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.


Things are heating up in some areas of theSouth, others are slow, while others are hoping for just a little action before the season is over.

Typically the rut should be getting cranked in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi in January. The problem with predictions is that deer herds can vary so much from one county and region to another. Some portions of a state may be experiencing rutting frenzy while others have already had their rut come and go.

In Florida, particularly the panhandle, the deer are in pre-rut while it’s over in some parts of the state. Trevor Fitzgerald operates Southern Arrowhead Outfitters in the Florida panhandle and says that “our deer are in pre rut. They are rubbing and scraping a lot. It won’t be long before it kicks off. Here is a picture of one that was killed last week just after he made a rub.”

Just across the stateline in southwest Georgia’s Decatur County, hunters are seeing some increased rut action. Apparently the southwestern Georgia deer are more in line with the Florida rut times that the rest of the state of Georgia, which sees a mid-November rut. A Decatur County hunter reports seeing about one-third of the scrapes in his hunting area freshly reworked after a recent rain. Another saw two bucks running does and is seeing lots of good bucks on their feet now. Still another hunter harvested a good buck this week that had dark smelly tarsal glands.

In Mississippi, a hunter in the Arkabulta area, the northwest portion of the state, is also seeing fresh buck sign and increased movement in the area. The Alabama rut should be heating up now but some are seeing unusually slow action, particularly the southeastern part of the state around Midland City. Much of it boils down to your specific deer herd in your area, their health, food sources, and buck to doe ratio. If you’re seeing increased movement and buck sign, the rut is close.

For those areas of the south where the rut has already occurred, there is still the possibility of some second rut action. Georgia State Wildlife Biologist Don McGowan says “it can vary by local herd and conditions. If there is a decent buck to doe ratio, it will be minimal. However if the ratio is skewed with more does, you’ll see more late action. It’s mainly adult does that missed being bred the first time.”

The best way to tell if you’re going to see any second rut action is to look for buck sign. “Bucks play off of does if they’re in estrus. Bucks will display rut behavior if does are in heat,” McGowan said. “It’s mainly a reaction to estrous does. A doe-in-heat is a ‘releaser’ which will cause a buck to exhibit rut behavior.”

Wherever you hunt, if you’re seeing buck rubs, scrapes, and movement, that is when and where you should be hunting.