Deer Season Mystery Solved By Many Hunters
An on-again, off-again rut and tons of food made it interesting for deer hunters, but plenty of big Georgia bucks were killed.
We heard from our Hunt Advisor Team. We talked to hunters from across the state on a daily basis throughout the season. And we’re still a bit baffled as to what went on in the deer woods. Plenty of great Georgia bucks were killed, but in general there seemed to be more perplexed hunters than normal.
Sporadic rutting activity and a super acorn crop were cited by many hunters this season as factors that made deer hunting different, if not difficult.
Give us your take on the season by filling out and mailing or e-mailing the annual Rate Your Deer Season survey, found on page 46.
Meanwhile, here are the reports from GON’s Hunt Advisors.
DeKalb Co.: Outdoor writer Eric Bruce reports: “My season was typical of past seasons in terms of deer seen and bucks sighted. I saw three or four good bucks and lots of does and small bucks. I was fortunate to take a good 9-pointer with my bow in DeKalb. I did not see many acorns this year except for water oaks, which almost always produce, but their production is scattered throughout the fall. The only bucks chasing does I observed were small bucks after does. There were many large groups of three to six does together throughout the season. Buck sign was also average or slightly less than normal. Most deer were seen around food sources such as acorns, privet or kudzu. Some areas that produced much action in the past were below par this season, while others were better than normal. Food and people pressure affected that.”
Gilmer Co.: Terry Fowler of Ellijay reports: “Overall the season was disappointing. The abundance of food made the deer difficult to pattern. Blue Ridge WMA was disappointing because of good weather. The trend is for hunters to have better luck on Blue Ridge when weather is rainy, icy or snowy. I believe the Cohutta hunt was too late in the season to coincide with the rut. The sign found earlier in the season amounted to nothing. On areas not open for hunting, the deer are plentiful as with most places in the state. Subdivisions hold larger bucks because of the does. The rut was sporadic in Gilmer County. Some are still chasing and coming to rattling. There was a 140-class 8-pointer killed in Gilmer County this season that I know of, and there were lots of bears sighted and killed.”
Oconee Co.: Brandon Colquitt of Athens reports: “I’m happy to report that I did harvest another deer with my bow since my last report of my Oconee County land. The land is still not holding many deer, but I decided to go hunt there one afternoon last week. I had a deer come into my food plot at last light, and the arrow found its mark. I shot what I thought was a big doe, turned out to be a 160-lb. buck that had broken both main beams off near the skull. He will fill the freezer nicely. I walked nearly the entire property Dec. 15 and never jumped a deer. They are just not there. It’s been a terrible deer season for me. I sure hope next year gets better.”
Oglethorpe Co.: John Seginak of Comer reports: “Great season for me! Saw deer almost every day I hunted including several very nice bucks throughout the season. At least five over 140 were killed within 2 miles of my house here in Oglethorpe County. Saw three mature bucks Dec. l0 cruising for does between 10 and noon, trying to find that last doe that might be in estrous. Saw the buck I was hunting twice, once on Nov. 6 with a doe— couldn’t shoot because he was over the property line — and again on Dec. 5 — it was too thick to take an ethical shot.”
Brandon Colquitt reports: “It hasn’t gotten any better over the last few weeks on my Oglethorpe County land. The deer sighting are few and far between. I ran a trail camera on a food plot this past week and had one doe pic in a week’s time. Oglethorpe County has been shot out. I have asked other hunters in the county about their population, and I get about the same answer every time, ‘We don’t see near the deer we used to.’”
Hancock Co.: Matthew Gilbert of Monroe reports: “This season was somewhat confusing. The rut was scattered, and deer sightings were very inconsistent. A lot of small bucks were seen chasing does, but hardly any mature bucks were seen at all. We had trail-camera pictures of plenty of mature bucks from the summer. They seemed to have disappeared once the season started. It became difficult to even find a mature buck on camera. When the weather cooled off in early November, the rut seemed to begin to take off. Small bucks were seen chasing does, and everyone became excited. The excitement was short lived as the deer sightings quickly went down, which could easily been contributed to the weather. On the weekends, the weather did not seem to cooperate with us hunters at all. During the week, the temps would be cool with calm days. The weekend would either have rain, wind or warm temperatures. We were able to harvest plenty of does during this time, but the bucks were a different story. Our neighbors seemed to have the same sort of experiences on their land. In December, we saw plenty of deer hitting the food plots and a lot of those are bucks. But, most of the bucks we are seeing right now are immature. We work hard at not pressuring the deer on food plots and hope there is a chance for that elusive December buck. In general, it was a frustrating, but somewhat productive season. We are pretty new to the property we are hunting, so we remained excited about all of our experiences. We do wish we would have killed some strong bucks for our area. Even though we have not, we still have high hopes of doing so in future seasons.”
Jones Co.: Curtis Finch of Macon reports: “For the most part it was a pretty tough season for me. Our club killed a few deer, and other members of the club saw several deer from the start of the season through November, but now December has hit and they just don’t seem to be moving good anymore. As far as the rut goes, other members saw lots of chasing. One even saw some fighting one morning but was not presented with a shot. There were two nice bucks shot at, but both were missed. I can’t complain — other members had good seasons, but mine was slow. There is always next year.”
Walton Co.: Dwayne Britt of Grayson reports: “The best word to describe the deer season is unpredictable. Bow season was slow for the most part, but gun season started out very promising. I saw several young bucks including three nice 8-pointers and a 7-pointer in the first two weeks. We had a 130-class 8-pointer shot within the first two weeks, and the young bucks were chasing does by late October. Then warm weather moved in along with a bright moon during what I would think would have been our rut, and everything shut down. Activity picked back up in late November with fresh scrapes and rubs, but the only deer seen were does. I did catch a glimpse of a very large-bodied buck I nicknamed BigMac in late November. He is well over 200 pounds, and I set up a stand during the summer just to hunt him in December. I saw him last year as he was bowed up while walking around a 9-pointer I had just shot. His rack was broken off near the base on one side, and the other side had broken tines. I’m hoping to get a chance at him over these next two weeks. I had the privilege of going on the Hard Labor Creek State Park hunt on Dec. 9-10 and was able to harvest a couple of does. I would like to thank everyone who put this hunt together. I spoke with a few friends in Gwinnett, Fulton and Morgan counties who said they were seeing bucks chase does in early December as if it were early November. There seemed to be much more rutting activity this year in early December than I can remember in past years.”
Baker, Decatur, Early and Miller Cos.: John Cofty Jr. and Marty Phillips combined to file this report from Mossy Pond Hunting Preserve: “We are seeing a lot of small bucks chasing does, and we are starting to see some big bucks during daylight hours now, more than last week or the week before. We think with some cooler weather around Christmas and the weeks after Christmas, the rut should be knocking at the door. We aren’t shooting any does now because of the rut. We have seen some 140+ bucks this week, and some does acting like they are coming into heat. We had 10 inches of rain and all of our cypress ponds are now full. Our food plots are still looking great even with all the rain.”
Berrien/Camden Cos: Lt. Cale Stancil reports: “Hunting in both Camden and Berrien counties produced sightings of four good bucks this year. In Camden County, while hunting on the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, I saw one nice 8- or 10-point buck in late September and was able to harvest a nice 6-pointer with my bow in early October. These opportunities corresponded with the pre-rut coastal Georgia, but I was unable to witness a definitive rut. With permission to hunt a farm that had received little hunting pressure and armed with knowledge from the GON Rut Map, which illustrated a mid-November rut in Berrien County, I traveled there with good friend Mike Kilpatrick. Our Saturday hunt produced a sighting for me of a nice 8-pointer that was apparently drawn to the sound of me scraping the pine bark off the tree in which I just completed hanging my tree stand. A few hundred yards away, Mike was in the deer and shot a great 8-pointer minutes after a series of aggressive grunt calls. The following morning, I waited until 30 minutes after daylight and started an aggressive sequence of rattling and grunting of my own. I ended the sequence by turning over a Primos estrous-bleat can a few times, and I scraped some more bark off the pine I was in for good measure. Less than 5 minutes later I heard a twig snap in the thick stuff behind the stand. It was a 135-class 11-pointer that came looking for a fight. I’d say the rut was in full swing Nov. 22-23 in Berrien County based on the response we received from some aggressive techniques.”
Dooly Co.: Tim Rutherford of Pitts reports: “I’ve talked to several hunters in Dooly, and most think overall it was a good season. The full moon being in the middle of the rut slowed down daytime sightings the second week of November, with the best weeks being the first and third weeks. Most hunters were successful and killed a respectable buck. I was fortunate to harvest two bucks this year, but I have continued to bowhunt does, and after Thanksgiving I have not seen any bucks I would consider shooters. As evidenced by the entries in GON, there have been some big bucks killed. One of the largest not entered in the contest is a 10-point Wilcox County giant said to net 168.”
Early Co.: Sam Klement of Spectrum Outdoors and Country Goes Huntin’ reports: “The second week of December, even with the full moon, daytime rutting activity was at an all-time high for me and other hunters I have spoken with. We started seeing our first chase scenes around the 10th, and lots of cruising and checking by bucks. On our lease no one has shot a trophy as of yet, mainly due to the fact that the majority of our members are bow-only, exclusive hunters and are passing up borderline bucks or not getting the shot they need for a clean kill. Our minimum is 130 P&Y. Our acorns are still not rotting and are being hit very hard. Food plots are looking better than in years past do to more than 10 inches of rain the past couple of weeks. We expect our deer to wax and wane in terms of rutting activity through the end of December depending on cool temperatures.”
Turner Co.: Michael Lee of Hahira, host of Southern Backwoods Adventures television and Backwoods Radio, reports: “We’ve seen a good number of deer and are still seeing bucks and does pretty regularly. They are hitting our food plots really hard, and we have some good Trail Watcher camera pictures of several bucks that we hope can make it through the season. The rut was pretty much right on with usual here, though added hunting pressure around us, and some guys pretty much shooting everything that walked didn’t help us a lot. We still managed to see a good amount of deer, though sightings were down from last season. We try to manage our bucks to get to at least 3 1/2 years old, so we know there will be seasons that we may not take many deer. I’ve still got my eye on a few bucks that we’re getting pictures of that would make great late-season tag fillers!”
Treutlen Co.: Delton Lord of Soperton reports: “The dictionary defines a deer as ‘any of several ruminants of the family Cervidae, most of the males of which have solid, deciduous antlers.’ My definition is ‘elusive furry animal that goes missing after Thanksgiving!’ Very little to no rut activity at all. The scrapes have gone completely cold, no chasing being seen, and the deer seem to be more on a feeding pattern than anything. Deer are still feeding primarily on acorns and only hitting the food plots very late in the evening or after dark. Out of my last four to five hunts, I’ve only seen three deer — a spike, a doe and what looked like a 2 1/2-year-old buck that came in right at dark. My wife saw two small bucks — a spike and a 3-pointer — and they just fed. The trail-camera pictures are showing bucks that have been through a heck of a rut with battle scars to prove it, but they are showing up way after shooting hours and steering clear of anything out in the open. Other than that, I think it’s about over down this way. If folks are looking for meat, they best take what they can get because the pickings are few and far between!”
WMAs: Glenn Solomon reports: “The last couple of weeks I’ve been hunting “On the Fly” chasing this rut thing all over the state. I’ve been to Penholoway, Dixon Memorial, Horse Creek, Oaky Woods and Walter F. George. Scored on all as far as meat is concerned, except at Oaky Woods in Houston and Pulaski counties Dec. 3-6, which will probably be one of the best hunts for the year in terms of hunter success and trophy bucks. I was only there for a couple of days, but man, they were slaying big bucks left and right. The rut was wide open with cruising bucks getting shot in the open areas like the powerline right-of-ways. I guess I overhunted by being in the small pine and briar thickets. At Horse Creek in Telfair County Dec. 11-13, they had another awesome hunt. Three more large bucks were killed, including a 220-lb. 12-pointer. On Dec. 16, I watched two 8-points with does at Walter F. George in Quitman County — swollen neck and dark hock glands on the one I grunted in within 10 yards. Fresh rubs were all over the hillside. They are just getting cranked up here, again! My friend, Eddie Watson of Clay Hill Hunting Preserve a few miles down the road, said he’s been noticing the rut extending into February and even early March. I think the rut still starts at the normal times in respective areas but tends to string out through the entire season and even a couple of months thereafter, depending on the weather and moon phases. All the does are not getting bred in a short window like everybody thinks. So if you’re reading this, chunk it down and get your camo-clad booty out there. It ain’t over till it’s over! All it takes is that one hot doe for a taxidermy bill!”
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