Rut Is in Transition Across the South

Overall activity status: The unseasonably warm weather and waning rut in some states has reduced overall movement. There are still some bucks searching for mates in South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, but the primary rut is over. Some second-rut action may be on the way. Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Louisiana are coming into pre-rut and some areas already have some rut activity. These states are seeing some buck activity but the warm temperatures are subduing the movement for now.

Fighting: Not much fighting is going on, though some bucks in pre-rut states are sparring.

Rub making: Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi are seeing increased rubbing. Trevor Fitzgerald of Southern Arrowhead Outfitters www.southernarrowheadoutfitters.com in Florida reports "no rutting activity other than I'm starting to see some heavy rubs, like the bucks are starting to build their neck muscles. The bucks have broken up out of their bachelor groups and are alone right now."

Scrape making: The pre-rut states of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi are seeing more scraping. Most scraping in South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia is on the decline, although some scrapes may be found. Nick Arnold, who hunts in northern Alabama, is starting to see more scrapes. "On other properties I was hunting I could tell that the bucks were beginning to make rubs and scrape lines, a sure sign that they were beginning to get 'fired up' with pre-rut activities."

Chasing: Pre-rut states may be seeing some early seeking and following. Most chasing in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida will be a few weeks away.

Daytime movement: Warmer weather may influence deer to move less during the day, making hunting dawn and dusk most productive. That is what Nick Arnold, shown above, found on a recent successful hunt. Nick lives and hunts near Skyline in northeast Alabama. He has been keeping tabs on a promising tract of land: "Two miles from my house, there is a 40 acre property that I hunt, which borders a hunting club. Prior to archery season I had been able to get trail camera pictures of 5 different bucks that would score 120 inches or better and they ranged from 3.5 to 5.5 years old. I had to be cautious on how I approached the property due to restricted access (one way in). I had hunted the property twice in archery season but had yet to see a deer.

"So, I was waiting on the perfect wind to get back on the 40 acre tract. On December 1 I got the wind that I was needing. It was blowing out of the SSE at 5 mph, the temperatures were in the upper 40s (warm for December 1st) and the skies were clear. I slipped into the stand on the edge of a mountainside flat next to a cedar thicket an hour before daybreak. At 6:20 a.m., just before the sun started peeking over the ridge tops, I heard footsteps coming from the cedar ticket. Suddenly a 9-point that I had pictures of from August emerged from the cedars and was headed straight to me. I had a cross wind working to my advantage and he stopped at 30 yards. There was my shot! He ran 70 yards before succumbing to the double lung hit from my 30/30 rifle. He weighed 210 on the hoof and his metatarsal glands were black. You could smell that he was entering the rut phase, but he didn't have any evidence of rubbing on his antlers. I estimate he will score upper 120s. Now I get to play the waiting game to get back in there after another Jackson county bruiser!"
**
Estrous signs:** There may be some late or second-rut action in South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Does should be coming into estrus in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi shortly.

X Factor: When more seasonably cooler weather returns, there may be more rutting action across the south. Plan to hunt when it arrives. Hunters in post-rut states should be on the lookout for yearling does coming into their first estrous cycle, which could make for some hot second-rut action.