It’s a Good Time to Ambush a Searching Buck

Overall activity status: The weather has warmed and a full moon arrives this week, which has slowed down activity. Deer in Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas are moving into the post-rut. There is some residual rutting activity, but the frenzy is over. On the other hand, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama are in pre-rut and bucks are becoming more active and are starting to cruise and roam looking for does.

Fighting: This week, Nick Sampey bagged a nice Louisiana eight-pointer that showed signs of fighting. "He also had a lot of cuts and bruises from fighting all over him, so hopefully there's a bigger one in there," Nick said. Pre-rut states should start seeing more scraps between bucks are the rut approaches.

Rub making: Alabama's rut is approaching and the bucks are making sign. Shane Dempsey, who hunts in north Alabama, observed more buck sign. "I hunted pretty hard over Thanksgiving and I am starting to see lots of rubs and scrapes. Game cameras are showing bucks have split up," Shane said.

Scrape making: Pre-rut states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and portions of Florida are seeing an increase in rubs and scrapes as bucks are advertising their presence. Look for this to increase as the rut eases closer.

A scrape on one of my Georgia properties was red hot with activity last week, but looks unused this week. If you can find a fresh scrape now, it will mean a buck is still using the area.

Chasing: It's still a bit early for any serious chasing in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but you could see some young bucks checking out and harassing does.

Daytime movement: The trees are naked for the most part across the South. Viewing is easier, but deer feel more exposed. This may temper their movement or make them more skittish, especially on hard-hunted land or public land, but Louisiana's Nick Sampey was able to find a good spot on public land in Louisiana where deer would feel secure--and scored big with his first trophy bow kill.

Nick found a spot where three ridges pinched down into a miniature bowl about 40 yards in diameter. The first evening was fruitless, but Nick’s luck changed the next morning. “At about 7:30 a.m., I heard steps on the ridge behind me,” Nick recalls. “I swung slowly to the left and I saw legs. For a second it hit me--big boy is late getting home. After that, the training of shooting and all the practice took over. Another step, and the left side of his rack was enough to get me fumbling for my Hoyt.” Nick found an opening at 30 ards, lets his arrow fly, and the buck, shown above with Sampey, fell shortly thereafter.

“This buck showed signs of rutting. He stunk really bad and his neck was swollen. However this particular morning it just seemed he was coming back from searching and just happened to show up too late.”

The all-out chasing frenzy of the rut is still weeks away for pre-rut states, but catching a buck searching, like Sampey did, may be the best tactic now. Set up along ridges, field edges, and any travel corridors to catch one cruising now.

Estrous signs: None yet, but they will be coming soon in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.