Mid-South Hunters Sticking It Out, for Good Reason

Overall Activity Status: I've interviewed several hunters who've been spending time in the woods this week, hunting Kentucky's late muzzleloader season. Ben Richardson, a cameraman for Whitetail Properties, says deer movement has been excellent from daylight up until 11, and then picking up again at around 3:45 until dark. They're hunting in the woods and seeing quite a few bucks, too, although none of them have been pushing does.

Farther west in Kentucky, my pal John Sullivan has been helping guide hunters for Snipe Creek Lodge. He said morning activity has been slow for his hunters, but the evening movement has been outstanding, particularly on winter wheat fields.

Fighting: Another buddy of mine saw two bucks locked up not far from the road while he was out scouting for ducks a couple days ago. Other than that, I haven't heard any fighting reports.

Rub Making: Activity is about the same as last week. I hunted both Monday and Tuesday evening and found a couple rubs that looked pretty fresh, although it's tough to tell just how old they are.

Scrape Making: Scraping activity, at least from what I've seen, has gone cold.

Chasing: As my contacts noted above, deer have been moving in the evenings, but it seems to be all about the food right now. One of the hunters at Snipe Creek reported seeing 40 to 50 deer together in a wheat field, both bucks and does, but no chasing.

Daytime Movement: See above. The weather has become more seasonal this week, with frosty mornings followed by cool, sunny days. The deer have responded well, moving best at the edges of the day, just as you'd expect on a feeding pattern.

In West Virginia, gun seasons are mostly over, and Chris Ryan, with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, reported similar deer activity. "Morning and evening movement has been pretty good, but it's all about filling their stomachs," he said. "Our acorns are about gone around here, so food plots are especially productive right now."

Estrous Signs: None noted.

X-Factor: Some seasons will soon be coming to a close in the Mid-South, and as such, it's a good time to reflect on trends for the year, which can be a good lesson for future seasons. I spoke with Evin Stanford, North Carolina deer biologist, just yesterday. He made some interesting points regarding the overall harvest--and current movement--in North Carolina.

"The season ends in parts of the state end this week, and then January 1 for the eastern, central and northwestern zones. People all across the state are complaining of seeing fewer deer this season, but the overall state harvest is up 5 percent. We did see an impact on the harvest in areas from the HD outbreaks back in the summer. Those outbreaks were skewed toward the western part of the state, and Wilkes County was probably the hardest hit county of all. Harvest there was down 42 percent, which is pretty significant. Obviously, many of the deer died from the disease before season, but it's also important to note that the hunters knew what was going on and voluntarily passed on more deer than they normally would have."

Regarding the final days of season, Stanford said to expect slow movement overall. "That's typical of the post-rut. They're trying to conserve energy. You have to hunt the food right now. Some wheat fields are sprouting in places, but overall, we had a good acorn crop, and there are still acorns on the ground. I'd tell most late-season hunters to focus on the oaks in the remaining days of season."