Brantley: Signs of Fall

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.

My wife is a school-teacher, and she welcomed her fourth-grade class back nearly a month ago. We all remember those early days of grade school, when the most common question around the lunch table was, "What'd you do over the summer?"

I think that's a valid question here, too. After turkey season ended, I caught a few fish, shot a few fish (I love bowfishing), did a little work, and drank a few cheap beers. But I've switched gears in the past two months. When I haven't been at the computer, I've been at the farm, on the tractor, attempting to fix the tractor, hanging stands, and checking trail cameras.

It's just shy of 90 degrees as I write this. Hurricane Irene pummeled Virginia and North Carolina over the weekend. But there've been a few cooler nights in the past couple weeks, and I'm seeing some sycamore leaves already drifting their way to the ground. Buck pictures are dwindling near the mineral licks, but increasing around the food sources. Their antlers are finished growing, and soon the velvet will be gone. Fall is finally on its way.

Saturday is opening day of bow season in my home state of Kentucky, and despite a forecast high of 95 degrees, I'll be out there. Early next week looks nice, with highs in the low 80s. West Virginia and North Carolina bow seasons open September 12 and 10, respectively. Tennessee begins September 24, and Virginia begins the first of October.

The early season is a good time to be in the deer woods in its own right (in fact, I've shot more deer with a bow, including a few good bucks, in the month of September than any other). But it's not the rut. Much as I enjoy sitting on the edge of a green soybean field waiting on a bachelor group, I'll soon crave those first signs of November bedlam. Heavy rubs, car-hood-sized scrapes, that sort of thing.

There's still a little summertime left in the coming weeks, but not much. For the guys and gals in the Mid-South, I say welcome back to deer season.