Bruce: Woods Changing, but Bucks Moving

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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By now the woods across the south are colder and most all the leaves have dropped. The green forests of September have given way to the bland gray of December. While the deer are still out there, the change in seasons calls for a somewhat different change in a hunter's strategy.

One of the most striking changes are the lack of foliage in the treetops. Tree stand hunters are noticeably more visible in the trees, and this is not unnoticed by whitetails. Back in October, hunters could set up in a tree and let the numerous leaves hide his silhouette. Not now, a hunter trying to hide in the bare branches sticks out like pumpkin in a pea patch.

To compensate, hunters should be using a branches-style of camouflage instead of a dark green woodland pattern. Look for trees that have multiple trunks, branches, or some leaves remaining. Avoid being silhouetted against the sky by placing a thick evergreen tree or a hillside behind you.

Bucks are still active and are looking for food or does. The peak rut has passed in South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Louisiana, but bucks are still being seen and harvested, just not as much. The days of frenzied chasing is over for the most part, but bucks will still check out does when the come across each other.

Robert Deaton was hunting over a large food plot in Morgan Co., Georgia last Saturday when this beautiful 12 pointer stepped out to feed. Normally a mature buck does not walk out into an open food plot during the day, but this one did. Likely the buck was worn down from the rut and needed to refuel. The 16-inch wide buck weighed 156 pounds.

Also Saturday morning, I watched an 8 pointer come under my stand. He hung around my stand for several minutes, due in part, I think, to the several scent bombs around my stand. It was hard to pass the easy bowshot, but I let him walk off in hopes that my buddy's 15-year old son would get a shot. He did, but the arrow missed the mark.

A hunter on a public hunting area, Redlands WMA in central Georgia, killed a super 12-pointer last week that green-scored 147 5/8. There is a report of a 185-inch buck also taken in Georgia last week that we're researching. With duck season also open, the flurry of shots and activity at dawn around marshes may move a buck to a deer hunter which is what happened to a Thomas County, Georgia hunter who bagged a handsome ten-pointer. Bucks are still out there and some are active, but you may have to alter your tactics to score. It's not too late to score on a trophy, target food sources which is where most bucks will be.

On the other hand, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama hunters are just getting started. Their rut is just around the corner and traditional tactics should work. Look for rublines, scrapes, travel corridors, and doe feeding areas to target pre-rut bucks. The woods are colder and bare, but your buckpole doesn't have to be with the right strategy and persistence.