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.
It would be tough to hand-pick worse weather for deer hunting than we’ve had this past week. When the wind hasn’t been blowing 30 mph, it’s been 70 degrees and raining. On top of that, many of the mature bucks in the Mid-South seem to be “locked down” with does.
In fact, as Michelle and I drove a few back roads on Sunday afternoon, she spotted a doe bedded on a thick hillside in a tiny wood lot, no more than 30 yards from the blacktop. I backed the truck up and grabbed my binoculars–sure enough, a heavy-beamed 9-pointer was bedded only a few feet away from the doe. Despite us glassing and talking, neither deer moved. I’ve got no doubt the doe was in heat–but gun season has also been open for two weekends in Kentucky. Right next to the road, those deer were the definition of “hiding in plain sight.”
Chris Ryan, who works for the DNR in West Virginia, had a similar report for the southern portion of his state. “The deer in northern West Virginia have already gone through lock down. Most of the does have been bred, and things are settling into a post-rut pattern. The bigger bucks are back to hitting the scrapes again,” he says. “But the southern part of the state is traditionally a little later in rut timing. The peak of breeding, historically, is in the next week. Of course, the weather this past week has been crazy, especially the extremely high winds.”
In the coming days, it’s still wise to hunt where the does are, as bucks will no doubt be searching for the last few of them to come into estrus. Right now, when a buck finishes breeding, he’s back to cruising. My buddy Keith Meador, who hunts in northern Kentucky near Frankfort, saw evidence of that over the weekend. Meador shot this nice 8-pointer Saturday morning, and it was one of five bucks he saw on its’ feet and covering ground.
The woods can seem painfully quiet by this point in the season, especially with memories of the chase phase still fresh in mind. But it helps to know bucks are still plenty willing to cover some ground for the chance to breed, and that makes them visible. You just have to be on stand where you can see them.