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: Though it's been a little on the warm side, deer activity has exploded this week. I saw small bucks chasing does all afternoon on Monday, and numerous deer on their feet well into the mid-morning hours on Tuesday.
Matt Knox, deer project coordinator for Virginia, reported largely the same thing. "Bowhunters are reporting lots of bucks on their feet and chasing does, and I'm seeing a bunch of dead deer on the highways. That's always a big indicator of rut activity," Knox says. "In fact, I was on my way to the range this morning to sight-in a muzzleloader, and there was a really big buck dead on the side of the road."
In southwest Tennessee, my buddy Jimbo Robinson reports that activity has been outstanding in the evenings, but a little slower in the morning. For the most part, deer are still focused on food in his area and rutting activity has been slow. But things usually don't peak until the end of November down there.
Fighting: Bucks are fighting hard right now. This week, before large numbers of does actually come into estrous and breeding begins, is a great time to rattle.
Rub making: Rubs are abundant throughout the region.
Scrape making: Scraping activity is also at a fevered pitch, although, as mentioned in a previous post, it seems a little lighter than in previous years in my hunting areas. Matt Knox says that serious scraping began about a week ago in Virginia, and is running full-bore right now.
Chasing: I saw my first good chase Monday evening. A doe and button-buck fawn had been milling near my tree for half an hour (the doe attempted to chase the fawn away several times), and just as they eased out of sight, I heard leaves crunching and a buck grunting. It was only a small 6-pointer, but he chased the doe back past my tree. I haven't been back in the woods in a couple days, but area hunters are reporting heavy chasing right now.
Daytime movement: I shot a big doe at 8:30 Tuesday morning, and she fell dead in the third corner of Hell. After an epic drag, I finally got her loaded into the truck at about 11:30. On my drive out, I spotted a small buck crossing an open field, heading from one wood lot to the next. Midday sightings like that tell me now is a good time for an all-day sit.
Estrous signs: Sightings of both lone does and lone button bucks are on the rise. As mentioned, I actually watched a doe attempt to chase her fawn away Monday evening. I'm having good luck with doe-in-heat urine right now. In fact, I created a scent trail near my stand before climbing in Tuesday morning and shot a doe as she was inspecting it.
X Factor: Take vacation time, sick time or just plain skip work--you need to be in a tree right now if you're living along the "Kentucky latitude" of the Mid-South. Bucks are cruising and chasing, but does aren't quite entering estrous yet. It's a high-odds time of the year when you're apt to see deer moving at all hours of the day.