Acorns Falling, Bucks On The Prowl
GON Hunt Advisors Report From Across The State
If you’re reading this article, there’s a very good chance you don’t have to be sold on the wonders of a November day in the Georgia deer woods. Count this as your friendly GON reminder to get your rear in a deer stand, pronto!
Our great team of deer-hunting experts across the state have been putting in some seat time in the deer stands. Here are their Hunt Advisor reports from the opening week of gun season, along with archery and youth seasons. And they report on how the woods are looking in their areas for the upcoming magic time of November.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “If you are not a mountain hunter, this is the year to start. Acorns are 75% down with some still falling. The abundance of food should cause the bucks to put down more sign than in light-mast years. I’m looking for the woods to be torn up in the next couple of weeks, especially around 2,200 to 2,700 feet ridge tops. Something happened to the acorns at 2,900 feet and above, so stay lower than that. A late frost must have gotten the blooms up at that elevation.
“The bears are still gorging on the white oaks, building the fat needed for Georgia hibernation, which is in and out at best according to how cold it gets. With highs forecast in the high 60s for the next 10 days, bears should remain active. Bucks are singled out and also working on building fat for the upcoming rut. Some scent attractants that work early for bear and deer are Watkins Pure Vanilla Extract and Wildgame Acorn Rage Burst in a spray can. The leaves are still holding on pretty good, so fresh sign is easy to identify. If you find an old logging road or trail, that’s a great place to look for scrapes and rubs, and I have found the bears will walk them as well, feeding as they go. Don’t forget to locate some does because that is where the bucks will be later in November.
“It’s a beautiful time to be in the north Georgia mountains. Be safe, stay calm and hunt on!”
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar reports, “The acorn drop has happened and the deer are on them hard. They have pretty much left supplemental feed and went full blast on acorns. Rut sign is slowly showing up right now but should get plentiful soon. My grandson Tyler spotted a 6-point chasing some does around yesterday (Oct. 21). This will continue to intensify the next couple of weeks, with the big boys joining in as the rut draws near.
“The local herd is in great shape and should be fat and happy with this year’s excellent mast crop. Best bet for meat now is staying on that white oak where the leaves are pulverized and droppings are on the ground. Be safe, stay calm and hunt on!”
Fulton County: Justin Mizell reports, “This year’s acorn crop is very heavy in Fulton. There is plenty of food in the woods. New bucks have started to show up on multiple cameras, and the bucks have made the split from their bachelor groups. The young bucks are doing a little sparring, but the large mature bucks seem to be staging their rut areas. There are lots of scrapes and rubs, and the bucks are traveling creeks heavily. I’ve moved most of my cameras from my summer spots to the rut spots. Creeks and privet bottoms are great to target this time of year in Fulton.”
Jackson County: Michael Williams, of Commerce, reports, “October has gotten off to a great start with two good cold fronts, and there looks to be another one by Halloween. I would say deer activity overall has been a six out of 10 for me.
“September was just not my month as I didn’t have much to report due to coaching football and being extremely busy at work. I did not spend much time in the woods. But, I closely monitored my cameras.
“I haven’t seen the amount of acorns I’m seeing this year in at least five years. The forest floor has literally become a carpet of white oak and red oak acorns. Now, some folks absolutely love this. I am not one of these people. When the acorns are this plentiful, it shuts activity down, especially if the deer are bedding close to an area surrounded by white oaks.
“They simply don’t have to travel far to browse. So, unless you’re in that bedding area, it’s going to be impossible to lure them out with bait or the giant white oak ridge you may be hunting on.
“But, all hope is not lost. Scrape activity has definitely picked up. When the acorns are this heavy, I zero in on those ‘active’ scrapes, and I’ll set up within 50 yards on the downwind side. Those big bucks have to browse, but they aren’t not gonna check those scrapes.
“On Oct. 18, I did just that and it paid off. I had been seeing several bucks on camera working this scrape and several were very close to daylight or just inside of grey light. I had not hunted on this property all season, but with a significant cold front and the data I had, I couldn’t sit it out.
“I slipped in around 6:15 a.m., set up in my Tethrd saddle, and around 7:30 I made a couple soft contact grunts and lightly tickled the rattling horns for about 45 seconds. Within two minutes I hear a ‘rukkus’ behind me coming up out of the creek bottom. I look and it’s a small forkhorn buck, but behind him is a solid 3.5-year-old 8-point with a huge body and an outside-the-ears rack. I grabbed my bow and came back to full draw and made a 12-yard shot through the pump station, and he expired inside of 60 yards.”
“I have a saying, ‘If you can kill a buck in October, you will kill a big buck in November.’ For me that has always rang true, and November is looking to be promising. Most of my larger mature bucks are still semi-nocturnal but definitely not shooting light, but they are hitting the scrapes hard. I simply just bide my time and watch the weather. Significant cold fronts and rising barometric pressures, and you better be in the woods.
“It’s shaping up to be one of the best ruts we have had in a few years, if the weather patterns stay consistent as they have been. Ideally, I expect a cold front every 10 days from the previous front with rain and a warm-up in between. Utilize your best sits if you can.
“Here’s to November and the success of every hunter taking to the woods.”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “Been kinda of a slow October in my neck of the woods. I think just the lull and tons of acorns are the culprits. I look for things to really pick up going into November. The foods sources are great, so I look for a very strong rut. The mature bucks have been very nocturnal, and I’ve had several fights on camera. The rut seems to be right on schedule for early to mid November being the strongest. I like to be in the woods as much as possible between Nov. 10-20, so get on your best food sources, preferably white oaks, and camp out. Food plots will be a good choice, also. This rut should be a dandy.”
Fayette & Meriwether Counties: Jeff Scurry, of Peachtree City, reports, “Lots of scrapes and rubs are starting to appear, especially along field edges. Acorns seem to be dropping good now, and recent rain has helped the food plots. Seeing lots of young bucks spar and push each other around a bit. Haven’t seen any mature bucks but starting to see more large rubs this past week. The cool snap seems to have deer moving more. Fayette County has an abundance of does where I’m at, which will keep mature bucks in their core areas and not having to travel much. Only heard a few shots opening weekend in both counties. I think the second week of November will be a hot week.”
Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “The weirdness of the October lull is happening. It’s a very different time of the season that seems to be frustrating, but that’s what makes hunting fun. According to cameras, the bucks have shifted their attention. They are off the food, and working toward the breeding. It makes sense that the couple months of action this time of year is a build-up of no action happening the other nine months.
“Does seem to be using food sources pretty consistently, while bucks have begun roaming all over the woods. We have heard of bucks being seen a couple miles away from where they were seen on camera during the summer. My niece, Laine Bullington, killed a buck during youth week that had been moving about 2 miles that we know of. Laine’s 220-lb. 8-pointer was a bruiser-bodied buck that we are thankful is no longer bullying the woods. My youngest niece, Lila Grace Bullington, harvested another target buck we had recently been seeing on camera in new places. Lila’s 7-pointer was another great buck to take out of the herd, as it had a malformed set of antlers and was also a mature deer. Opening afternoon of rifle season, Madeline Bullington killed a 10-pointer that was a target buck for the kids. It was a buck my youngest son, Turner Gilbert, saw two times last year, and it proved to be a good management decision as the buck grew significantly.”
“One of the bucks was taken after rattling him in and he was looking for a fight. Another buck was killed roaming around a food source harassing does who wanted nothing to do with him. These two bucks showed great signs of pre-rut activity, which hopefully means a strong rut.
“Food sources are plentiful as the acorns are just starting to fall, and food plots are perking up with the rain. Right now, it’s just dirt under the persimmon trees. It’s getting to the point where if you can find the does, the bucks will start looking hard in those areas. Rubs are everywhere, and scrapes are constantly fresh. The sign we are seeing is promising.
“With the food plots behind due to the lack of rain, we believe being in the woods or a food source near cover is a great bet. The larger plots may not be as active during daylight, but smaller plots with oaks nearby may have that target buck slip through it quickly. The beginning of the season will probably have lots of bucks not giving much more than a split second for getting a shot off.
“Last season was a tough one for our family, and we are looking forward to what this season will bring. With two of the seven kids already having success, the memories are starting to form. It should be full of many more to come and we are excited to see what will happen.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “We are still trying to get a handle on the deer movement on our new cutover that has taken place on the property. The gun opener was a success. The new either-sex changes allowed doe harvest and my employee and his buddy were successful, harvesting three does. Opening morning they saw more than 10 does cruising quickly through the edge of the new cut.
“My friend Matt Duffey also hunts in Monroe County, and he said, ‘The white oaks are finally starting to drop more consistently, but are spotty. Deer activity has been very good early a.m., and buck activity is warming up and we are starting to see signs of the seeking phase of the rut.’
“I agree with Matt. I went from seeing no acorns to some isolated patches. I probably rely too much on cameras. If I’m not seeing much activity with mature bucks, I lose some motivation to hunt. However, we have seen a few better bucks than I have on camera. I do like looking at historical photos because history does repeat itself. Many more bucks will be on their feet in the daylight hours in the next couple of weeks, there is no doubt about it, and this does get me motivated.
“It’s time to spend some hours in the woods. I’m seeing plots pop from the mid October rains, but my concern is the 14-day forecast shows no rain pending. If the plots are not up, it would be a matter of playing the topography and looking for deer trails to try and pinpoint where the cruising buck might be. I’ll be looking for new rubs and scrapes in early November. The good news with the timber cut is that it is easier to spot the bedding areas and play the wind to my advantage. I like the early part of November best but will hunt here Thanksgiving week since the kids have that week out of school. It should still be good then, too, but I might look more toward food and find the does to find the bucks.
“It’s go time, pack a lunch and spend all day in the stand if you can because you just never know when the buck dreams are made of will come cruising by this month.”
Taylor County: Greg Grimes reports, “I’ve hunted just a few times but every hunt has been a good hunt. I’ve had my target buck in range several times but although legal light I couldn’t make an ethical bow shot. The patterns for three shooters has been consistent all year going from thick cover to feeders. At the timing of the article they are changing patterns and looking for the first receptive does and showing up in new spots.
“A nearby friend was successful on the gun opener with his target buck, a mature 198-lb buck. He has seen 11 different bucks. We think the good buck-to-doe ratio has kept the bucks in bachelor groups longer into the season.
“Early this month the script will flip, and we should have some intense rut action. I hope to be spending more time in the woods Nov. 5-8 hunting longer hours with those bucks up during daylight hours seeking does. We have very few acorns and with some rain finally in mid October will hopefully have food plots coming on. My plan would be hunting downwind of the plots. The bucks should be checking those areas. The entire property is wet with early successional growth so bedding cover abounds. It will be a good challenge and a rewarding battle. There is a known 9-year-old buck I hope to put an arrow through in a couple of weeks. This month forget all the weather patterns and get out there. It’s on.”
Walton County: Xane Bennett, of Monroe, reports, “ With pre-rut phasing out, we are officially entering the lockdown phase. During this time a large percentage of does enter estrus. During the lockdown phase the rutting is so strong it may seem as if nothing is happening. In the morning hours focus on funnels leading to bedding areas and in the evenings focus on food sources, primarily focus on field edges if you are hunting a food source. Around four to seven days after the lockdown phase, we enter into peak rut which can be the most exciting time of the year.
“So far with my own experiences, as well as others I’ve talked to around the county, pre-rut has peaked as bucks are making their presence known throughout their claimed areas. Travel patterns are changing, scrapes have been spotted in droves, and does are becoming more and more skittish. Within the next couple weeks I expect to continuously spot bucks running does. I have seen numerous bucks already sniffing and following does through cover. There is still an abundance of acorns on the ground, which may cause deer to change travel patterns from time to time.
“Prioritize your stand locations whether it’s based off sign, elevation or food sources, wind almost always plays a factor into all of this. Try not to burn out your best locations too early! Enjoy the most exciting part of the season and hunt safely!”
Cook County: Josh Blackston, of Adel, reports, “The rut in my neck of the woods is starting to trickle in. Me and the boy hunted the evening of the 22nd and watched a small buck cruising. The next three weeks are probably gonna be good as gets, and we can’t wait. Wyatt managed to kill his first deer, a big ol’ doe, on youth opener. Now we are in search of his first buck, and with the rut coming in we are hopeful.
“I have observed a few nice deer hit on the road, and that tells me it’s in the verge of busting loose. As October ends and November arrives, the Blackston boys are looking forward to most wonderful time of the year. Movement has been a little slow leading up to November, but on my spots that’s about normal. The past couple of days, trail-camera pics have had a few ‘fast-moving’ pics… I can almost hear the grunting and smell the ol’ rutted up buck!”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “As we are gearing up for all the rut activity, things are starting to heat up around our neck of the woods. The deer are wearing out the scrape lines and rubbing every tree in the area. Bucks are up and moving early morning, mostly right before daylight, but some have ventured out in the early morning daylight. I captured two mature bucks on my trail camera having a little head-butting match. Cool series of photos.
“We planted our food plots just in time for a good soaking rain, and they are looking good. The deer are already eating them down. Hopefully they will last throughout the season. We have a few acorns and the deer will take care of them quickly. There are still lots of persimmons on the trees, and the deer know where they are.
“Opening weekend for gun season seemed to be productive around our area. I’ve seen and read about some great bucks taken and a good amount of does. We saw a few does and one small buck opening morning, they came out after 8 a.m. I had a doe feed through a food plot at 9 and then she bedded down 30 yards from my stand for an hour and then left.
“I hope you all get a chance to get out and get some hunting done. I don’t always see deer every time I go, but it’s always good to be outdoors. Sometimes just sitting, listening and learning. Hunt safe, and God Bless!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “The combination youth/muzzleloader week in Harris County this season was better than many recent ones due to cooler temperatures, clear skies and white oak acorns beginning to fall. It was definitely good to see so many young hunters taking either their first deer or their first buck during this special week. Unfortunately, although the weather continued to cooperate through the opening weekend of firearms season with cool mornings and mild afternoons, the deer in most cases did not. The majority of deer movement seen that weekend occurred during the last few minutes of afternoon daylight, and even that consisted almost entirely of does, fawns and immature bucks.
“We finally were able to get all of the cool season food plots on the properties I hunt planted during the first half of October. A plot which I planted early in the month on a small, private tract was put in the ground and fertilized just before the only October rain we had, and it’s already growing and getting hammered by the local deer herd. On the flip side, we planted all of the annual food plots at my hunting club during the second week of October with rain in the forecast. That rain came to some parts of Harris County, but not to our hunting lease, so those seeds continue to sit in the ground waiting for rain to germinate them. At this late date, and with the current high cost of fertilizer, we’re waiting to fertilize those plots until we determine whether or not it will be worth it, especially since the average first frost of the Fall in Harris County occurs on Nov. 9. On a more positive note, the white oak trees which produced an acorn crop this year are actually dropping more acorns than I expected, but many white oak trees produced few if any acorns this year. During your in-season scouting sessions, it’ll be important to locate the productive white oak trees, and to also determine what the red oak trees are doing related to acorn production on your hunting property, so you’ll be ready for the latter half of deer season.
“As most deer hunters know, the rut (breeding) occurs at the same time each year, every year. In Harris County, due to various deer stockings done many years ago, this timing varies from east to west across the county throughout the month of November (see the GON Rut Map in the October issue on online). Peak breeding occurs in the eastern part of Harris County in mid-November, then progresses later in the month moving westward, occurring in late November (usually Thanksgiving week) closer to the Chattahoochee River. The best hunting—think cruising/seeking/chasing—usually happens seven to 10 days prior to peak breeding. So, for Harris County in general, hunting during the first half of November will be as good as it gets. Experience on a given property is invaluable, because the ‘best days’ —assuming the weather cooperates—will generally repeat themselves year after year on that same property. But if I had little to no experience on a Harris County property, and I had to pick one week this year to take vacation from work to go deer hunting, it would be Nov. 4-12. Still, I won’t get discouraged if I haven’t killed one of my target bucks by the time the lock-down period occurs on my properties in mid-November, because I’ve killed some of my biggest bucks in the latter half of this magical month—even on Thanksgiving morning before a family feast!”
Macon County: David Keene, of Oglethorpe, reports, “My 12-year-old grandson took a doe with his crossbow. I took a 150-lb. boar with my muzzleloader on Friday, Oct. 20. Opening day of gun season I had three mature does come in at 9:30 and took the largest. While I was field-dressing her, a 250-lb. boar ran in to help me. I changed his mind and he will not help me anymore. One of my grandsons took five more hogs and pigs opening afternoon. We have taken a little over 60 hogs out in the past three months and have not slowed them down.
“White oak acorns were sounding like popcorn popping on opening morning when they were hitting the ground. Water oaks are dropping, also. We were afraid that we would not have a good crop for deer season because of the high winds we had from on of the last hurricanes that passed through. The ground was covered with green acorns afterwards.
“We saw a few bucks during bow season, but most are still showing up in the middle of the night on my cameras. Several rub lines are popping up. Hoping to see the bucks out in the daylight in the next few weeks. Y’all be safe out there. One of my friends in Marshallville had two of his dogs bitten by timber rattlers last week. Good luck.”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “The gun hunters had some beautiful weather for opening day and some good bucks hit the ground, but I haven’t even been in the same zip code as one far as I know. I have a good buck starting to dog a doe a little bit, but it’s at night. I think the rut will hit here on schedule like around the first and second week of November, especially if the cool weather stays.
“The white oaks are hitting the ground on the trees that have them, so it’s getting right. And the rain hit when we needed it, so it’s looking good for the first rut. I’m gonna start tickling some antlers together next week to see what will happen and throw some grunts and wheezes at them to get them stirred up. It might only work one time out of a hundred, but when it does it’s awesome.
“The season just started and it just flies by, so enjoy it while it’s here because one day will be the last day you ever go. Next month maybe I’ll have some pics to show of mine, but if I don’t get one and you do, give me a call and I’ll be glad to put it on here. I love seeing big bucks no matter who takes them.
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