Bruce: A Rut Between Ruts

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.

For much of the south, we are in an "in-between" phase where there really isn't a hot peak rut going on anywhere. There may be a few pockets here and there that are rutting or a few bucks chasing does that are coming into estrous at a non-typical time. But for the most part, we're in a lull.

Georgia and South Carolina are about peaked out and Arkansas is close, but the best action is still to come for most of the other southern states. So what's a hunter to do when there is no on-going rut? If the bucks aren't actively on the move in a doe-seeking mode, the next best thing is always to look for and hunt food sources.

Deer have to eat all the time and its always a good bet to find what they're eating because sooner or later they will be there. Most oak trees have already dropped their morsels and have been consumed. If you can find an oak with acorns still falling or on the ground, by all means hunt it. Some oaks, such as the water oak, will drop their nuts later in the season. Make it a point to check these trees on a regular basis to see if and when they're releasing their deer food. Soft mast like muscadines and persimmons are long gone and many agricultural crops have been harvested.

Now is when your time putting in food plots really pay off. If you have a lush field full of deer groceries, this is an ideal time to hunt it. Deer may be a bit spooky if they've been hunted so pay attention to the wind direction and consider setting up inside the woods on an approach trail.

For those close to the pre-rut phase, food is still a good choice to hunt over, but start looking for rubs and scrapes and any areas that the sign shows that a buck is hanging in the area. A gold mine of a stand setup is to find a food source with buck sign. The edges of food plots or areas around dropping oaks that have rubs should set off flashing lights in your mind and generate the uncontrollable urge to start climbing a tree.

Most of the big bucks in Georgia and South Carolina have been bagged during the mid-November rut. One hunter who found a way to bag a late rut buck is Glenn Garner. Hunting in Harris County, Georgia, he arrowed a 160-class 12-pointer that was his second trophy on the season. Garner also took a whopper whitetail in the early season, around a food source.

If the bucks are not rutting in your neck of the woods, look for a food source to hunt. A nice antlered one may come your way too.