Brantley: Some Hard Antler

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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This year, the early season has been particularly productive for buck sightings, at least for me. Though opening day was hot, a big cold front cooled things off significantly, and the pleasant weather has had deer, bucks included, on their feet all week. With the exception of a few scattered black oaks, I haven't seen any acorns falling yet, so deer have been hammering bean fields and food plots in the evenings, many of them appearing two or three hours before dark.

Virtually all of the bucks have still been in velvet, although a forkhorn with bloody, freshly peeled antlers walked under my stand Monday evening. Trail camera photos from last week indicate that at least one decent buck on the family farm shed his velvet the last week in August, as you can see in the photo. The same camera also caught pics of the bucks we've named "Chubs" and "Uptight." Both of them were still in velvet, but that may have changed within the last week.

Long and short of it is, bucks that haven't yet shed their velvet are about to, and soon, those predictable summertime patterns will fade from the Mid-South woods. The pre-rut won't be far behind.

I'm guessing about everything around here to be hard-horned by the end of next week. And on that note, I'd say there's a good chance of finding an early rub or two within the next three weeks.