Bruce: Signs of the Pre-Rut

_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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Reports are coming in from some areas of rutting activity much earlier than usual. The peak rut in Georgia, for example, is commonly mid-November. However, numerous hunters are not only seeing some rubs and scrapes, but also bucks chasing does.

In many cases, these are young bucks that are extremely eager and lack the wariness of maturity. The immature bucks will harass and follow any doe they come in contact with. The does are not in heat yet and will ignore or run away from the youngsters, but it makes good entertainment.

But in several south Georgia counties, particularly Montgomery and Lowndes, hunters are observing bucks grunting and chasing does. A few bowhunters have even seen bucks estimated at 3.5 years old pursing the females.

There are a couple of theories around this early activity. A spell of cool weather will often spur movement and deer will move longer throughout the day without overheating. Another speculation involves the older mature does that will come into heat much earlier than others. Whatever the reason, it's possible to see some early rutting action even in early October. Mid-October is usually considered the pre-rut, so is it possible to call this time the pre-pre-rut?

Louisiana hunters are finding the action as their season is underway. Jim Hemba was hunting in West Feliciana and experienced some great opening day activity. Hemba was set up in a funnel area along a cutover for his afternoon hunt. He describes the scene:

"I got on stand at 3:00 p.m. and the first deer, a 4 point, comes in at 5:45 followed by a doe then a spike. At 5:55 the deer that are feeding in front of me at 20 yards scatter. I hear another deer coming in and it's the deer I've been waiting for and he is still in velvet! He feeds in front of me for a few minutes but he is facing me and I'm waiting for a good broadside shot. I catch movement behind him and see another rack buck making his way over to my setup. As he moves in, the velvet buck turns to run him off and I come to full draw. He is at 23 yards and I place my pin behind his shoulder and let one fly. Thwack! The arrow finds it's mark and he jumps straight up with a mule kick and runs back where he came from."

Hemba, using his Mathews DXT bow and Easton Light Speed arrows, found his buck 60 yards away. The eight pointer weighed 150 pounds. Food was key to Hemba's success, as he had put rice bran in the area, which is legal in Louisiana.