Overall Activity Status: What hunters are seeing depends largely on where they are hunting–not only what state they’re in, but also the type of habitat they’re hunting. Last week a friend in Georgia saw 15 deer on a Saturday morning, but a few days ago saw nothing from a different stand. It’ not clear how this week’s weather will affect movement. Cold temperatures typically stimulate deer activity, but it is also very windy and a full moon. Most pre-rut states (Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana) are seeing good movement as bucks are becoming more active. Numerous good bucks are being seen and taken by hunters.
But not all is peachy across the South. Shane Dempsey is not seeing much movement in Alabama. “Deer movement has still been relatively slow the last week in northeast Alabama. I’ve talked to several deer processors and they have all said business has been slow as well. By way of trail cameras, I am still seeing a lot of groups of young bucks in their bachelor groups, but I am also noticing some scrapes and have cameras setup to see what’s making them.”
Fighting: Some testy pre-rut bucks are going at each other. In South Carolina, Josh Brown reported a friend killing a good eight-pointer with scars on its neck. “He was shot Friday morning at 7:45. The stand he was sitting in watches a hay field that deer really like to cross in the morning to go back to some small saplings to bed. We usually shoot 2 or 3 off of this stand every year. He was not chasing and was by himself. Neck was swollen and had marks on his neck from fighting,” Brown reports.
Rub making: Hunters are seeing rubs regularly in most hunting areas. This includes areas where the rut is still over a month away. “No rut yet,” reports Jimmy Riles of Giles Island, Mississippi. “However, we see rubs and scrapes now just because when they lose their velvet, the bucks get a testosterone boost and start warming up.”
Scrape making: Bucks have been making scrapes for over a month now in most areas. However, as we are now in the pre-rut phase in Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, some bucks are beginning to cruise for does and are not spending as much time scraping the dirt.
Chasing: More and more hunters in the pre-rut states, particularly Georgia, are seeing and killing bucks that are following does. Many of these bucks are grunting as they go. The frenzied chasing of the peak rut is still a few weeks away.
Daytime movement: Josh Brown of South Carolina killed this nice eight-pointer with his bow in Bamburg County that he says was rut-ready. “He came out about 7:30 a.m., just cruising and munching on some acorns. His neck was swollen and tarsals were dark and stinky. It seemed like the big ones were really moving,” reports Brown.
Estrous signs: With numerous reports of bucks following does, we have to suspect that some does are coming into heat already. However, the bulk of the does are still a few weeks away in the pre-rut states. No doubt there are a few early does coming into estrus, but the best is yet to come.
X-Factor: The weather again has to be the X-factor this week. Though the major storm in the northeast has not hit the South directly, our very strong winds and much cooler temperatures may stimulate movement. The full moon may also cause deer to move more at night. The best hunting is likely after the wind dies down and the moon wanes.