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: Deer activity that had been good all last week, especially in the mornings, seemed to slam to a halt over the weekend in Kentucky. The two-day early muzzleloader season was Oct. 15-16, and produced the slowest two days of the season for me.
Four hunters sat stands on our family farm overlooking food plots, acorns, corn, and funnels. We collectively saw one deer. Virtually all the other Kentucky hunters I’ve talked to reported similarly slow activity.
The one deer we did see was a young buck that made the mistake of walking past my little brother, Matt, at around 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning. As a graduate art student, Matt’s the very definition of a starving artist–just replace the artsy, hipster qualities with those of a self-reliant outdoorsman with a love for hunting and venison. The buck wasn’t big, but that was the last thing on Matt’s mind when he pulled the trigger. He’s finishing up his butchering as I type this.
Fighting: Though I haven’t seen any fights myself, reports of fights are on the rise, and some hunters are beginning to have a little success rattling. The little buck Matt killed had a very obvious antler gouge on his face. The next two weeks could be pretty intense.
Rub making:** Rub making remains steady around here. Jerimiah Waddell, my Rut Report contact for North Carolina, says both rubbing and scraping activity have busted loose in the past few days in his area.
Scrape making:** Like the rubs, the scraping activity remains steady, but is still probably a couple weeks from its peak. Matt Knox, deer program coordinator for Virginia, says that although he is finding a few rubs in his area, scraping activity is minimal.
Chasing: Nothing yet.
Daytime movement: As mentioned, movement was painfully slow here over the weekend, but that hasn’t been the case for the entire past week. Late last week, Jermiah Waddell reported excellent movement in North Carolina, even by bigger bucks–but noted that hunting pressure, or rather, lack of it, seemed to be a significant factor in where he was seeing deer.
“It rained for several days in a row, and they were using fields from sunup to sundown on the rainy days,” Waddell says. “But the main fields we were seeing them in, especially the bigger bucks, are the fields that never get hunted. Some of those fields are right on the edge of town.”
Knox says the activity is right on track in Virginia, according to both harvest information and bowhunter activity surveys. “People are killing some nice bucks, but there’s little rutting activity to speak of yet,” he says. “Most deer are being killed on oak flats right now. Food is still the key. But I expect that to change pretty quickly. Based on the 10 years of bowhunter survey data, bucks should become much more active and visible to bowhunters within the next two weeks.”