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.
The rut is traditionally known as an intense two-week period of wild activity with bucks chasing does in heat. All bucks in the area are out pursuing, fighting, looking and breeding does. It's one of the grandest times of the year for the hunter and one of the best opportunities to bag a mature buck.
But its not always like that. Sometimes the rut is sporadic and spotty. You may see numerous bucks running around on one hunt and a few days later the woods are still and quiet. Bucks may be chasing does in early season and then again very late in the year, seemingly stretching the rut out over a few months. The rut will also vary within a state, with some sections experiencing the rut much earlier or later than others. The rut can also be much different a few miles down the road.
In my home area, the rut is traditionally mid-November, but I saw an 8-pointer running at a doe in late September. The doe was probably not in heat, but the buck was already harassing her. A hunting buddy witnessed a buck trailing a doe on October 30, but on November 19 I saw a buck feeding with no apparent interest in anything else.
One school of thought is called the "trickle rut," meaning the action is sporadic over a longer period of time. This is often because of an imbalanced age structure or too many does in the herd. Does that are not bred in their first cycle will come back into heat 28 days later in what is known as the second rut.
In western Georgia the rut is in mid-November, while just across the Chattahoochee River in eastern Alabama the bucks rut in January. South Florida whitetails rut in August, while their northern Florida brothers rut in February. Whenever the rut is, be sure to get out there as much as possible. If your rut is spread out--same advice goes--be out there as much as you can so you're there when it happens.
Brad Williams was in the woods at the right time earlier this month. Williams was hunting in Georgia and had targeted a particular big buck. He knew that his best chance was during the rut and he finally got his chance. Williams describes that morning:
"At 10:15 the woods just broke loose. It sounded like a herd of cattle coming up the hill towards me. At this point I am trying to stay composed but I knew what was about to happen so the shakes started to set in. I had a blind spot directly in front of me so by the time I saw the first two deer, they were thirty yards in front of me. I could tell the first was a doe but could only see the rear end of the second one. Just as I saw these deer, three other deer shot across the treeline to my left.
They ran so fast I couldn't tell what they were. As I looked back to my right I could hear a deep grunt, it sounded like a pig it was so deep. He stepped out and I knew it was the deer that I was after. I tried to stay calm and not look at the rack, just concentrate on the shot. It wasn't a far shot and I put the 7mm mag right where it was supposed to be. He ran thirty yards and dropped. I had just taken the biggest buck of my life".
Bucks are rutting in South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana for the most part. We are at the tail end of the main rut but there is still action in the woods and your chance for a rutting wallhanger are still there. Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida deer are getting close to pre-rut with rubs and scrapes starting to show up. Whether your rut is current or future, peaking or trickling, the more you're out there the better your chances of being there when the woods break loose.