Overall Activity Status: Things are slow in much of the South right now. Warm weather—although it’s showing signs of cooling—is keeping daylight deer movement to a minimum. Early season patterns are still holding on in most states, and so the best hunting is still over food sources. Mast is beginning to drop, so focus on the first falling acorns you can find. Deer prefer white oaks.
As for rut activity, there are a couple hotspots in southwestern Louisiana and central Florida. According to reports, deer are chasing, and potentially breeding, in those two areas. I spoke with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Deer Study Leader Scott Durham, and he revealed to me a region of Louisiana that sees peak conception dates around the end of September. Vermilion and Iberia parishes serve as the central hub of this late-September hotspot. If you live and hunt in that part of the state, be on the lookout for rut action.
Florida is the same way right now. A few hotspots throughout the central and north-central portions of the peninsula are seeing rut behavior. It’s sparse and localized, but it’s happening in some places.
Fighting: Bucks are sparring all across the South.****
Rub Making: Rubs are popping up everywhere, as virtually all bucks are out of velvet by now.
Scraping: Scrapes could be going cold in parts of Louisiana and Florida. As for the rest of the South, if you haven’t found the first scrapes of the year already, you should be finding them soon.
Chasing: It’s happening in southwest Louisiana and parts of central Florida, but little to report elsewhere.
Estrous Signs: Some reports of does in estrus in Louisiana and Florida.
X-Factor: Focus on doe bedding areas within the rut hotspots, but if you aren’t seeing rut behavior, keep hunting the food. Either way, a cold front will arrive the end of this week. That gets all deer—rutting and non-rutting—up on their feet. Expect it to swiftly move through the southeastern states. If scheduling allows, hunt just prior to the front reaching you. Buck movement will spike several hours before the arrival of the front, and again just after it passes.
This front should bring some wind. Oak trees that have been hanging onto their acorns will likely drop them in the high wind. Check for fallen acorns after the weather settles. This will be a game changer in places where few acorns have already fallen.