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.

Every season, it seems I can look back to a specific date when things seemed to “bust loose” in the deer woods. Last season it was Halloween. In several previous years, it’s been October 28–a day on which I’ve killed two pretty nice bucks in years past.

This year, it was October 27. I had stayed out of the woods all week, given the first half was marked by a warm spell and daytime highs were hitting 80 degrees, but a cold front blew through Wednesday night and Thursday saw highs only in the mid-40s with a light drizzle and steady north wind. I love to still-hunt, and it was an ideal day for it.

I was “in deer” almost immediately, and within 30 minutes, ended up 15 yards away from a small 6-pointer that was working a licking branch. I saw two more bucks as I moved along–both spikes–before I found a pair of red oaks dropping acorns on the edge of a picked bean field. There looked to be a thousand deer tracks under those trees, and so I sat on the ground 30 yards downwind of them and spent the last hour of daylight there.

Just before shooting light ended, a nice 2 ½-year-old 8-pointer cruised to within a few yards of me. At one point, he was at 18 yards–quartering slightly away–and looking in the opposite direction. My release was on the string, my bow was up and ready, but I ultimately decided to pass on him. I like to kill big deer, but I’m not really a “trophy” hunter. He wasn’t a trophy, but he was by far the best buck I’ve had in range all season. I guess the decision to pass was as much to prolong the season as anything. I love to see bucks cruising the woods with that sense of urgency this time of year. And I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of that to come in the next few days.