Early Rut For Georgia’s Gun Opener?

Reports of mature bucks already with does. And if you're after freezer meat, check the doe-day map to make sure your county isn't buck-only this weekend.

Brad Gill | October 20, 2017

There’s been a flurry of added excitement as Georgians wait on Saturday’s firearms opener. We’re hearing an above-average amount of discussion regarding rut activity, as in mature bucks chasing or tending does already.

“I saw some crazy stuff today (Oct. 16), a big 12-point buck was chasing a doe,” Donnie Stanford left on the GON answering machine. “The buck was chasing a doe across a main highway, it was the darnedest thing I ever seen in my life.”

Donnie saw this action in Crawford County, but he’s not he only one seeing early buck behavior.

Joey Witcher, of Eatonton, said he watched a big 10-pointer tending a doe on the Putnam/Baldwin county line on Oct. 18 in an area where he has access to but can’t hunt.

“He was working a rub line and pawed places there two weeks ago. I have been seeing him for about a month,” said Joey. “My perception is that all this activity is about two to three weeks early. In 2010, I killed a 120-class 10-point in Baldwin working a rub line on Oct 22, and I thought that was early then. The years since then it has seem the peak after the first week of November. Seeing that big 10-pointer working a doe on and off yesterday was definitely early for around here.”

Jason McFarland, of Gray, shot a mature Hancock County buck on Monday, Oct. 16 that was wide open after a couple of does. You can read Jason’s detailed hunt story and see pictures of his buck here.

WRD Biologist Kevin Lowrey in Gainesville said that the rut varies less than seven days from year to year. He said that a doe’s estrous cycle is cued with photoperiod, and that changes little from year to year.

“That being said, lots of things increase our daytime observation of pre-rut and rutting activity, including weather, mast and herd dynamics,” said Kevin. “I have seen a lot of early scrapes and rubs this season and have heard of bucks tending does already. I think in good mast years or when other food Is plentiful, deer have the energetics to put more sign on the landscape and work it harder. When food availability is limited, we see less sign as they want to conserve energy. I think that’s what we are seeing. Good mast crops leading to bucks that are working harder and perhaps getting ahead of themselves. The does still have to cooperate.”

The bottom line appears to be that buck sign is plentiful, and they seem to be moving more than normal. It’s all anecdotal, but with GON‘s 30-year history in the “deer business,” we can tell you that there are more hunters than normal reporting good buck sign and movement. It should be an interesting weekend.

Before you pull the trigger during Georgia’s firearms deer season, make sure you know when either-sex days are for the county you’re hunting. Many counties in Georgia are buck-only for at least the first couple of weeks of gun season. Click here to see all of the 2017-2018 Georgia hunting season dates.

If you smack a big buck for the opener, enter it in Truck-Buck or send us a photo and caption to [email protected].

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1 Comment

  1. georgemcarter on November 2, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve seen a buck chasing does for the last 4 days in Ben Hill County.

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