucks are turning their focus from eating to breeding. Case in point: a hunting buddy was situated over a large bean field at dusk a few days ago. He spotted a buck some distance away and it was feeding on the beans. Does started to come out into the field here and there and began to feed also.

Then the buck spotted the does and everything changed. Like changing a switch, the beans lost their appeal to the buck and he went into rut mode. He stuck out his neck and began trotting toward the does grunting along the way. The problem for the buck was that the does wanted nothing to do with him. None of them were in estros and he was just being a hassle to them. He trotted around grunting and harassing the does running from group to group and getting a cold response.

The important thing to recognize is this: we are in the pre-rut stage in many southern states and many of the bucks are ready and willing, but the does are not yet. For hunters, that means you should keep hunting food sources where the does hang out, and you likely will spot a buck that may come to feed and stay to breed. Or more accurately, stay to harrass does who aren't ready yet.

My buddy pointed out that this buck looked like a 2.5 year old, which are the ones who try to get the early jump on breeding. The older mature bucks are still hanging back and waiting for when the does really come into estrus and will be ready for their advances. Pre-rut is here for Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of Louisiana, and the bucks are transitioning from feeding to looking for does.

Some hunters have reported seeing does with dark hocks while others do not. I arrowed a doe on October 24 that came in to feed on white oak acorns. She was alone and showed no signs of estrous. But things are changing.