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.
Overall Activity Status: Activity continues to be good overall, with many areas having a higher than normal acorn crop and several cold fronts having moved through. We are at the tail end of the rut in Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia, but good action is still being seen. My son Zach killed this handsome eight-pointer cruising for does on Sunday in Gwinnett County, Georgia, while another bowhunter in suburban Atlanta bagged a nine-pointer following a doe the same day. Some hunters feel that bucks are holed up in thickets with does in heat, and are no longer out looking for or chasing does. That is likely in some cases, but does not include all deer.
Fighting: Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are in pre-rut and fighting is increasing. Fighting is on the back burner for in-rut states as bucks are more interested in finding a hot doe. Some fighting will break out if two equal bucks are competing for the same hot doe.
Rub making: Rubs are on the increase in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, as their rut approaches. As bucks become more interested in the rut, rubs will show up more and hunters can key in on buck locations.
Scrape making: Scrapes, like rubs, are becoming more frequent in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi as their pre-rut is close. Bucks will make scrapes along their travel routes and feeding areas, but most won’t be reworked till closer to the rut. Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas bucks are not using scrapes regularly.
Chasing:** We are at the tail end of the chasing phase for Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas but not quite there for Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi . Still bucks can be seen following does at any time so be on the watch.
Daytime movement:** Deer are moving well during the day and night because of the rut or pre-rut. I checked a trail camera that was out for two weeks and had more daytime pics of deer than night shots. In Mississippi, Jimmy Riles of Giles Island reports “our peak rut comes about a week before Christmas and extends to around Jan. 12 or so. Right now we are dealing with the ever-changing feeding patterns that occur this time of year. We need to get a good frost to kill the vegetation and get more deer moving around and to our food plots. Business will pick up around the 1st of December with the pre-rut, and we should start seeing new bucks every week from now until the end of the season.”
Estrous signs: Does are still coming into estrous in Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas but most are already bred in these states. The few does that have not yet come into estrus will be of great interest to many bucks. More dominant bucks may be holed up with an estrous doe and some movement may be diminished because of this.
X Factor:** Finding a thicket or hiding area where a dominant buck is locked down with an estrous doe may be the ticket to a trophy. Approach these areas downwind carefully. The buck will not leave the doe so keep an eye on the hot doe and the buck will be close behind.