Bruce: Rut Cranking in Deep South

_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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Overall Activity Status: Things are really starting to crank up in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida as reports of buck activity and hot hunting action are coming in. Gun seasons are now open in these states and hunters are out in force. Though the weather has been fluctuating between rain, cold and unseasonably warm, the deer still seem to be moving and hunters are seeing and bagging some good bucks.

The state of Mississippi has been giving up some monster bucks over the last few weeks. On the Morgan Blake National Wildlife Refuge in Holmes county, Andy Lloyd harvested an 18-inch giant on December 7. Scott Champagne bagged a 220-inch buck in Jefferson county on December 8 and two days later his 14-year old son, Hunter, took a 140-class 10-pointer. Dewayne Wiggins was hunting in Carroll county, and moved from the fields to the acorn-heavy woods where he shot a 14-pointer that scored 184.

Gary Counts was hunting a food plot in Yazoo county and killed a 190-inch triple-beamed buck that was pursuing a doe on December 8. Another 190-class buck was taken by Stephen Henderson in Laflore county on December 16. Henderson had missed the buck earlier in the season. On December 20, Elmer Busby shot a 17-point 178-inch stud in Leake county. Clearly the Magnolia State is producing some whopper bucks this season. ms-sportsman.com has details on some of them.

Fighting: Fighting is increasing as these states are in pre-rut. Most fighting is brief and at night and may not be observed. Still, the pre-rut stage is one of the best times to rattle, as bucks are breaking up from bachelor groups and are becoming more interested in does and battling their peers.

Rub making: Rub making is at its peak now in Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Bucks are marking their territories and taking out their frustration on saplings and trees. Look for any accumulation or a line of rubs to pinpoint buck travel or staging areas.
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Scrape making:** Scrapes are transitioning from casual hoof marks to serious messages. Bucks are returning to scrapes and leaving additional sign. Posting on scrapes now may be productive. Better still, place a trail camera over an active scrape to get the best picture of current activities

Chasing: More hunters are beginning to report chasing. In the New Lexington/Berry area in Alabama, a hunter reported seeing an 8-pointer chasing a group of does. A hunter in Calhoun County, Alabama reported seeing five bucks one morning. Most does are not yet receptive but some bucks, mainly younger ones, will still follow them.

Daytime movement: Daytime movement is increasing in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, as pre-rut conditions urge bucks to move and search for other deer to fight or follow. Mississippi hunters are seeing an incredible acorn crop this year and the best strategy is always to hunt near such food sources.

Estrous signs: The majority of does have not yet been bred in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, but its getting very close. A few older does may come into estrous early, but most are still a week or two away. The main action is coming and may only be days or weeks away, depending on your region.