In Four Southern States, the Rut Is On

Overall activity status: The rut is here and activity is peaking in Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia. Pulling into my Georgia driveway Thursday afternoon, I watched a six-pointer chase a doe across my yard. On the way to our hunting property, we spotted several deer out feeding in fields and along the road. Even in states not yet in pre-rut, the lower temperatures have deer more active.

Fighting: Fletcher Culpepper's brother heard two bucks fighting on their Worth Co., Georgia property. The next day Fletcher hunted in the same area and shot a monster buck (photo above, details below). With the rut gearing up, bucks will be fighting for the chance to breed the does in estrus.

Rub making: Bucks in Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia are far more interested in pursuing does than working out on a sapling. They may occasionally stop to rub to show dominance or vent frustrations, but you can't count on most rubs being revisited with the rut raging. In Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and parts of Louisiana, however, where deer are approaching pre-rut, bucks are rubbing around food sources and along fields and ridges.

Scrape making: Bucks in rut are chasing does and only occasionally stopping to paw at a scrape. If a buck cannot find a doe, he may make a scrape, but it's not likely to be freshened. Pre-rut states are seeing more scraping as bucks mark their territory and lay down their scent.

Chasing: Hunters in South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas are seeing bucks chasing does. My brother, Marshall, was hunting in a Putnam County, Georgia creek bottom recently when he spotted a doe coming down the hill with her tail straight out--an indication that she was in heat. Shortly thereafter a spike and a six-pointer emerged and the chase was on. He watched them run back and forth for half an hour as dusk settled. As it grew dark, he heard grunts and two larger bucks came out of a thicket and joined the chase. Unfortunately, it was past shooting light. Hunters watching open fields and creek bottoms will see bucks chasing does.

Daytime movement: Cooler weather and the rut is stimulating daytime movement. Fletcher Culpepper shot one of the biggest bucks of the year in the South so far. After his brother told him of hearing bucks fighting, Fletcher hunted in the same area the next morning. He changed stands mid-morning and while climbing up the ladder of the next stand, he spotted a doe and a yearling looking at him 70 yards away. He froze and watched as a huge buck walked up behind the does. They walked off and Fletcher got up in the stand, but couldn't locate the deer. He used his buck roar call and a minute later he spotted the buck, but only had a neck shot. After two minutes, the buck stepped out and Fletcher put him down. The 20-point drop-tined buck has over 230 inches of antler (not all the big bucks are in the Midwest!).

Estrous signs: In the next two weeks, the bulk of does in Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Georgia will come into estrus and the action will be fast and furious. "It's on!" reports Scott Perrodin of Louisiana. "My buddy Joe Ardoin shot a 151-pound, 8-pointer on our lease this week crossing a pipeline. He was definitely on a mission. This weekend through next week should be peak. I will be in the woods." That's Ardoin and his buck to the left.

X Factor: Several hunters have commented that they saw and/or called in their buck with a call. Using rattling antlers, the buck roar, grunting, snort-wheeze, or a bleating call can draw in a buck looking for action. Remember that Fletcher Culpepper actually lured his buck away from a doe with his buck roar call.