Overall Activity Status: Deer movement remains good across the South. Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas hunters continue to see movement associated with the rut with it being in varying intensity. Some areas may be on the downside of the rut, while other areas are still seeing chasing. Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi are in pre-rut, and bucks there are starting to lay down rut sign. “While most of the country is enjoying full bore rut activity, our deer are still in fall feeding mode,” says Jimmy Riley of Giles Island, Miss. “The occasional cold snap puts them on their feet and we start knocking some down. We have taken some 140- to 150-class deer so far and have seen plenty more. We are still in bow season. Our pre-rut won’t start till December, and that’s when the ‘Hookin’ Bulls’ start coming out of their hole. Until then the anticipation is growing.”
Fighting: Hunters in South Carolina and Arkansas have reported seeing bucks fighting last week. It happens under the right conditions and it definitely can happen now. With rut and pre-rut conditions, keep a set of rattling antlers handy and be listening for that sound. Seeing bucks fight is a rare treat, and most hunters count themselves lucky to witness one.
Rub/Scrape making: Scrapes and rubs are slowing down in most areas where deer are rutting. Near one of my stands this week, I noticed a rub that wasn’t there a few days prior. Another area that was littered in scrapes is now all covered in leaves. There is still some sign being made, but most bucks are searching and chasing during the rut. An Arkansas hunter reported that bucks are still laying down scrapes in the northeast section of the state. In Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana, bucks are entering pre-rut and rubs and scrapes should be on the increase.
Chasing:** Chasing is fairly prevalent in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Georgia. A Jonesboro, Arkansas hunter reports seeing two big bucks chasing does recently. Still, chasing can be sporadic and spotty. You can hunt an area one day that seems dead, and the next day you’ll see a flurry of chasing.
Daytime Movement: The rut is the one time that will get a mature buck moving during daylight hours. A Georgia hunter found this to be true last week. Bob Coombs hunts in Fulton County, Georgia, and intensely hunts trophy bucks in small suburban wood lots. He and some of his hunting buddies had trail camera pictures of a really big buck, but seeing him on the hoof was elusive. Last week Coombs hunted a 20-acre woodlot with a steep draw that he called “Hell’s Bottom.” After an arduous entry, he began seeing deer after daylight. “Deer began coming underneath me. I saw two does and three small bucks,” Coombs recalls. “Two other hunters had left but I stayed and at 9:45 I saw him coming with his nose to the ground.” Getting a bowhunter’s dream broadside shot at 20 yards, Coombs soon claimed the giant Georgia buck. The rack was a 4×9 13-pointer and was rough-scored at 177 inches. By finding a secluded spot, carefully approaching his stand, and taking advantage of a rutting buck’s daytime movement, Coombs, above, was able to harvest the mature buck.
Estrous signs: Mature bucks chasing does usually mean that the does are in estrus. There has been numerous reports of bucks chasing in the rut states. It appears to have peaked around the 15th in most of Georgia and a bit earlier in sections of South Carolina. In Arkansas, it is believed to peak around Thanksgiving in Greene County and the central portion of the state while the peak may be over in Washington County. It’s yet to come in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
X-Factor: Nothing substitutes for spending as much time in the woods as possible during the rut. Bob Coombs admits that he hunts “about every day” and it just paid off handsomely. But you should be careful to not to overhunt a particular area, and to minimize human scent as much as possible.