Overall Activity Status: With brisk temperatures, falling acorns, and the rut in gear in Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and some portions of Florida and Louisiana, whitetails are moving well and hunters are reporting numerous deer sightings from their stands and some are harvesting good bucks.
Fighting: Many southern hunters do not believe that rattling works in the South. It may not be as prevalent as other areas of the nation, but bucks still fight and will at times respond to rattling. I admit that I try rattling off and on during the season. It only works occasionally, but when it does, it can be exciting and productive.
Byron Morris, shown here, went hunting last Tuesday morning in Burke County, Ga., along the Savannah River, before going to work. A friend had seen a 12-point buck a few days prior from a tripod stand overlooking a two-year-old cutover. Byron decided to hunt the stand that clear, 42-degreee morning. Morris tells the story:
“I had been using my ‘Rack Pack’ rattling device for a few seasons but not with much success. So, for this hunt I brought a set of ‘Black Rack’ by Flextone. I picked up the antlers and rattled for a minute just before 8:00, and set them back down. About 15 minutes later as I was peering across the clear cut, I caught movement to my left, only to look down and see a mature buck 10 yards away and approaching the tripod that I’m sitting on. I quickly turn the power of the scope mounted on my 7mm-08 Encore down to 3.5x as the buck stops just in front of the tripod. He is so close that I am looking at him through my legs and the camo net draped from the railing.
“Whether he noticed some movement on my part or winded me, the buck spins and runs straight away and is roughly 50 yards when I shot. He went another 70 yards, stopped and went down in plain view,” Byron relates. “This buck had a 18-inch inside spread with 20-inch beams, will score in the mid 120s, was 5 ½ -6 ½ years old. Interestingly, the buck also had a broken nose bridge, giving him a boxer look, so I have named him ‘Rocky.'”
Rub/Scrape making: Laying down sign has evolved into running after does in some areas. Several hunters in Arkansas noted that scrapes were not being tended as much and some had gone cold in Saline and Pulaski counties. However, one tract of land that I hunt on in suburban Georgia has plenty of tended scrapes.
Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Louisiana are exhibiting increased rubbing as their bucks are inching closer to pre-rut.
Chasing: It appears that bucks are in the chasing phase for those areas in the rut. A hunter in Union county, S.C., reports lots of chasing and rut activity. They’re ‘hammering it hard’ in Aiken County, S.C., according to another hunter.
Lots of young bucks are being seen chasing in Crawford and Franklin counties in Arkansas. Small bucks have been observed cruising hard in Faulkner County, while in extreme south Arkansas, the action has been slow. Georgia bucks are also in on the action, with a hunter in Jasper County seeing seven bucks chasing. One Georgia hunter saw a buck on the move nonstop, grunting and out of breath. If you hunt in one of these states, now is the time to be out there.
Daytime movement: With many hunters seeing so much rut activity, it all points to excellent daytime movement. On Georgia hunter made the observation that the majority of rut activity is in the morning. I have found that to be true also. Most of the movement that I have been seeing has been in the first two hours after dawn. Plan to be set in your stand well before dawn arrives and be ready.
Estrous signs: A hunter in Franklin County, Ark., reports seeing a young buck mount a doe. With numerous accounts of bucks chasing does, it indicates that many of them are in estrus. Mature bucks are also being seen getting in on the chase in Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas.
X-Factor: Don’t sit on your hands if the bucks are rutting in your area. Some hunters in South Carolina, particularly Chester County, expressed that they felt as if they were at the tail end of their rut ,with it having started in late October. The wild chasing won’t last forever, and in a matter of time, the bucks will be worn down and most of the does will be bred. If there is chasing and rut activity on your hunting land, do what you can to be out there as much as possible.