The behavior of wild animals is hard to predict, as we hunters well know. It would be great if we could predict when and where a buck would be, but it’s impossible. I don’t even think the deer itself knows where it’s going to be or even give it much thought. If their movements were reliable, it would not be as fun or challenging.

The rut, we’d like to think, is somewhat predictable so we can schedule our vacation and hunting trips around when the most chasing and buck activity will occur. But even that is variable and can fluctuate between dates and intensity.

From all we can tell, the main rut is over in South Carolina, Arkansas, western Louisiana, and Georgia. However there is still some residual rut activity or possibly second rut action, but it is very spotty. It’s one of those things where you just have to be in the right place at the right time to get lucky and see some late rut movement.

The past week I had participated in a special lottery bowhunt on previously unhunted lands near Buford Dam in Georgia. My son saw a big 8-pointer making a scrape the first morning. The second morning I heard deer walking around my stand before dawn. Just as it was getting light, I heard a grunt and the sound of deer running. As the morning brightened, I spotted a six-pointer that ran at some does, but quickly lost interest as the does were not in estrus. I also got trail cam pics of a buck checking a scrape (that’s one above). This type of late rut action in Georgia is very patchy at best, but it can happen.

In Alabama, Mississippi, eastern Louisiana, and Florida, it is pre-rut in most areas, with the rut very close. Many hunters have been seeing rubs and scrapes and some chasing has already begun. Jimmy Riley of Giles Island, Mississippi is seeing his bucks already chasing and predicts the peak in another week or two. A hunter in Clairborne County, Mississippi is also seeing chasing bucks from his stand, and is watching four to five bucks on every sit.

Some Alabama hunters are seeing good movement and rut action while others are scratching their camo hats, wondering where the bucks are. Near Tuscaloosa, they’re seeing small bucks grunting and harassing does in their green fields. The bucks have been chasing for over a week now in Bibb, Shelby, and Jackson counties. Hunters in Hale and Dallas counties are not seeing any rut action yet, but it is sure to come soon.

A school of thought surrounding the rut in Alabama, particularly Dallas County in the famed “Black Belt: area, is that the rut kicks off around the full moon. That would be December 28 this month, so look for the activity to rev up next week. Another theory regarding rut sign is that a preponderance of rubs and scrapes tends to result in a spread out or “trickle rut.” Less sign would point toward a shorter but more pronounced rut, with a brief but wild flurry of chasing and breeding.

Whatever your philosophy, remember that the rut is close in Alabama and Mississippi and action should get good in the next few weeks.