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.
Dec. 20–Overall Activity Status: The primary rut is over in South Carolina, Georgia, and parts of Arkansas and Louisiana, but it’s pre-rut in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Louisiana. Buck hunting is tough in SC, GA and certain sections of AR and LA except for spotty action from young does coming into heat. The best is yet to come for FL, AL, MS, and portions of LA and AR.
Fighting:** Pre-rut states are starting to see some sparring and buck interaction as they position themselves for the impending rut.
Rubs: Rubs are showing up more frequently in FL, AL, and MS as pre-rut conditions have the bucks increasingly more active.
Scrapes:** Scraping is on the increase in FL, AL, and MS and in portions of AR and LA. Areas along the Mississippi River in Arkansas and Louisiana are seeing increased scraping as these areas of the state are in pre-rut. Jimmy Haskins of Bostick Plantation in South Carolina reports that their scrapes are “dead” since their main rut is over.
Chasing: Some minor chasing, primarily by younger bucks, is beginning in FL, MS, and AL. The major chase period is still a few weeks away for these states. Haskins in South Carolina has been seeing some chasing from the secondary rut. The younger does that are coming into their first estrous period are being pursued by any buck that finds them. “If you see one, it’ll be followed closely by a running buck”, Haskins said. “If you see one running, you better have your safety off.” Hunters have been seeing some fast action with several bucks running these smaller does.
Daytime Movement: Daytime activity overall has been good because of the colder weather and pre-rut conditions in some regions. Best daytime activity has been in pre-rut states while the mature bucks in post-rut states are mainly back to being nocturnal. Daniel Barnett of Wildlife Farms in Arkansas says that they are in post-rut and they are seeing mature bucks right at dusk or after dark.
Estrous Signs:** While Barnett reports that their rut is coming to an end in his section of Arkansas, other portions of AR, mainly eastern AR, is seeing more rut activity. The main population of does coming into heat is still a week or two away in FL, MS, and AL. As mentioned, there is secondary rut activity in South Carolina.
X Factor:** Post-rut states South Carolina and Georgia can still see some spotty secondary rut action. Any young doe that comes into heat will be stampeded by all bucks in the area. Don’t give up on a late-season buck with this possibility.