Overall Activity Status: Cold temperatures and rut conditions are stimulating deer movement across the South. Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas are experiencing the rut right now. The other southern states, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama are in pre-rut to varying degrees, and the rut is either on the horizon or very close, depending on your region. Jason Beard reports that “they are rutting here in central Arkansas.”
Fighting: Bucks across the South competing for the same doe, or venting frustration over does that aren’t quite ready, should be in a testy mood. Rattling has an excellent chance of working under the right conditions and should be part of your arsenal.
Rub/Scrape making: Scott Perrodin of Louisiana says that “the rut is kicking in slowly this year, it seems. We are seeing a lot of scrapes. A few nice bucks were taken a couple of weeks ago but didn’t appear to be in the rut stage just yet.” The pre-rut states of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana should be seeing increased rub and scrape making. I watched a spike buck make a scrape and a seven-pointer make a rub last weekend in Georgia. Bucks will still lay down sign if they’re not with or chasing a doe in rut areas.
Chasing: Chasing is peaking in Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina, while the pre-rut states may be seeing a few isolated cases. Bruce Compton in South Carolina took a good buck, above, that was following a doe, and another club member took a buck that was doing the same thing. Compton reports, “We had a member take a 2 ½ year old buck chasing a doe. I took one and gave it to S.C. DNR for a youth deer clinic and he also was behind a doe. Cool temps coming in and ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is almost here. Best hunts are three days before the full moon and three days after.”
Daytime Movement: Rutting bucks that are chasing and cruising for does are active day and night. Shane Dempsey of Alabama says “It has been a relatively slow start for me this year, there seems to be plenty of food this year with bumper corn and soybean crops harvested as well as an average acorn crop, the deer seem to be not moving much because of the abundance of food. I harvested a doe about two weeks ago coming to a food plot in the evening ,and a good friend harvested a doe and an old heavy-horned 8-point out of the same food plot a week prior. For others though this year has been incredible, there have been two bucks killed in North Alabama that gross-scored in the 170s during the first 10 days of bow season. I also believe as the season progresses there will be more big bucks killed in North/Northeast Alabama because of the bumper row crops and acorns that have been produced in the last few years.”
Estrous Signs: Brandon Rider hunts in Allen Parish/Area 8 in Louisiana and bagged a buck, shown here, that was with an estrous doe. Rider recalls the hunt: “It was a cold, clear, crisp morning at my hunting club in Allen Parish, which is located about ten miles northwest of Kinder, LA in the pines and old river bottom hardwoods. I was hunting with my wife, Amber Rider, in our 4’x6′ box stand over-looking some ten-year old & two-year old planted pines. We had been watching a couple does on the last few hunts both morning and afternoons. We decided not to take one since I knew the older mature bucks should be looking for receptive does. On that 38-degree morning at7:05 a.m., I noticed a deer out some distance of 280 yards in the planted pines. I immediately told my wife to get our guns out the windows of the stand.
“The buck had a nice rack and was mature. Since the deer was so far out I elected to take a shot with my Remington Sendero .300 Win. Mag., shooting the 150-grain Remington Core-Lokt ammo. I put the crosshairs of my Leupold long-range scope on the buck’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The buck must have dropped in his tracks since we no longer could see him. We then noticed a nice size doe standing near where I shot the buck. She stood near the buck for over 20 minutes, letting me know that this was a receptive doe and this was the buck she wanted to breed with. Once she left, we claimed our trophy, which was a mature 8-point buck that weighed in at 175 pounds and which is the heaviest deer of the club so far this year. Our bucks in Area 8 in Allen Parish are in the breeding/ search phase as I speak now. I would highly recommend spending as much time in your favorite deer stand now.”
X-Factor: Compton and Rider both scored on bucks with does in large open areas such as fields and low cutovers. When the bucks are cruising and chasing, sometimes watching as much real estate as possible will be the key to seeing and killing a good buck. Post over a large open field, agriculture, or food plot or anywhere you can see a long way and you are likely to see a buck on the move.