Brantley: Rut or Not, It Pays to Just Be Out There

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.

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My buddy Dave Simmons, who hunts both Kentucky and Tennessee, called me over the weekend with a great story from Saturday morning, Oct. 29, which was opening day of Tennessee's youth deer hunt.

"I hunted with my buddy Bill Pugh and his sons, Evan and Jared, in Henry County," Dave says. "Evan and I sat a stand in one spot overlooking a field with some freshly mowed shooting lanes. Billy and Jared hunted a different stand."

Dave and Evan enjoyed quite a show that calm, cool morning. They saw more than 20 does and a bobcat. Then, at 9:12, this bruiser buck stepped into the field--albeit very briefly.

"Evan quickly set up for the shot as the buck steadily walked across a clearing," Dave says. "He only had about six seconds to shoot, and we couldn't get the buck to stop. But Evan showed nerves of steel that even a veteran hunter would love to have. Just as the buck stepped into the woods, he pulled the trigger and hit the buck through both lungs."

After recovering the buck, Dave says it was tough to tell who was most excited. "We weren't positive that he'd even hit the deer when he shot, but there was a bright pink blood trail that was easy to follow. The buck was dead 80 yards from the edge of the woods," Dave says.

Shown in the photo, from left to right, are Evan, Billy, Jared and Dave.

Dave reported virtually no visible rut activity that morning. "The deer were moving like crazy, but we didn't see any chasing, scraping, or fighting. The buck just crossed the field, going from one spot to the next," he says.

I found that especially interesting, since where I'm hunting in Kentucky is only a few miles across the state line from Henry County, Tennessee, and rut activity has been highly visible virtually every trip out since the end of last week. It just goes to show that even within the same region, herd dynamics and a host of other factors can make rutting behavior incredibly localized.