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: Several weeks of lower-than-normal temperatures have given way to more seasonal weather this week. It’s not hot, but with daytime highs reaching 80 degrees, deer movement has slowed.

Fighting: Bachelor groups are busting up daily, and bucks’ necks are getting thicker. They’re working overtime right now to strengthen those neck muscles for upcoming fights. The big 6-pointer in this trail camera photo is a prime example. This photo was taken on a rub line, and a prize-fighter’s frame has all but replaced his previously spindly, late-summer appearance. Serious fighting is probably still a couple weeks away, but shoving matches are becoming more common.

Rub making: Rubs are easy to find now. Most of those I’m seeing are clustered into defined rub lines tucked back in hardwood travel corridors.
Scrape making:** I went from not seeing a single scrape a week ago to finding a dozen or more since my last report. My buddy Jerimiah Waddell in North Carolina (who shot a nice 8-pointer with his muzzleloader over the weekend), reported the same thing when I talked to him Monday. He’d gone from seeing virtually no buck sign to suddenly finding rubs and scrapes everywhere over the weekend. A major cold front had moved through his area, dropping the daytime lows significantly, and that no doubt affected the activity spike.

Chasing: Nothing yet.

Daytime movement: Daylight, field-edge sightings of mature bucks are just a memory, it seems. Does and young bucks are still piling onto the food sources, particularly acorns. Older bucks–especially those that have endured a little hunting pressure–seem to be behaving more like nocturnal recluses. Historically, the next two weeks are the slowest of the season for me, at least for buck sightings. But it’s a great time to kill a doe or two.

Estrous signs: Nothing yet.

X Factor: With a scattered mast crop in my area, much of which has already fallen, deer are working hard and fast to clean up the remaining acorns. This will take longer in some areas than others, but one of the few acorn-producing white oaks I’ve been hunting was barren, both underneath and on the limbs, when I set up 20 yards from it yesterday afternoon.

When the acorns are gone, deer will quickly turn to other food sources. There is no better time to hunt food plots. Clover should remain a prime pick for a while, but as the first frosts set in, cereal grains such as winter wheat and oats become highly productive. And, given my choice, there’s no food source I’d rather hunt in mid-fall than a cut corn field with plenty of left-behind stubble.

Does should be switching to these “open” food sources just about the time bucks begin cruising– and in my opinion, that makes for the most exciting bowhunting of the year.