Hot, Dry And Big Georgia Bucks For Archery Opener
GON's Hunt Advisor team reports from across the state.
Georgia hunters who got to the woods for opening morning of bow season were greeted with an unseasonable cool morning. Well, that was just a tease. Since then it’s been brutally hot and dry.
Food plot seed that went in the ground is feeding the crows unless you were lucky to get pop-up thunderstorms, one to get the seed germinated and then another to give the plants enough water to get them growing. Many hunters are still waiting to plant, looking at the weather forecast and a good chance of rain.
Acorns are always key for October deer, and an early dropping white oak or northern red oak will be a hotspot for does, and also for mature bucks that begin to lay down sign and get frisky.
GON has a great team of deer-hunting experts across the state, and here are their reports on the opening week of archery season and how the woods are looking in their areas.
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “Just came off the stand and sat down at the computer to write this article. Well, bow season has been somewhat slow up to now. Seeing some deer early and right at dark. The full moon has been a factor, and so has the hot and dry conditions in north Cherokee and probably all over the state. Seeing does with little ones on the milk and some young bucks. We have some good bucks on camera but all at night.
“Thermacell working good on the bugs but hadn’t figured out a way to keep the sweat from rolling. This will go down as one of the hottest Septembers in history with the 90s common most every day. While we are on the weather, how about moving bow season to first of October and gun season first of November? I try to attend every DNR meeting and talk up that change. I get a lot of support at the meetings.
“Now back to bow season. No food plots planted, turkey would eat all the seed and nothing would come up any way with zero rain. Persimmons should start falling good next week, according to trees local. Acorn drop still two weeks out. Some have fallen from wind, but the ones I have checked are no good.
“Hey, I still love bow season and get out there every opportunity. Haven’t walked in woods that much, but have noticed a few ‘get the velvet off rubs.’ We have seen plenty of deer, and could have taken some does and small bucks but holding off a little while longer. Now I don’t know how much longer, we ate our last deer burgers about two weeks ago, and that plus itchy trigger finger may cause something to go down.
“We’re going to keep at it, and hope y’all do, as well. Maybe next month we can turn the corner and have some more positive info. Until then, HUNT ON!”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “This is my fourth sit of the season as I sit here in a ground blind on the morning of Sept. 23. This morning has been just like the previous three, very slow. Saw two mature does and a yearling very early, but that’s been it. It’s been about as slow a start to a season in the 14 years I’ve been living and hunting in the county. I think if we could get some rain, and cooler temps, it would certainly help, but there’s no chance of that in the foreseeable future.
“I did trap some of the hogs that had invaded my property, and the ones that I didn’t catch seem to have left the area for now.
“The muscadines are gone, and persimmons are dropping a few fruit. Water oaks are loaded and dropping quiet a few, but the white and red oaks are holding on to their acorns a little more, but they are dropping some. We put 1,700 pounds of seed in the ground on Sept. 14, and I feel like we may have done it all for nothing with the way the weather is shaping up. I would have preferred waiting until mid October with the way the weather is shaping up.
“The deer are moving more at night. Most of my trail-cam pictures are at night, and I’m watching them feed in my front yard at night by the flood lights. But of course there has been a very full moon, and the night temperatures have been pretty nice.
“Buck activity has picked up. I’m starting to find some rubs, and they are making a lot of scrapes. I will continue to try to get in the woods a couple of afternoons a week, but most of my hunts will be on weekend mornings until we have some weather changes, preferably rain. I will say this though, with the weather as bad as it’s been, there have been some incredible bucks taken already. I hope that is a positive sign of things to come.”
North Fulton County: Lee Ellis, of Atlanta reports, “The acorn crop this year is insane in Fulton, and the deer are crushing them. They have transitioned off of kudzu and are focusing more on acorns. Right now they seem to still be lingering around their summer areas within a mile or so but becoming less frequent.
“Have had a lot of deer ‘vanish’ as they always seem to do this time of year. This is usually when moving cameras can help relocate where some of these bucks have moved to.
“In the coming weeks I believe bucks will really start to move into the areas they plan to rut. Putting cameras on mock scrapes is what my mind goes to in October. They start to get real territorial of active scrapes, and that can be the ticket to having a target buck come in to your setup. The buck I just took was defending a couple mock scrapes I had put in, which I think helped hold him in my area as opposed to others.”
Fayette County: Jeff Scurry, of Fayetteville, reports, “The archery season opener was good as far as deer numbers and sightings in my area. Lots of does and bucks were seen even with the heat and full moon.
“Bachelor groups are now starting to break up, with the mature bucks traveling more solo based on my trail-camera footage. Starting to see lots of scrapes this week, mainly around food sources and field edges. Food source is primarily red oaks and muscadines.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “We have had no appreciable rain here going on two months. As of writing this, the 15-day forecast has the best chance at 25% one day. This little drought is driving our food source options, which dictates how we will hunt in October.
“The muscadines and persimmons dried up on the tree and are out as a food source option. We have found very few white oaks and only a few red oaks acorns that have fallen to the ground. As usual, there’s early droppings of water oaks. Our property is mostly hardwoods, and this is limiting at this time because the food plots cannot be planted.
“Here is some advice if you’re planting like we are with oats, rye, wheat, chicory, clover and brassica. You need to wait and not plant around Labor Day. This year I had planned to plant in late September, but it looks like because the lack of rain in the forecast it will be October. This obviously will limit the amount of hunting we can do in October over food plots, but it should provide nutrition all the way through next spring. Seed won’t germinate without moisture, but if sitting there for weeks, birds might eat them all up.
“With the lack of acorns and food plots we have set up a couple of new feeders in hopes of pulling in deer for the Oct. 12 youth opener. Many people know Oct. 12 as the muzzleloader opener, however in counties like Monroe where there’s no doe harvest in the early season, this is our preferred day for kids. The youth can use a rifle and take a doe, and we plan to have kids come in to harvest does that weekend.
“Baiting can push nocturnal deer to that pattern even more, but it also has the advantage concentrating deer for closer shots and observation. This is important for young hunters trying to ID a small buck or button versus a doe. Come later in the month with some prayers answered we will have had some rain and the food plots will quickly pop up. We will hunt travel corridors along the river getting to the food plots. Then we will hunt evening sets over the plots. The rut should be kicking in by end of the month. Good luck everyone, get out there and enjoy His creation.”
Rockdale County: John Stanley, of Lawrenceville, “Despite the heat and severe lack of rain, it’s been a pretty good start to the 2019 bow season in Rockdale County. As I write this on the 22nd, we’ve killed several deer, including two nice bucks on our club. It seems that temperature changes as small as 5 or 10 degrees, especially when paired with lower humidity makes a significant difference in deer movement. A good friend of mine with 60 years of deer hunting experience says the hot weather affects the hunters much more than the deer. He has a point.
“Our club does not allow baiting during the season, and we have postponed putting in food plots until the conditions are more favorable, so it’s been all about natural food sources to this point. The muscadines I found were gone weeks ago, and for some reason the persimmon crop is not up to par. Some trees that were loaded last year yielded little or no fruit this year. Water oaks and northern red oaks began falling a couple of weeks prior to the season and became the primary food source. Northern red oaks are a big draw for deer and can be a key spot to set up early in the season until the white oaks start to hit the ground.
“There are variables that play into which trees begin to produce and when, so it pays to spend time in the woods with binoculars, looking and listening. I’ve found a couple of ridges where the white oak trees are dropping significantly ahead of the others, and the deer are all over them. I found fresh rubs several weeks ago, and they’re starting to show up on a fairly regular basis. Late September is the time of year that the bachelor groups break up for good, and individual bucks will begin heading to their fall areas and disappear from where they’ve been all summer.
“The deer population seems to be healthy and strong in Rockdale; we have lots of fawns and a good cross section of young to mature bucks. Our deer kill numbers have been down a bit the last couple of years, but it looks like 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year.”
Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Bishop, reports, “It’s hot and dry! We are seeing a lot of good bucks on camera and a few on the stand. Deer are moving a couple hours in the morning and the last hour before dark. We have held off on planting given the heat and dry weather. Hopefully temperatures will drop, and we will get some rain early October. We are planting the end of September. Acorn trees are loaded in some areas and bare in others.
“I plan on hunting near water, small creeks or branches as long as it’s dry and hot. Try finding some acorns or place corn in remote areas a few days or a week before you hunt. I’ll throw some out in briars and spread it out just to draw deer into a remote area. Try to place it below the stand where you will not be walking.
“Let’s hope for some cool, cool weather and rain.”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “Well, it sure has been hot! Our son David had the opportunity to hunt on those first few cooler mornings. He saw a couple of does, but they didn’t present a clean shot. It seems that bow season has started off slow. On Sunday morning the 22nd, he watched some gobbling and strutting turkeys, and two does that seemed interested in what the turkeys were fussing about and went to check them out.
“We have not been able to get any food plots planted yet. It’s so dry that we are afraid it would be a waste of time and seed. Hopefully it will start cooling off some, and we will get some much needed rain. There are a few acorns, but they are not falling yet. The persimmons are plentiful and all over the ground, there are still lots of green ones and should last for a while longer, well into gun season. The persimmons are a good food source for us.
“I have a camera on video mode and have been watching a scrape line all summer. I think every deer on our property, bucks and does, has visited the scrape that I have the camera on. It’s interesting to watch the deer interact with each other and how they use the scrape and the licking branch. I have had two small bucks on video sparing already. All of the bucks we have seen have lost all the velvet. We are starting to see a few rubbed trees. I am ready for October bucks, cooler weather, and some time in my stands.
“Hope you all have a safe and eventful October. God Bless!”
Early County: Sam Klement, founder of Good Outdoor Technologies and member of PSE and Realtree pro hunting teams, reports, “With the cold front on opening weekend creating a temperature change swing of 35 degrees, our deer were feeling frisky and moving very well in the mornings. I have had reports coming in from local buddies that they too are seeing and getting shot opportunities on some pretty solid P&Y contenders.
“With a combination of drought conditions and timing, our pin oaks and red oaks are starting to drop, and it looks like we will have a bumper crop this year. Our white oaks will more than likely drop a little earlier as well this year, and they too look very full. Our soft mast of muscadines and persimmons have been dropping and are a great place to focus on early season hunts. Our local farmers have also started to harvest their peanuts, and the deer should be frequenting these turned and picked peanut fields in the evenings and after dark. It is way too dry to even think about planting our food plots. We have most mowed and disced and are simply waiting on some wet weather to go in and re-disc and plant.
“My hunts so far have been primarily focused on hunting relatively thicker areas approximately 300 to 500 yards behind peanut fields. I concentrate on timber changes made of thick bedding locations and a mix of upland pines and hardwoods with a few dropping persimmon trees. I love to focus on the thicker spots with highly sought-after food in the least availability, such as persimmons.
“This past Friday, Sept. 20, my strategy paid off. After walking and parking a fairly long distance away from my hunting spot, I made my way in the darkness and got perched up with a good 30 to 40 minutes prior to daylight. I was hoping I could catch some deer that had been feeding on peanuts at night—and maybe bedded off the field— that would get up at just before daylight and work their way back to the creek bottoms and thicker areas to bed up for the day.
“When walking in and within bow distance of my stand, I always like to spray a little of the Voo Doo on nearby branches and the ground, and then once in my tree I spray a little bit more in the cap of the Voo Doo and sling over my hunting area. This is the only cover scent or attractant I use all season. I have yet to have a deer spook at this stuff.
“So as the sun was breaking, I heard what sounded like deer walking my way. As I strained my eyes, I could see an outline of a buck with a nice rack smelling my Voo Doo. This deer stayed around for approximately 5 minutes and kept coming back to the sprayed branches. Unfortunately, he ended up walking into the thicker brush before legal shooting light and before I was able to determine if he was a shooter buck. As the songbirds started to wake up, I caught movement and could see multiple deer walking down a bush hogged lane toward my setup. My heart just about exploded when I realized this was a parade of nice bucks!
“I went to full draw, expecting to get a shot as the first deer stepped into my lane. He was a good deer, but out of the corner of my eye I could see that the other deer looked a little bigger, and one Hammer Nocker dwarfed the group, a very mature deer with guessing a 140- to 150-inch rack.
“I decided to pass on my deer and was hoping the rest of the group would walk the same trail. Unfortunately, the group veered off on another trail, and I could see their racks heading off to a thick creek bottom. I ended up seeing no other deer. I did see a flock of hen turkeys and a large bobcat. It was a great way to start the season! In my younger days I would have been very upset for not shooting the buck I had drawn on. The older I get, the more I really don’t weigh my hunt’s success by killing, but rather take pride in the incredible hunt and knowing my stands I placed up last season are in the right spots. History will repeat itself, and this stand will eventually pay off.
“My strategy moving forward really won’t change much. I will start to utilize my horns and grunt calls more as the deer start to get a little more frisky now as they have shed their velvet.
“Good luck to my fellow southwest Georgia hunters. Hunt hard, and enjoy the Good Lord’s amazing critters, sunsets and sunrises! Huntin’ is Good!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “The first couple of weeks of bow season in Harris County continued to be extremely hot and dry, just like the weeks leading up to them. Daytime deer movement has been impacted because of it, but probably not as much as the ‘movement’ of the hunters pursuing them! It’s just too hot for a lot of deer hunters to venture into the woods right now, but that will change over the next few weeks as we get some rain and the days begin to cool off.
“I reported in this space last month that the white and red oak acorn crops on the properties I hunt in Harris County were looking to be spotty at best this season, and additional scouting over the past month has provided confirmation of that. Additionally, due to the complete lack of rain on our properties for many weeks, we still haven’t been able to plant a single fall/winter food plot yet, but there’s still time to get them in. At this point, our hope is to get sufficient rain to get the seeds in the ground by mid-October, which will still provide time to grow good late-season killing fields. That should especially be true this year since the acorn crop will be so sparse, resulting in food plots being a primary food source over the course of the entire season—provided the hunting pressure on them is managed appropriately.
“The deer, and especially the bucks, are continuing to hit our supplemental feeding stations hard, just as they did throughout the summer months. We usually see a decrease in activity at these stations when the acorns start falling, but that hasn’t been, and likely won’t be, the case this year due to the shortage in acorn production.
“So, bottom line, if you have a deer feeder running, or can get a food plot planted and growing, both of those locations should be good options to spend a good amount of time this deer season. At least on the Harris County properties I hunt, I won’t be spending much time in my favorite hardwood bottoms. The exception to that will be if I’ve identified a hardwood area as a buck travel corridor, especially one that’s used during the November rut. But that discussion is for next month—when it’s hopefully much cooler! Good hunting!”
Laurens/Wilkinson County: Tim Knight, of Dublin, reports, “I have seen and heard of several good bucks being taken, along with a few does. I personally have seen several deer. All the big does I have seen still have yearlings with faint spots on them, and I don’t like to orphan them that young. I have also had a slam dunk on a 120-inch plus mature 8-point on a trophy managed bow-only lease. It was decided to give him another year to see what he becomes. It has been hot and extremely dry this season, and I have hunted and seen deer on water sources. I spent most of Saturday with my binoculars checking oak trees for mast. I found several pin, water and white oaks that were loaded, but they are still green and a few weeks away from turning and dropping. Many hunters who were getting velvet bucks on camera have seen their bucks go amiss after shedding their velvet. They turn into a different critter when the velvet cones off. I won’t go near my good spots till after mid October. With the food sources changing almost on a weekly basis now the deer will be difficult to pattern until the acorn drop starts. Oak flats and hammocks that are now void of much sign will turn into hot spots soon. This is where your homework comes in. Bottle necks, funnels and pinch-points between known bedding areas and food sources will be my go to game plan late-mid October. My favorite strategy is to slip in close to known bedding areas in the afternoon and rattle with the antlers on a string, grunt and snort wheeze to lure in a buck. And speaking of lure, I have had great success using Voo-Doo deer lure. Not only is it an attractant, it’s a great cover scent. I use it a lot when hog hunting in the off season to keep the hogs from smelling me. Good luck to everyone this season.
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Wow talk about hot weather, we had it. Add no rain for months and a full moon and it ain’t good. I’ve been in a tree morning and evening since it came in and I couldn’t find a deer until a doe tried to slip by me on the 19th at my favorite WMA. Made a good shot with my new Obsession bow that my granddaughter had a hand in building, being she works there, and she ran only 50 yards. Not too many people around here are hunting because of the heat, but my cousin Keith Smith killed a doe on the 15th. My granddaughter Shaye Grimes had to go all the way to Hancock County with her boyfriend to kill her first ever with a bow, a nice 8-point to start her year off. She has turned into a killing machine, along with my youngest daughter Laci. Together they help this old man fill the freezers. The grapes were gone opening day, but crabapples are good to great, and some red oaks and chestnuts are falling due to no rain and this heat I think. I watched a young spike eat pokeberries the evening before I killed the doe, and he had plenty to eat on. We have got to have relief from this heat and surely need a bunch of rain or this year might top the last one for being too hot during the best time to hunt. Water holes will play a big part in my hunting strategy in the coming weeks if it doesn’t change. Good bucks are being killed though from the pictures in the Truck-Buck, so it can be done in this heat. I just haven’t figured it out yet. My cameras aren’t giving me any hope as of yet, but I know that will change when the weather breaks. I’ve been seeing some fawns with their moms while driving around, so the census is good in that area. Now just need to see those bucks get up and about and start rubbing and pawing and grunting and you get the picture. Good luck everyone. Hope to be beside you shooting for a truck soon.”
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