Overall Activity Status: This report will relate a lot of personal experiences because I’ve been hunting a lot recently, and have been seeing a lot of activity. Movement has been very good in north central Georgia where I primarily hunt, and it seems to be increasing elsewhere also. The weather continues to stay pleasantly cool, and hunters who find early rut sign or a well-used food source are seeing deer. All southern hunters except for those in Alabama and a portion of Mississippi can be out in the woods now. Georgia’s muzzleloader season began Saturday, which put even more hunters out in the whitetail woods.
Fighting: Last Friday I was in a stand when two bucks showed up just after dawn. The four and six-pointer fed around me for 45 minutes. After they wandered off, a nice seven-pointer and another six-pointer showed up and began feeding. Then the four and six returned, and I had four bucks around my stand. The bucks began taking turns sparring with each other over the next 30 minutes. It was quite entertaining to see them tangle their antlers and push each other around. These were not “fight-to-the-death” battles, but appeared to be contests to size each other up and determine dominance. The bigger seven-pointer was clearly the dominant one, and I might have shot him if I had more than one buck tag left. Most of the serious battles are coming later, when two mature dominant bucks cross paths.
Rub making: The four bucks that I saw last week also did some rubbing while they mingled about. The bigger seven-pointer did most of the rubbing while working over a thumb-width sapling. The buck really worked over the saplings and ripped the tops off. As we enter the pre-rut in Georgia as well as South Carolina and Arkansas, expect more and more rubs to be showing up in the woods.
Scrape making: Scrape numbers are also increasing. I have only seen a few on my properties, but other hunters are observing increased scrapes. Bucks are making scrapes wherever they wander, but look for larger ones that appear to be revisited, and hunt there or hang a trail camera near them.
Chasing: Last week I took my buddy, Brian McIntyre, hunting with me and posted him in a funnel with deer trails that concentrated movement. He had two does scamper by about a half hour before dark, and they were followed about two minutes later by two bucks with their noses to the ground. He said that the bucks, a spike and a small ten-pointer, were definitely following the does, although the females seemed to want to get away from them. Very few if any does are in heat yet, but that is not stopping the bucks from following them or checking them out. These are mainly the ever-eager younger bucks doing the following now.
Daytime Movement: As mentioned, my buddy saw the does followed by the two bucks about half an hour before dark. The four bucks that I saw were all moving from dawn until 10 a.m. These anecdotes appear to indicate that overall daytime deer movement is pretty good right now and is expected to increase.
Estrous signs: Bucks following does seem to indicate estrous does, but I think that the bucks are just hoping and looking for it. Expect a few does to come into heat in late October, but the bulk of it still weeks away.
X Factor: My buddy shot at and missed both the doe and the ten-pointer at 15 yards with his bow. Just because the season has already started, don’t neglect regular practice with your bow. Even a few shots each week will keep you tuned up, and will reveal if your sight is off. It could mean the difference between a successful kill and another hard luck story.