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‘Go Time’ In The Georgia Deer Woods

Hunt Advisors report much more buck activity much improved food sources after rains finally fell.

Daryl Kirby | October 31, 2019

Amazing what a little rain and some cooler temperatures can do. Whether it actually improved the deer movement or not, it certainly improved the spirits of Georgia’s deer hunters.

Many hunters, it seemed, had been in a heat-induced malaise that kept them from going to the stand as much this archery season.

We’re now hearing good reports of buck sign and deer activity, plus the food sources are much improved as rain has jump started the food plots and big acorns—red and white oaks—are falling in many areas.

Loganville’s Brady Norton with his Walton County 8-pointer killed during the youth week. Brady is in Week 5 of the Truck-Buck Contest and the Youth Big-Buck Contest.

GON team of deer-hunting experts across the state filed reports just after the first full week of gun season. Here’s how the woods are looking across Georgia.

NORTH GEORGIA

Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “A little rain and cooler temps just changes everything, probably for the hunter more than the hunted. The acorn drop has come and for the most part gone. Some red oak acorns are still on the ground, but white oak are almost gone. The cost of supplemental feeding went way down for the last three weeks. Once the nuts started coming down, the deer left the feeders and hit the hardwood ridges. As always, they also like to add a little green browse into the diet, which is evident by deer checking out green fields late evenings. Of course, if we hadn’t got the recent rain there would be no green fields to check out.

“The bucks are up and moving more in daylight hours. I hunted one morning this week, temps in the low 40s and winds calm,  starting around 9 a.m. till say 10:30 a.m. I saw three different bucks. The rubs and scrapes are everywhere. The bucks are ready, I say that due to scrapes being cleaned out every other day, if not every day. Look out when that first doe comes in heat, the bucks are going to be lined up following her like a train.

Here’s a great buck from Union County. Caleb Beise downed the 11-pointer opening week of gun season.

“We get our first doe day here in Cherokee next Saturday, Nov. 2. But you may want to check out what’s following her before you get some freezer meat. I know this ain’t y’all’s first rodeo, but from now through Thanksgiving is what we refer to here in north Cherokee as “get’er done time” or “knock’em down drag’em out time.” Anyway, get in the woods every chance you can. We will check back in next month.”

Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “It’s been a rather slow start to the season so far here in the area of the county where I hunt. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of positive sign that things will get much better when that magical time comes around.

“As far as our food sources, things are looking good. We have a good acorn crop this year, and the deer are hitting them hard, but they’re competing with way too many hogs. Our food plots are doing a lot better than I expected after a tough month with very hot and dry weather conditions after we planted. I’m kinda surprised at how the deer are already feeding on them with all the acorns. Maybe they’re avoiding the hogs.

The Oconee County deer better lookout! Ben Ivey is now getting it done with a bow. The 15-year old from High Shoals made his first bow-kill a good one. This 10-point buck weighed 189 pounds field-dressed.

“As far as the rut, the bucks are making sign all over the woods, but from what I’ve seen, the does are nowhere close to coming in heat yet. There has been some chasing going on, but for the most part the does still have their fawns with them.

“Everybody knows the bucks are always ready, but even in the deer woods, ‘No means No’ until the time is right. From what I see happening right now, the peak for this area is probably going to be somewhere around the second or third weeks of the month, and it will hopefully linger into Thanksgiving.

“I want to give a shout out to our club president. Three years ago, he decided to cut memberships and implement some QDM, and I think we are going to start reaping the benefits of it very soon. The property sits right on the Broad River and has everything you need to grow big deer—plenty of hardwoods, cover and areas for us to utilize for food plots. The only problem we have now is hogs, way too many.”

Jasmine Tucker, 15, with a super buck from Douglas County. Jasmine downed the deer on Oct. 15.

MIDDLE GEORGIA

Columbia County: Dylan Hankal, of Appling reports, “So far this season has been fair as far as buck activity. From what I can tell, the buck movement is more during the night, and that’s making it harder to get on one. Scrapes are still open as of Oct. 26, but the rut should be kicking in soon, which will get the mature bucks on their feet.

“Going by my trail cameras, there have been a few small bucks checking does but still no sign of hard-core rut activity. Acorns and funnels are always prime places to be this time of year, and that’s where I plan on hunting when I do get to go.”

Fayette County: Jeff Scurry, of Fayetteville, reports, “Lots of red oaks are dropping, and now the white oaks are dropping good. After this past week of rain and high winds, we have the acorns on the ground.

“Lots of rut sign with more rubs being seen, and a lot of scrapes. I’ve been seeing young bucks run and bump does on trail-camera video. The cold snap had deer moving last week. Now this week with warm weather, movement has slowed down.”

Katie Durham, of Canton, got this super Paulding County 10-pointer with her bow. Katie is 20 and is considering going bow-only.

Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “Finally, things are greening up right before they go dormant. Food plots are doing great, acorns are dropping, and the deer are hammering them both. The last weeks had been tough without any water. All the browse had started browning so much, it looked like winter had come early. Trails were very apparent without having growth to cover them back up. Things in the woods looked so different. With the rain and warm temperatures, it is amazing how fast the woods have seem to come alive again.

“The hunting we have done, the deer really seem to be on acorns. Underneath these trees, the amount of tracks are ridiculous. There is even a tree that covers the dirt road near our property, and the deer have made the road look like a plow has been run down it. In the woods, deer are stirring up leaves everywhere looking for acorns. Even on the edges of the food plots, there is a tremendous amount of deer spending time under the oak trees. This means mornings and afternoons should be concentrated on acorns. In the evenings, we like to be in a transition area between bedding cover and food plots. The older deer seem to stay in the woods much longer, and this gives us more chances to see that right buck.

Devin Jarrett, of Jasper, was hunting with a crossbow on Sept. 28 when he downed this awesome 9-point buck from Pickens County. “I was in very thick woods and only had one shot to get him. I missed heart but got double lungs, and he ran about 40 yards.”

“Scrapes are plentiful and rubs are average. Young bucks are bothering does. It seems like we are seeing less than average pre-rut type activity at this point. We are never sure if this is weather related. But, what we have learned, this sets things up for a concentrated rut.

“We are excited to slow down chasing soccer balls and get in the woods more. Watching the woods come alive, my boys are getting excited. Davis has been asking when he can take his girlfriend hunting, Wilson has been wanting to have his best friend come kill his first deer with us, and Turner is going through a list of boys he can invite. The three nieces are almost mad they have not been able to hunt because of being too busy. There is so much fun watching their anticipation and excitement this time of year. And, when the kids are finally rewarded for their patience and effort, getting to see those proud smiles helps make memories last forever!”

Rafe Smith, of Alpharetta, downed this Fulton County 8-point buck he had been watching for two years.

Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Seems the white oaks are doing better than the red oaks. This is good timing as the lack of rain had us getting in food plots late this year. However, they are starting to pop after the recent rain. The acorns are keeping the pressure down and letting them grow.

“I plan to hunt between these dropping white oaks and the plots this next month as the bucks will be cruising for a hot doe feeding on these food sources.  We have a good population of does that will be good for the kid hunts later this winter, but for now will have bucks scent checking the does.

“Our ministry CAMMO has been helped greatly by Matt Duffey. He has spent more time in the woods in Monroe County, so I asked his input. ‘Deer are moving late morning and early evening right now. White oaks are dropping heavy and being hit hard,’ Matt said. ‘Young bucks are starting to make rubs and scrapes. We are in the seek phase of the rut. Another two weeks, and it should be wide open.’

Riley Duffey, 13, of Forsyth, with his first deer. He took this 3-year-old mainframe 10-pointer in Monroe County with his crossbow on Oct. 27.

“Just after sending me this report, Matt’s son shot a great buck on the CAMMO property. He was hunting right by our only thicket and where we suspected a mature buck. After hearing a few grunts, the buck came in. The buck hung around long enough for his crossbow shot for his first deer. The hocks were black already.

“It is the month we have been waiting for. We are seeing bucks even in the heat, so with some cold weather it should be an awesome rut. Good luck everyone.”

Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Bishop, reports, “The food is abundant now in Putnam. Acorns are falling since the rain, and our food plots have exploded. The deer are on the acorns both evening and mornings and already hitting our food plots that just shot up after the rain. I’m seeing lots of horn trees and ground scrapes the past two weeks. I was seeing several shooter bucks on camera during daylight hours, but as the bachelor groups broke up, the amount of sightings decreased. Still seeing a lot of does but very few fawns, which is a concern since we had so many early and now we’re seeing a lot of coyote sign.

Carson Anderson, 17, got his first muzzleloader buck on Oct. 12 while hunting in Paulding County.

“I have kept records of the rut the past four years in Putnam, and it always seems a few does will go in early and a few mature bucks will be on the move or chasing that last week of October or early November. However, my two-week window would be Nov. 4 through Nov. 17, with peak dates the 7th through the 11th.

The colder dates always seem the best on increased activity. My personal opinion is to keep your does comfortable and limit the pressure on them as much as possible. Early rut, hunt thick cover with food. Once the rut peaks, try to find more open plots, valleys, hardwoods, etc. that does frequent. Hopefully one of my shooters show up, or one of those new bucks never seen before gives me or my kids a shot. If possible, take those kids during the rut. Both of mine have experienced the craziness of the rut and loved it.”

SOUTH GEORGIA

Colquitt County: Adam Childers, of Norman Park, reports, “As I type this, I’m 20 feet up a tree enjoying a warm 85-degree evening in late October. Fortunately, the humidity isn’t too high so it is pleasant. The peak of the rut is still several weeks away in this part of the world, but I’m sitting over a scrape line that has popped up in the last few days. The cameras are not showing much daylight buck activity yet, but I expect that to change soon. They have started marking their territory, and so rattling and grunting should start to generate some interest. For the next month I’ll be focusing on scrape lines and areas with a lot of doe activity. With some luck and a lot of stand time, I hope to cross paths with a good one!”

Hunt Advisor Adam Childers with his 11-point bow-kill from Colquitt County. “Had fun sharing this one with my baby girl. She finally got to see where a ‘big buck’ on the wall comes from. Good times!” said Adam.

Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “Hope everyone has had a good deer season so far. We have been in the woods every chance we could. It seemed to have started out slow, but the deer activity has picked up some. Lots of does being seen and small bucks. No mature bucks have ventured out in the daylight, yet! Those small bucks have had an occasional sparing match. Most of the days that I have been hunting the deer were moving late morning after 9 one day it was close to 10 before I saw deer. A couple of days they moved right before 8. I haven’t seen a deer in the afternoon yet, but others have seen a few. We expect the movement to pick up considerably the first couple of weeks in November.  In the last few years it seemed that our rut activity peeked the second week of  November. Chad that hunts the property next to us said that he seen a buck trailing close behind a doe with his nose to the ground the third week of October.

“The bucks and does have been working a scrape line for the last two months. The activity on the scrapes have picked up a lot in the last week, and we are seeing more rubbed trees. There are a few persimmons left for them to feed on, and they have been feeding on the natural browse in the thickets staying close to the bottoms.

“According to social media it seems that there has been some good mature bucks taken already in Crisp County and one really nice one. I hope you all have success this year. Good luck, hunt safe, and God bless!”

Lisa Fitzhugh, a GON member from Griffin, got this 8-point buck with her compound bow opening day of archery. Lisa was hunting in Crawford County.

Early County: Sam Klement, founder of Good Outdoor Technologies and member of PSE and Realtree pro hunting teams, reports, “With the recent tropical storm passing through the area and leaving a good amount of rain and high winds, our acorns are in full drop mode. All our persimmons have dropped and been gobbled up.

“This recent cool down has sent our deer into a true fall mode versus waxing and waning, as we had seen thus far. Scrapes and rubs are showing up more each day on my tracts, and I am starting to get some very impressive daytime photos of mature deer. Our rut is still a ways off for the typical first cool snap in December kicking things off around the Dec. 6-8.

“We managed to get all our food plots planted the Friday before the tropical storm came through, so I am expecting these to start to pay off as hot spots in the weeks ahead.

“Our local farmers have gotten the bulk of the peanut crops out of the fields and are starting to plant cover crops, which will be a great late season food source, as well.

“My strategy really doesn’t change much in terms of my hunting style. I prefer to hunt some of the thickest areas I can find in good transition areas between known bedding and feeding areas. My visibility is often limited, and when the deer do show up, they are often within bow range. I do like using the cover scent/attractant Voo Doo to help mask my scent and act as a curiosity lure by misting a little prior to getting in my set on nearby ground vegetation and spraying some out of my stand.

“As the deer and bucks start to get a little frisky, oftentimes I will have my antlers tied on a pull string, and just as the sun starts to set, I will lift these up off the ground floor and lightly let them tickle and clank as if two bucks just met and are sparing lightly. I have had very good success with this strategy in years past. Last year I rattled up and killed a shooter buck on Dec. 10 and then repeated again on Jan. 10. If a buck is bedded within earshot, the goal is to get him out of his bed early to come check out these bucks in his area. When it works, it’s very exciting to hear or see a mature buck heading to your set! I will also start to incorporate some soft and subtle grunts during this type hunt scenario.

“This past Sunday on Oct. 20, I had this same hunt unfold. Unfortunately, as I shifted my right boot to get in position to make a shot at the approaching  buck, the sand and clay from my boot fell through the grate metal and alarmed the buck that was less than 50 yards from the stand. It sounded like I was pouring out a salt shaker on dry leaves. You would think this wouldn’t alarm a deer—in most cases probably not—but when he is coming to horns and what he thinks is multiple bucks, this is not the type sound he is expecting to hear in a bedroom. He did what mature deer do… he slowly backed up and did that quarter horse reverse shuffle and slowly walked off into a thicket. Chalk one up for the deer! The good news—the tickling and stand placement were in the right spot and it was the right time. This deer did not blow, but, make no mistake he now knows this area is not as safe as it once was. The bad news… these deer are so hard to kill with a bow and arrow! You get one or two shots at the best time to slip in and kill these type bucks when conditions are perfect.

“My other tip to hunters is don’t blow out your good spots. I rarely hunt the same stand back to back. I will give these areas plenty of cool-down time before going back in to kill this type buck.

“Now is the time to start logging some stand time. Hunt hard, be safe, and enjoy every single moment in God’s great outdoors! Good luck to my fellow southwest Georgia hunters. Huntin is Good! For the Soul!”

Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “I hope you’re either reading this in the GON magazine you took to the deer blind with you or online at the GON website using your smartphone while you sit safely in an elevated deer stand, because this is the month, and time of year, that all of us deer hunters wait the other eleven months for—November and the whitetail rut! Unfortunately, the weather, at least through October, continued to be very hot and dry in Harris County. Temps in west-central Georgia broke all-time monthly records by hitting 100 degrees on multiple October days, so daytime deer movement has been somewhat suppressed and hunting has been slower than normal thus far. However, that should all change as this magical month unfolds.

“With the white oak acorn crop in most areas of Harris County being sparse this year and the drought both delaying the planting of food plots and limiting the surface water available to all of God’s critters, the deer should have to move a lot more, including during daylight hours, this season to find both food and water. Additionally, anyone who makes the choice to use corn or other types of bait should see that food source draw in deer, especially with few choice acorns this season. All of this combined will increase the odds of success for us deer hunters.

“We did finally get enough rain in Harris County the third week of October to plant our food plots, but now we need more rain to keep them alive and growing. Assuming all goes well, those plots should be great areas to hunt late in the season. Additionally, those plots, along with the supplemental feeding program we have in place, will help our deer herd get through the winter in good shape and start the entire growing process over again next spring.

“During the last third of October, I started to transition from strictly hunting afternoons to hunting mornings, as well. But I’m still being careful not to over-hunt any of my stands, and I’m also keeping my best rut areas reserved for that critical Nov. 5-15 period. For some reason, I still get asked every year if I think the rut is going to be early, late, or on time. I’ve even heard a couple of folks over the last week—and this is just the start of the last week of October as I’m writing this—tell their friends they need to get in the woods because chasing has started and the rut is underway. Well, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but I hope we can agree that it’s been scientifically proven the rut is controlled by photo-period/day-length, so it occurs at basically the same time, within the same area, year after year, no matter what. And what is being observed as ‘chasing’ or an ‘early rut’ is only immature bucks trying to get an early start on the process; they’re basically jumping the gun, so to speak. I saw this myself in Harris County as early as the third week of October this year, but I also saw mature bucks which were not at all interested in wasting their energy just yet. So, bottom line, if you hunt in the same area from year to year, you can go ahead and plan your vacation time from work around the rut months in advance and be safe, because it won’t change. The does will get bred at basically the same time every year, but what may change is how much rutting activity you observe. For example, if it’s hotter than normal, the majority of rutting activity will likely occur at night and won’t be observed by us hunters. That’s why I’ve heard some people say we didn’t even have a rut some years—but then they had a very hard time explaining all the fawns which were born the next spring!

“So reference the GON Rut Map for your specific hunting area, check those detailed hunting records that I’m sure you’ve been keeping for many years now, and make sure you’re in the woods when the real chaos erupts this month. Because if you miss it, it’ll be a long eleven months until you get another chance!”

Macon County: David Keene, of Oglethorpe, reports “Opening morning of firearms season we had some bucks grunting and trying to chase does. At 12:33 this afternoon on our way home from church, a nice buck ran a doe across our driveway. I have 16 cameras out, and most of the bigger bucks are still moving just at night.

“We finally got enough rain to plant food plots, and they are looking good, and deer are starting to hit them. Acorns are raining down in our woods. Red oaks are starting to drop, along with water, pin and blackjack oaks. The deer are hitting them hard, even coming into our yard eating them and driving the dogs crazy. I did take a nice 8-point Friday evening just at sunset. Not the one I thought he was but will be some good eating. He was very fat, about 3 inches thick.”

Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “The time is near for the three weeks every hunter dreams of “The Rut.” Looks like the rain and cooler temps are coming just in time. The food plots finally got some much needed rain and are looking good. Acorns are dropping, and that smell is in the air. You know the one I’m talking about.

Ten-year-old Jackson Little with his best buck to date. Jackson saw 19 deer total and passed up several smaller bucks before pulling the trigger on this 8-pointer.

“It’s already been a great year for some. Jackson Little killed his biggest buck to date. He was with his uncle Neal, and they saw 19 deer—three yearlings, four bucks and 12 does. A smaller buck came out early, and he let him go. After a few does, another smaller buck came out, then a bigger buck with a narrow but high rack. Neal had to really convince Jackson that a bigger buck was in the area. And just before dark the 8-point came in, and Jackson made a perfect neck shot. He’s only 10 years old, and you have to know him to appreciate his passion at such a young age and understand that he will be hard to live with until you kill one bigger. He is a sport model, I’m here to tell you.

“I snort wheezed a mature 8-point in on the 13th of October, but he wasn’t the one I had pics of, so I just videoed him this time. But at least they have started to respond after all this heat eased off.

“I was out of town opening weekend but doesn’t sound like I missed much Saturday except rain, which we desperately needed. We have a new deer processing cooler around here now, so I have a place to get some info on the size of the bucks and number of deer being killed. It’s called A&M Processing off of JR Sims Road out Highway 96. They cooked for everybody that came by the Saturday before gun opener and let me say, you are gonna want some of that deer sausage I promise. They only took in around six opening day but had around 52 for the weekend, so things picked up Sunday. Good to have one close to us again—y’all use them so they will stay in business.

“Time to get ready to sit all day when they start chasing, if you are able. The paw marks are opening up as of the 17th. I have some on all my leases, and it’s only going to get better. If you have the does, don’t let them out of your sight for the next three weeks because that it the ultimate lure. Can’t buy that in stores.

“When walking to your stand on dry days with crunchy leaves, try walking with a stick and it sounds like a critter instead of a person. Good luck in the glory days to come.”

Wheeler County: Michael Lee, of Backwoods Life, reports, “Acorns are falling really good right now. The deer have started to scatter and work on them, as well as still coming to feeders.

“We finally were able to get our Antler King food plots planted before the tropical storm brought some good rainfall in. The bucks are getting a little more active in the daytime with the weather cooling off.”

Kevin Knighton, co-host of Backwoods Life, shot this Wheeler County 8-point on Friday evening of muzzleloader season.

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