Recent reports suggest that we are very close to pre-rut in South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and some portions of Louisiana and Mississippi. Some hunters are still seeing bucks in bachelor groups–a late summer pattern that they haven’t quite yet transitioned from. But more and more we’re hearing about rutting activity. Bucks are laying down sign indicating that they are ready, even if the does aren’t yet.
Last Monday was overcast and in the 50s all day long. It was a formula I thought that might not only get some deer moving, but would also stimulate some buck movement while it was still daylight. Having scouted a tract two days prior, I saw acorns scattered among the leaves on the ground. Most importantly, I saw an inordinate number of rubs along the ridge, and scrapes in several areas.
That afternoon I met up with a friend and quietly moved into the area, located the scrapes, and climbed up a tree in my climber. Within minutes I detected movement and spotted a nice buck heading my way. The buck cautiously walked up to a sapling and commenced raking it with his rack and pawing out a fresh scrape.
That was proof that at least this buck was ready for the rut. I watched him intently while he worked the scrape, as I looked for a shot opportunity. Hoping he would move toward an existing scrape 15 yards in front of me, I watched as he stopped behind a tree and stood there. And he kept standing there for over 12 minutes. My suspicions that he was getting nervous were confirmed when he began to stiffly walk away.
I softly grunted and he stopped quartering away at 30 yards and I aimed high and back, and let it fly. He thundered off with enough commotion to scare an armadillo and then it was silent. The arrow angled across his chest and into the off-shoulder, he made it about 100 yards, a dandy eight pointer. His back hocks were already dark and his neck thick.
The key to my success was locating a major food source, acorns, that also had plenty of buck sign. The overcast cool weather may have enticed him into moving early, as I first saw him at 5:20 p.m. The other key was getting into my stand quickly and quietly. If I had made too much noise or was too slow in getting set up, that buck, which was already in the area, would have never made it into my kill zone.
Deer are moving in the morning and late afternoon and any time we get a weather change such as a rain, cold front, or as in my case, an overcast day. Muzzleloader season begins in Georgia and southwestern Louisiana and hunters have been in busy in the South Carolina deer woods.