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: In western Kentucky, deer movement has been slow for several days. Though we’re headed into the post-rut around here, just as much of the slow movement can be blamed on the weather and a couple weeks of gun-hunting pressure. Still, I did see a nice buck standing in a field with a doe just before dark Tuesday afternoon. And my dad’s buddy and neighbor, Dave Schreckenberger, shot the nice buck in the photo early Monday morning.
“It was another rainy, miserable day out there,” Dave said. “The hunting has been tough here this season, and the rut activity has been slow. I think I’ve only seen five deer since the gun season opened. This buck just came down off a ridge and stepped out into a food plot I have, in a river bottom behind my house. As soon as I saw him, I shot him.”
Slow movement hasn’t been the case everywhere, however. Though the rut may be waning up here, it’s kicking in southwest Tennessee. Gun season opened on Saturday, and my Tennessee contact, Jimbo Robinson, said he talked to several hunters who had seen some intense chasing. The rut typically peaks around December first in that area, and down into northern Mississippi.
Matt Knox, deer project leader for Virginia, also had a good report. Gun season opened Saturday in the Old Dominion, and Knox said it was one of the best in history. “We had perfect weather. It was cold, down in the 20s, with very little wind. The gun kill was up 14 percent from the previous year,” he said.
Fighting: No reports of fighting this week, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. With some breeding still taking place throughout the region, encounters between bucks aren’t going to be pleasant right now. Still, with territories largely established (and quite a few bucks dead by this point), fighting activity is on the decline.
Rub making: Holding steady. I saw a big, fresh rub on the edge of a swamp while scouting for ducks yesterday afternoon.
Scrape making: Scraping activity should theoretically increase in areas that are past the breeding peak, but I haven’t encountered any fresh scrapes recently in western Kentucky.
Chasing: There is still some chasing going on throughout the Mid-South, with heavy activity in southern Tennessee. Matt Knox had a good summary for Virginia that’s applicable to most of the region. “There are still lots of bucks chasing does right now, but I would expect it to taper off pretty fast, judging by past history. This will probably be a good week for deer activity, so get out there this week and the early part of next week. After that, things will be slowing down.”
Daytime movement: As mentioned, daylight movement has been minimal around here.
Estrous signs: There are no doubt a few does around that haven’t been bred, but area hunters are telling me they’re already seeing large numbers of does group up for the winter.
X Factor: Thanksgiving weekend was the final weekend of gun season here in Kentucky. Firearms seasons run a little later in the other states (it’s up to you to check the regulations for your particular county, of course). Though southern Tennessee hunters still have some good rut hunting ahead, it’s time to be thinking about the late season. Cold weather and limited winter food sources can concentrate deer, so be on the lookout for standing corn, beans and winter wheat, especially. Late season deer can be difficult to hunt–but you can expect to see big numbers if you’re in the right spot. And, some does will come into estrous in the late season. When they do, you can bet bucks will be chasing them.