Deer Season Recap, Late-Season Tips

Daryl Kirby | January 5, 2020

Another Georgia deer has flown by. The seasons certainly aren’t getting shorter—we have one of the longest in the country—it just seems that way when suddenly the days remaining are few. However, there’s still time to put some venison in the freezer, and a last-minute buck is never out of the question. 

Here are the reports from GON’s team of deer-hunting experts across the state. We asked our local experts to  look back at how the deer season went for them and for hunters in their areas, and many advisors also included some tips for January hunting.


Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “As we come to the end of another season, don’t forget to pause and give thanks. What a season we have had! Nothing yet for the trophy wall, but the freezer is full and that is a wonderful thing. 

“The full moon phase we have just gone through has made it difficult to see deer in legal shooting hours. Our trail cams start clicking about an hour after sunset. My grandsons and I are discussing moving into the woods off the fields to catch deer movement before dark. We will see if a new moon will get them moving earlier, and if not, we will put plan B into play. According to the number of deer hitting the fields at night, the deer herd remains strong, including some good bucks. With school in Cherokee County being closed for 18 days for Christmas break, I have a feeling we’re not done yet. 

Sandra Kilgore, of Commerce, with her 10-point buck taken in Madison County.

“Something we learned this season: (1) Put a lot of time in early bow season, big bucks are more available. (2) Take your freezer meat about one week after acorn drop, the high amount of fat content in the acorns will serve as a feed lot concept and put the deer in best shape possible.

“The rut was not as defined this year as I have experienced in years gone by. The week of Thanksgiving and week after were probably the best we saw, but even then it was spotty. There are many ways to rate a season, but for us, if we are seeing deer while in the woods, we are happy. Based on that, this season has been great. Still got a hard rut to deal with in the far north Georgia mountains. Should be good for remaining season.

“Well, until turkey season, God Bless and hunt ON! ”

Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “The recap of my season would have to rate it as a strong good to very good. I wished I had kept a tally of how many deer I saw this season, it was a bunch. As of the time of this report, I’m still chasing that elusive trophy, but I did take a decent 8-pointer early in the season that turned into some awesome jerky. I saw tons of bucks this season, and several that with one to two more years will be ones for taxidermist.

Shane Wilburn, of Comer, took this awesome 9-pointer on Dec. 7 in Madison County. Shane said he was hot on a doe.

“Things fell off drastically after Thanksgiving though, but the deer seem to be very healthy going into winter, and there’s still plenty of food in my areas for them. The rut was as good as I’ve seen in years, with a lot of chasing. I will finish out the season staying close to good food sources, and try to get one or two more for the freezer. I want to give a shout-out to some folks who deserve it. I went on the Tugaloo State Park archery hunt the first weekend in December, and it ended up being a much tougher hunt than I expected. The majority of the deer seemed to be concentrated in one certain area, and luckily I did my share of scouting, and lucked up and took a buck on the first morning, which ended up I think being the only deer taken on the two-day hunt. I saw a lot of deer that first morning and nothing after that. Those deer just do not have much to eat. I wished the state would spend a little money and either plant some food sources in these areas or purchase some feeders to set for them. The shout-out goes to the DNR staff on hand for this hunt. From Ms. Janes that stayed in contact through email or phone, to the people who worked the hunt. They were very informative and offered help, from helping track and getting your deer out of the woods, and even offered access to a tracking dog if needed. Wasn’t any of that needed, but it was greatly appreciated. 

“Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. Now I’m ready to run some bunnies between now and turkey season.”

This Monroe County buck has 16 scorable points, not counting the “ringers.” Brett Mcleandon, of Dublin, shot the 204-lb. buck on Nov. 1.

North Fulton County: Lee Ellis, of Atlanta, reports, “The deer are still bumping does around, but they are starting to transition back into their feeding/cover areas. I love to hunt around privet bottoms this time of year. The deer pile into them as it is some of the best cover still available with all the leaves gone. They also eat the fire out of it.

“I also look this time of year for those summer bucks that have disappeared to start to return ‘home’ to their summer areas. Sometimes I will have a deer that has been gone all season pop back up out of nowhere. Seems like every year that we always get a hard secondary rut in January before the season closes. Key on the super cold days coming up when those deer just have to get on their feet. Late season can be killer!”


Columbia County: Dylan Hankal reports, “The 2019 deer season has been fair in my part of the woods. We have seen a few good bucks on our cameras and a couple of times while hunting, but we were not able to connect on any of them so far due to a very busy work schedule this year. 

Karson Kimsey, of Sautee, took time from earning her engineering degree to do some deer hunting, and she got her biggest buck yet. Karson shot the buck Nov. 26 in White County.

“As far as our food plots go, I would consider them to be fair to poor due to planting late because of absolutely no rain in the forecast during the planting dates, which caused them to not produce to the best of their ability. However, they are still attracting deer, so that is always a plus. 

“Hopefully in the closing weeks we will be able to put down a good buck, but if not, that is OK. There are plenty of does for the taking, and our freezer is looking a touch slim, so that will more than likely be our concern in the last few weeks of season.”

Fayette County: Jeff Scurry, of Fayetteville, reports, “For a recap of the 2019 season, I would rate it overall as good. Doe numbers were definitely up in Fayette County, but they stayed average in Meriweather County. Also saw a rise in younger bucks in both Fayette and Meriwether counties. The number of fawns seem to be up also this year. I have taken numerous coyotes the past several years, maybe that had a positive impact on the deer numbers on the rise at my properties.

Mallory Potter, of Tennille, with her Washington County buck taken on Nov. 29 at 7:30 a.m.

“The primary rut seemed sporadic this season because of the fluctuation of temperatures, but the second rut in December seemed to be stronger, again because of the doe numbers on the rise. This year was the first time I have seen four deer coolers in a relative close proximity full at the same time and not take any deer, which showed me that deer numbers were also up in surrounding counties. Again, I would rate the 2019 season as good.”

Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “Excellent is what we would rate the 2019 deer season! And, we are looking forward to the last few weeks to even pick up. Our rating is excellent due to the overall enjoyment we have with family, friends and the success with the deer. It’s been a successful year with seeing deer and evolving with our property. We have altered the landscape with cutting timber, which makes us change things up every few years to keep up with the deer. This helps us constantly work with the kids about their hunting skills. 

Jeff Counch, of Sautee, with a super 8-pointer from White County. “I was watching several does in a food plot along a creek bottom when I saw the buck cross the creek following a doe. I waited for the buck to separate himself from the does as he followed one specific doe around. I took the shot at 150 yards, the buck dropped in his tracks,” said Jeff. The buck weighed 165 pounds field-dressed.

“This year, we had an above-average acorn crop. Our food plots were not the easy go-to places to see deer as they normally are. We had to find deer in the woods, in cover and near bedding areas. Most of the acorns were water oaks, so they held onto the trees longer than the others. After Thanksgiving, most years, you can go sit in a food plot and see most anything you want. The deer are still in the woods with the acorns still dropping. Here at the end of the season, we are hoping the deer will transition to food plots, so we can target does more easily. 

“Our rutting action was pretty good, and we have seen some recent action during the beginning of December. Any December rutting activity is unpredictable, so what we are seeing is just bonus action for hunting this time of year. The does we have killed are showing us our rut was a little delayed from normal. It will be interesting to see the fawn crop this next summer. 

“The success measurement we have based off the kids was tremendous. Our kids are all in very busy stages of their lives, which makes us dads also not have the time in the woods we are used to. But, the desire the kids are showing to hunt seems like they want to squeeze every hunt out they can. All the kids’ goals are being met, and have helped their excitement. Davis finally got Jennifer into the woods for a weekend. The success Jennifer was a part of was a hunt where she and Madeline hunted together. Madeline was able to take a 133-lb. doe, which leads our Monster Doe Award so far!

Fisher Kilgore, 11, of Colbert, with a nice 10-point buck he killed in Oglethorpe County.

“With this season winding down, we are still trying to kill that elusive, mature buck. And, we also are trying to get a good read on what young bucks are still on our property. We will kill a few more does, hopefully let bucks walk, and have a little more time in the woods with family and friends. As always, we will start eyeballing projects and improvements we can make to fine tune our land for next deer season. We believe the day after this deer season is the first day of the next deer season.”

Meriwether County: Jason Swindle Sr., of Carrollton, reports, “Overall, this was an excellent year even though I did not pull the trigger. I had a couple of chances to shoot 5 1/2-year-old bucks. But, in both instances, the bucks moved into areas where I could not get a responsible shot. We have at least 10 quality bucks coming through the property because of our QDM management program that includes our neighbors.

“The peak days for breeding are the same every year in west Meriwether—Nov. 8th, 9th and 10th. A number of bucks were seen at all times during these days. Unless it is hot, when they breed at night, these three days are consistently the best to hunt all day if you can stay in a stand that long.

“The white oaks produced a huge bumper crop. So, supplemental feeding, food plots, etc. were abandoned for a couple of months by the deer. Hunting the woods was the key to success this year.

Rob Foskey, of Laurens County, was hunting over in Johnson County on Oct. 26 when he shot this 8-point buck that had recent battle scars from fighting.

“Lastly, the barometric pressure readings once again were accurate. When the pressure was above 30.0, my trail cams would show three times as many bucks moving as opposed to when it dove under 30.0. I saw few deer moving when the pressure was 29.5 to 29.9.

“I am going to keep hunting through January. Best of luck to everyone!”

Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Bishop, reports, “Good season. Lots of deer seen this year, and I let several nice bucks walk, and one I regretted later. Really didn’t get many really big bucks on camera this year, but lots of quality deer and tons of young bucks. We had a few good bucks taken off our property this year along with a couple of our young hunters getting a couple bucks. 

“Plan on planting fall plots later in the future as our food plots did great planting in October. Will be planning to get soybeans and iron clay peas in the ground this spring to hopefully help the herd.

“Hearing about some late rut activity and hoping to still get a chance at a good buck or one of our mature cull bucks.

“Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”


Randy Manders with a late-season buck taken in Crisp County on Dec. 14.

Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “Another deer season is in the books, and it has been an unusual season for us. The deer numbers were down this year, and the number of mature bucks were down, also. 

“There were a few good mature bucks taken in our area, and it seems that there was in general, according to one local processor, a higher number of deer taken in Crisp County this year. Seems like for us it was just one of those years where we had low deer count. On a good note, we did have trail-camera pictures of four buttonhead bucks throughout the season and a few fawns to carry over to next year. As I stated in last month’s report, we didn’t see rut activity until the end of November, and it carried over into the first part of  December.

“Randy was able to harvest a buck on Dec. 14. We are still seeing deer move along known travel routes from feeding to bedding areas. I would rate our season this year as fair. There are still a few days left, so get out there and hunt. God Bless!”

Hunt Advisor Sam Klement and his son Cannon show off a wide-racked Early County buck that Sam rattled in and shot with his bow.

Early County: Sam Klement, a member of Realtree, Muzzy and PSE pro hunting teams, reports, “As I write this on Dec. 16, the deer in southwest Georgia are in full-out chase mode! I have videoed several shooter bucks over this weekend doing a little reconnaissance stand time trying to find a good deer for my buddies and family to shoot. I was very blessed and lucky to have filled both my Georgia buck tags with my bow over the last two weeks before the rut was taking off. Our deer seem to have been a little bit early this year by maybe a week or so. I started getting some respectable daytime photos around Thanksgiving, and the mature bucks have only gotten more visible since. We are seeing great scraping and a major increase in rubs. 

“My strategy is always pretty simple. I like to hunt very thick places that most would overlook and have no desire to hunt. These places are very limited on visibility, and my strategy is to hopefully entice a mature buck through light rattling and grunts out of his bedroom or before he gets back to it or leaves it in the a.m. Both of these bucks were shot this way. One was in the morning and the other was on an evening hunt. Both came to light tickling of my horns tied on a string and lifted off the ground to simulate bucks sparing in their bedroom. I then like to mist a little VooDoo deer lure in the air and spray some on my boots walking in. This seems to act as a curiosity lure and usually takes the deer’s attention off me when I draw my bow.

“Our food plots look very good this year with just the right amount of rain. The deer are frequenting these often. The acorns are still dropping some, but most are on the ground and either eaten up or starting to rot. The bulk of the south Georgia farmers have planted cover crops, and deer will surely frequent these as destination fields after dark. 

Here’s a nice buck from Wheeler County that was killed by GON member Bill Clyatt, of Jesup. Bill said the 13-point buck was three minutes behind a doe at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 on a 40-degree morning.

“Our strategy for the rest of the season will be to hunt long hours in the stand and stay near the thickets and edges. These does have felt some pressure from hunters and bucks and won’t be moving as much in the open. The big deer will continue to cruise these areas looking for a partner. Our deer activity will continue to wax and wane with rutting activity in southwest Georgia until the season goes out depending on the temps and moon, etc. If you haven’t filled your tag yet, I would suggest doing something different and hunting different stands that may not  be burned out. The mature deer are still there—they have just gotten a little harder to kill, if that is possible in the south—LOL!

“I am also a firm believer in walking way into my stands and very early before I expect deer to be moving. This may be an overkill, but I do seem to have better sightings when I do not announce my presence with a truck or 4-wheeler, loud gates, etc. The exercise is a bonus!

“I also wanted to say that our turkey hunting should be incredible this year. I have seen a lot of groups of toms, many strutting and gobbling at first light, and on my camera plot photos. It looks like we had a great hatch and survival rate, and this spring should be a special one for southwest Georgia!

“Good luck to my fellow hunters out there. Don’t be discouraged, the key is stand time. Pack you a breakfast, lunch or dinner if needed, and ride out those stands. It just takes a few seconds to turn an average season into a great one!

This season meant a lot to Donna Hill after the passing of her mother on Sept. 17. Donna got this 155-inch Tift County buck on Nov. 6. “I just know that deer was a God Thing for me,” Donna said. “He knew I needed something to lighten my spirit about losing my mother, and I am just proud that I was able to experience such a lifetime experience like that. May God Bless you all.”

“Be safe, have fun and enjoy the good Lord’s spectacular sunrises and sunsets from 20 up! Huntin is Good!..for the soul!”

Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “As the 2019-2020 deer season winds down in Harris County, my family is in the middle of our annual, late-season quest to add a couple of does to our freezers. We do this by focusing on late-season food sources—primarily food plots and corn feeders—and we usually have very few problems being successful. This will be doubly important for us this year since I’ve been ultra-picky and have yet to pull the trigger on a buck. That’s not to say I haven’t seen plenty of mature deer; I’ve seen several bucks that I decided needed another year to mature, but some of those are now in someone else’s freezer! But that’s all part of the QDM process and something I accept as being OK because more of those bucks have ultimately survived than have been killed. And I am very happy for the folks who put these bucks on the dirt!

“Speaking of bucks that were killed this season, I’m aware of multiple Harris County bucks that arrived at the taxidermist with outstanding green scores into the 160s, not to mention the many dozens of other mature bucks who were killed by happy hunters throughout my county. Much of this season’s hunter success was due to a strong and compact pre-rut and rut which was evident across Harris County. Hunter success was also facilitated by favorable weather for the majority of the month of November. Overall, I’d rate this deer season in Harris County as very good, and I’m sure many of my fellow hunters in this area would probably even go so far as to classify it as excellent.

“Now, it’s on to turkey season—but not before we kill some coyotes!

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

Beth Lee was able to take a mature 8-point buck in late November in Wheeler County as he was crossing an Antler King food plot to work a scrape.

Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Well another season has come and gone, and it flew by. I will have to say that this year was excellent around here because of all the bucks that were seen despite the hot weather and lack of rain before and at the beginning of season. I actually saw more bucks than does this year, although the big one always seemed to get by before I could sling an arrow their way, but getting them on video was almost as good.

“It’s going to be interesting to see the Fab 40 this year and see how many Booners were killed. Looks like we’re headed in the right direction. I just hope it’s not a fluke and next year will be even better. I know I passed some this year that I sure want to see again, but if I don’t, that’s hunting. 

“Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Wheeler County: Michael Lee, of Backwoods Life, reports, “Overall I’d grade the season as good. We saw lots of deer, and the rut was pretty good for bucks on their feet in the daytime. Hopefully we can get rain into 2020 and keep the good food sources for the herd to thrive.”

This Cook County buck is an absolute giant! Jamie Williams, of Adel, shot the buck on Nov. 2. Jamie said it was rough scored at 178 inches, and he’s looking forward to getting an official B&C score after the 60-day drying period.

This monster 13-point buck was killed in Macon County. Ken Kimsey, of Perry, said the buck has been rough scored at 164 inches.

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