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: The moon was full and the weather was warm this weekend, but deer activity was surprisingly good, at least in the mornings. We saw several bucks chasing does Friday morning. Saturday and Sunday were slower, but still produced sightings of small bucks. Some were cruising; most were just feeding. Gun season has been in for more than a week in Kentucky, and hunting pressure has no doubt affected deer movement.
Fighting: Just after the end of legal shooting hours Saturday, two bucks stepped into a field my wife and I had been watching all afternoon. Though we could only see their silhouettes, both looked like bucks. This was confirmed a few seconds later, as one of the deer walked stiff-legged toward the other and we listened as antlers slammed together. The fight was short–maybe just 10 seconds–but it was intense. We could hear the bucks grunting from over 200 yards away.
Rub making: Rubbing activity remains steady.
Scrape making: I made it a point to check a couple primary scrapes that were inactive the weekend before. Both of them were still full of leaves and void of tracks Friday afternoon. I checked the two scrapes again Saturday afternoon, however, and things had changed. Both of them had been hit during the night.
Chasing:** My buddy David Simmons sent me an e-mail with a picture of a nice 7-pointer he killed in Marshall County, Kentucky, Thursday morning. “The temperature had dropped like 10 degrees on Thursday, and it stayed cool all day,” he says. “Deer activity was outstanding. They were running does everywhere–in fact, I saw seven different bucks that day, including the one I shot.”
I was at my desk Thursday, but as mentioned, chasing activity was good Friday morning as well. It made for a few entertaining hours on stand. A nice buck ran a doe across a narrow field, right past my wife’s stand first thing after daylight, but offered no shot. The rest of the chasing was in the thick woods, where we could hear more than we could see. Saturday and Sunday both produced buck sightings, but no chasing.
Daytime movement:** Morning movement was good Friday and Saturday, and a little slower on Sunday. Afternoon movement was painfully slow each day as it was warm and breezy with a big full moon in the sky. As I type this (Monday) it’s shirt-sleeve weather with gale-force winds.
Estrous signs: The only does we saw this weekend were being chased by bucks (Friday morning). It seems most does have already come into estrous in western Kentucky, and those that haven’t are locked down in thick cover.
X Factor:** The lockdown portion of the rut may be drawing to a close (see video). Decent buck activity over the weekend, the freshening of a few scrapes that had been inactive for days, and virtually no mature doe sightings leads me to believe a majority of the does in my area have either already been bred or are in peak estrous right now.
There’s a severe cold front forecast for Thanksgiving week. Temperatures are supposed to bottom out in the 20s. Portions of Kentucky will still be open for modern firearm season (be sure and check the regulations for your zone before heading afield), so this weekend could be a good one as eager bucks get on their feet and search for holdout does that have yet to come into heat.