Rut Reporter Will Brantley of Murray, Kentucky, knows the region well. He spends 40 to 50 days each season in the Mid-South whitetail woods. Brantley shot his first deer at age 10 with a sidelock muzzleloader. States covered: KY, TN, WV, VA, NC.
Overall Activity Status:** Despite daytime highs reaching 80-plus degrees for the past week, deer activity has been surprisingly good. I’ve seen deer in the daylight enduring very sit within the past week, and had shots at does both Friday and Saturday evening. I connected on Saturday, and that doe– a public land deer, I’ll add– is packaged and in the freezer. This past weekend was also Kentucky’s two-day youth season, and from the looks of hunting chat boards and e-mails from buddies, the kids had a pretty good weekend.
At least one buddy of mine, Ballard Rogers, managed to get a shot at a mature buck on his northern Kentucky farm. Rogers says this 130-class 9-pointer, nicknamed Ed the Horse, strolled by his stand right at dark. He mouth-grunted to stop him, and then drilled him through both lungs at 27 steps. Rogers’ farm is carefully managed, and he believes this buck, aged between 6 and 7 years old, was one of the oldest bucks out there.
Fighting: Though a serious fight wouldn’t be unheard of right now, most of the activity is still gentle sparring
Rub making: I’ve been hunting some different areas the past week. One public spot, and another small private farm that I’ve never hunted in the past. While rubs are abundant in my primary hunting areas, I haven’t found the first one in my new spots. My guess is the buck-to-doe ratio is a little more “out of whack” in these other areas. I’ve been working hard to change that, but it’s a slow process.
Scrape making: The scraping activity I’ve seen is similar to the rubbing activity I’ve seen. In West Virginia, Chris Ryan, an avid bowhunter who works for the West Virginia DNR, had a similar report. “New, but small, scrapes are popping up everywhere,” he says. “But I’ve placed some trail cameras over them, and for the most part, it’s just young bucks hitting them at night.”
Chasing: Nothing yet.
Daytime movement: I shot my doe on Saturday two hours before dark, but for the most part, deer activity in the evenings is beginning an hour or less before dark. Ryan had a similar report. “I’ve shot a couple does within the past few days (Ryan also hunts just across the state line on a family farm in Ohio). Though most of the movement has been 45 minutes or so before dark, I got one of my does at 5:15 in the evening.” Morning activity does seem to be on the rise, and that should only get better in the weeks to come.
Estrous signs: I’ve seen one or two lone fawns in the past few days, but no other signs.
X Factor: Chris Ryan’s background is in game management, and he offered an interesting opinion on this year’s rut timing. “Last year, we had a 40-year-record mast crop,” he says (and that was the case in much of the Mid-South). “As a result, the does were extremely healthy, and that triggered earlier rutting activity than normal. Bowhunters were reporting it, and we also were seeing more fawns earlier this past summer. This year, the mast crop is much spottier, and I expect that to have an impact on the timing. It probably won’t affect it much, but it could move it five or six days later. That’s something to consider for a guy planning his hunting vacation.”