Hot Food Sources, Buck Activity Across the State
Food is still key in most parts of the state, and October means falling acorns. Many of GON's Hunt Advisors are reporting good acorn crops.
For some of us, it’s just too dang hot to get serious about bowhunting the second week of September in Georgia, but we’ve been blessed with some stellar mornings and unseasonably cool temperatures this season. Comfortable conditions show in the results — lots of deer seen and some nice bucks killed.
The month’s reports from our Hunt Advisors look at current conditions in the woods and how they will affect the hunting this month. The keys to good hunting right now are the reports on food sources — especially acorns — and when rutting activity is expected to get started.
Here are this month’s reports:
Bartow County: Tyler Price, of Rome, reports, “With all the soft mast pretty much gone in Bartow, deer have been traveling farther for food more during daylight than in years past. This is probably due to a lack of rain and poor food in the early season. The white oaks are going to be a great place to hunt by the middle of October. The rain and wind near the end of September helped the red oaks and water oaks start dropping a few acorns. As soon as the acorns start falling, I will look to be either hunting a stand of oaks or travel routes leading out of the oaks to bedding areas in the mornings, or coming to them from bedding in the evenings. We had a mature buck killed on the property I hunt during September. It was using travel routes between the food and bed just after daylight. Food plots will still be seeing doe activity, but bucks should be found feeding up on fatty acorns in preparation for the rut. In southwest Bartow County, pre-rutting activity should heat up the last week of October, with scrapes and rubs being the first sign in the third week of the month. Full-on chasing could begin the last few days of October to the first or second week of November.”
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, said, “As I reported last month, I planted soybeans the last week in August, and due to lack of rain, turkeys and possible bad seed, none came up. I plowed and replanted last week a fall mix of wheat, oats, winter peas, clover, turnips, kale and rape. We are getting rain this week — should be good. White oaks are not falling good yet.”
Dawson County: Tim Dangar reports, “I planted a small-woods food plot with wheat, oats, winter peas and clover in the Amicalola Falls area the last week in August. It is doing great, and the deer are hammering it. I took a doe on Thursday, Sept. 15 in the evening. I inspected the contents of the stomach as I always do, and it revealed mostly green browse and very few acorns. I’ve been hunting Dawson Forest WMA on the Wildcat Creek tract. Squirrels are cutting a few acorns, and the bear, deer and hogs seem to be waiting on every one that hits the ground. I would suggest not leaving the food plots for the oak woods yet.”
Floyd County: Tyler Price reports, “Thanks to the rain, things have really greened up. We were able to get in some early season food plots, and the deer have really been using them well. There are still a few persimmons left on trees that are being checked by deer regularly. This food source should continue for the next few weeks. The red oaks and water oaks that were loaded this summer are starting to turn and should be falling the first week of October, and the white oaks should fall around mid-October. When deer sightings slow way down on your food plots or soft mast, it’s a good bet the acorns are hitting the ground and deer have found them. Look for the rutting activity in northeast Floyd to kick up around the last two weeks of October. Scrapes and rubs could start showing up as early as the second week of October, with full-out chasing by the end of the month. I look for the most chasing activity around the 22nd to 29th. In southeast Floyd, the rut will not kick up until the second or third weeks of November. The week of Thanksgiving could be the hot week for chasing. Colder weather will play a part into how much daytime activity there is during the rut. The colder weather, even on windy days after fronts, should be good bets.”
Fulton County (North): Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “We had four of us out on opening morning in north Fulton and extreme southern Cherokee near the line. I was hunting an oak flat where some white oaks started dropping last week near a swamp. I had a buck come under me at 6:40 a.m., and at 6:50 I could have smoked a doe but was not 100 percent it was a mature doe. A buddy got his about 8:05 a.m. and won our sandwich bet. I texted him congrats and looked up the hill, and here came a doe. I Finally got a shot about 8:15 a.m. Our other buddy was hunting a food plot near a river and saw eight and shot one, but they could not find it. Both Jason’s and my doe were the exact same weight at 124 pounds and 4 years old. His was a super fat gray mama, and mine was red and long. He shot his on a travel corridor between fields. There was lots of deer movement early due to cool weather. It’s been perfect with very little wind also.”
Gilmer County: Michael Davis reports, “The acorns are still falling, and that is where you’ll find the deer. I would listen for the rain of acorns and hunt close to that tree. As for the rut in Gilmer County, there was rut activity very late in the year last year. Even after the season there were well-maintained scrapes into February. I look for a rut in late November to early December.”
Gordon County: Tyler Price said, “A lot of corn fields were being cut late in September. These are hotspots for the week or two after they harvest and should carry you through until the acorns really start to drop. With the exception of red oaks, which have already started falling pretty good in some areas, acorns should fall similarly to Floyd and Bartow counties. For now, deer seem to prefer cut corn fields and food plots over the red oaks that are falling.”
Lumpkin/Dawson counties: Richard Von Scherr, of Dawsonville, reports, “Acorns are beginning to drop in abundance. Also, recent good rains along with the cooling temperatures make the time right for planting fall food plots. Deer activity during the last two weeks has been sparse due to moon phase. Our expectation is that the rut in the north Georgia mountains will be a bit later — typically begins the last week of November. We have not yet seen any rutting behaviors such as scrapes.”
Oglethorpe County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “I have been in the woods six times so far this bow season, and I have seen deer every time. The fewest I’ve seen is three. I have yet to see a buck, but I am finding a good bit of buck sign — a lot of scrapes and rubs. I don’t think it’s a sign of an early rut. I just think the cooler nights have stirred them a little. The water oak acorns are starting to fall a little but not the white and red. The small red oak acorns I found before the season have matured to the size of a good-sized water oaks. I look for all the acorns to be dropping pretty good by the first two weeks of October. I planted some food plots earlier in September, and the rain we got the last week of September should really help. I look for the rut to come around about the same time in our area, between Nov. 5 and 15.”
John Seginak, of Comer, said in Oglethorpe County the red oaks are dropping like crazy, and the white oaks have just begun. “Most deer in our area have been leaving the bean fields for the acorns,” John said. “Persimmons are still hanging on most of the trees. We’re seeing deer every hunt, but more in the afternoons than in the mornings. Lots of rubs, but no scraping activity so far.”
Polk County: Michael Davis reports, “On our hunting club we do not have many hardwood trees, but we are bordered by hardwood trees. We haven’t seen as many deer as usual, so we think they are hanging in there with the acorns. We have got a lot of pictures of does in the food plots, but the big boys have not shown themselves yet. We plant a clover blend and buck forage oats for the most part, and it does us well. The rut is usually around Thanksgiving, but last year it was a couple of weeks early, and it was a great one for a week or so. Then it faded away by Thanksgiving. So I look for the primary rut to be around the second week of November. Remember to not disturb your hunting area too much, and keep your deer comfy.”
Rabun County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “My brother and I took a scouting trip Sept. 20 to Chattahoochee National Forest land. What a difference a year makes. Last year the acorns and autumn olives were loaded. This year no olives and scattered acorns. The national forest food plots are overgrown, but I spoke with the field supervisor for that area, and he said he had contracted someone to bushhog the plots this month.”
Crawford County: Randy Kee, of Griffin, reports, “Acorns, acorns, acorns! They’re absolutely everywhere. We have white oaks, water oaks and swamp chestnut oaks that are raining acorns. With so many trees dropping acorns, it’s tough to pinpoint the one that will produce a good bow shot for you. Get out and do a little scouting, and you will find the trees that are getting the most attention. I recently located a few that had trails worn to the dirt leading in to them, while others just yards away seemed to lack any sign of feeding.
The food plots that were planted in September are struggling to say the least. Very little rain has fallen since planting, and I’m afraid the turkeys have eaten most of the seed by now. Chances are, we’ll be replanting our food plots around the first of October. Good news is that there’s plenty of acorns to hunt while the food plots grow.
Rut sign is still scarce, but rubs are beginning to show up, and along with scrapes, will become more numerous as October progresses. By the last week of October, the bucks should be cruising and spending a lot of time on their feet. Stay close to that hot food source as they check it for that first hot doe of the season.”
South Fulton County: Alton Powell, of Chattahoochee Hills, reports, “The water oaks, pin oaks, and other small oaks are still green. I haven’t observed very many white oak acorns yet. But I do see a little bit of evidence of rooting around under the trees. This could be turkeys or armadillos instead of deer. I noticed crabapples have all fallen, and the apples are just beginning to come in. There are still a few pears in some of the old trees in some of the homesteads. I see activity still around the green kudzu patches and along the creeks. I visited a local deer processor, and it looks like the belly contents are still mostly green material. I can’t discover any new muscadines, so I assume they are about gone. In my area, it seems to be a transitional time between hot summer forage and the fall droppings of acorns from the hardwoods. It seems to be a short time before the main acorn drop. So I would think it is a toss up as to where to put your climber at this time, but that will change shortly. I’m seeing young fawns without spots, so that is a good indication. We got a little bit of rain in this area, so maybe that will help the upcoming acorn crop. I have seen a few young bucks partly out of velvet.”
Jones County: Alex Bass, of Gray, reports, “Well we finally got enough rain to mention. Now maybe we can put some seed in the dirt. My son, Hunter, and I went out and waded through the seed ticks on Sept. 25. On top of getting in some quality time together, we found that the persimmons are looking like the hot spot at this time. The white oaks are beginning to fall, although they are small, I’m sure the deer will be all over them soon. I’m sure there will be plenty on the ground by the time this goes to print. If you were lucky enough to get a plot in and up for early season hunting, then I would suggest using it! The forage in the woods seems to be disappearing very quickly; I would assume because of the lack of rain. The past week deer seem to have been moving more in the mid-day and late evening. But that changes continuously. You just have get out there and figure out when your deer are moving the most to give yourself a better chance to see them.
Speaking of seeing more deer, I can tell you how to do just that. Walk and sit. Walk farther and sit longer. These two things will increase your chances more than any product you can buy. I don’t mean you have to walk farther into the woods, just farther from your truck or ATV. I’m convinced most people drive way to close to their hunting area. I used to be just that way myself. And I used to say you can’t take him sitting on the couch, but I now understand some folks have couches in their tree-house stands! Nothing wrong with that. If you don’t have a comfortable stand, then go buy one, borrow one or build one. It helps. One other thing I would suggest is applying a good cover scent or neutralizer before and after that long walk. I personally like Head Hunter Scents’ Humus cover scent. I’ve been using it for years and have found it to be very helpful. I hope everyone has a safe and prosperous October. Maybe next month I will have a picture to back up my advice.”
Meriwether County: Phillip Harper, of Luthersville, reports, “Acorns are the key right now. Water oaks started early, and white oaks are dropping now. Our white oak acorns are smaller this year, but the deer are walking past other food sources to get to them. Food plots have also been productive for evening hunts as soft mast begins to play out.
Cooler weather has made for great pre-rut activity. Bucks are traveling alone and laying down some good sign. Look for rub lines to determine travel routes bucks are using. We will continue to key on acorns, especially white oaks, and trails between bedding areas and food plots for the next few weeks. If temps stay cool, expect some great rut activity by the end of this month.”
Jason Swindle, of Carrollton, reports, “With the cooling temperatures this month, we have been seeing more deer movement during daylight hours. Trail cams have caught some mature bucks moving through the mornings. Also, we have seen some hens with three and four poults, which is great news for this year’s hatch. The pin oaks are starting to drop. I am hunting the stands in the hardwoods near the largest pin oak trees and am seeing deer consistently in the mornings. White oaks are dropping too. Persimmons have not dropped yet but are close. Crabapples are still hanging as well. It seems the rut on our land in Meriwether, which is about 4 miles from the Troup County line, hits between Nov. 7 and Nov. 18. This has been consistent year after year. I expect the same this year, barring any significantly unusual weather patterns.”
Rockdale County: John Stanley, of Lawrenceville, reports, “The hottest food source right now is red and water oak acorns, with reds getting the nod if you can find them. You’ll know when you find the hot trees as the ground will be littered with fresh droppings. The muscadines are gone, persimmons aren’t quite ready and food plots, at least ours, are virtually non-existent since it hasn’t rained! The white oak crop looks good, but there are only a few on the ground right now. Give it a couple of weeks, and the deer will really be flocking to the white oak ridges. I don’t know if these incidents indicate a potential early or strong rut, but a buddy on my club killed a nice 8-pointer opening morning that was tending scrapes, and his hocks were slightly stained. Another friend a few miles away saw a mature 8-pointer chasing does this past weekend. It will be interesting to see if there is any substantial early rut activity around the new moon on Sept. 27 and full moon Oct. 12.”
Rockdale/Henry counties: Eric Hall reports, “We had a fair opening weekend in Henry and Rockdale counties. Just about everyone saw deer but mainly does and yearling bucks. The deer were on acorns early in the morning and at almost dark every evening. There is plenty of sign everywhere, and if the temps will fall we should start seeing more deer during daylight hours. Most of the trail-cam pics are still at night. Bucks are already making rubs on small tress. We expect the rut to be the first week of November. That has been the date for the last several years.
Tyler Bertschin, of McDonough, reports, “This season has started off unseasonably hot, making it difficult to hunt, and the seed ticks aren’t too much help either. We have seen a lot of pictures on our trail cameras, with many more bucks than last year. There also seems to be a much larger amount of acorns falling. After hunting out of an old stand this past weekend, I would encourage everyone to make sure all their straps and stands are secure so we can all have a safe and fun hunting season.”
Walton County: Dwayne Britt, of Grayson, reports, “We are seeing plenty of deer activity mostly around acorns. I’ve noticed several white oaks holding the larger acorns, and this should be really good in the next few weeks just prior to the rut. Our food plots appear to have finally gotten the much needed rain over the past week, and the iron clay peas mixed into our fall plots should become a favorite in the next couple of weeks if we don’t have an early frost. We have several nice bucks on camera, and one member had a shooter just out of range with his bow.
The buck sign is just getting started with rubs and scrapes, and if history repeats itself we should start seeing the young bucks chasing in late October. I try to not shoot any does until after Thanksgiving once the young bucks start chasing. Several things need to come into play at this point. Don’t compromise the bedding areas if the wind is not right, even if it’s a great morning. Get between the bedding areas and food sources if possible, and look for crossroads where deer have several trails crossing. Pay attention to what’s been going on in October with the amount of does you see and where. If your food source is close to the bedding area, don’t be afraid to get in there if the wind is right. If I’m hunting near the bedding area, I will take a rake into the area during the middle of the day a few days before hunting and rake my trail out. Don’t try to be quiet if you can’t avoid noisy leaves going to the stand. Take some extra time to get to the stand, and try to sound like a deer walking on your toes and stopping every 10 to 15 yards. Last year I took a 133-inch 10-pointer on Nov. 8, and the year before I took a 134-inch 12-pointer on Nov. 6. Both deer were in rut, but neither were following does. I took both near the bedding areas later in the morning. If the weather cooperates, I’m guessing we’ll see the strongest rut activity between Nov. 7 and 11.”
Camden County: Bo Russell, of St. Simons, reports, “Down here on the coast the pre-rut is already in full swing. Right on schedule, the bucks shed their velvet and started scraping the last week of August. Despite drought conditions all summer, there is a larger than normal persimmon crop, as well as an abundance of water oak acorns which are already dropping. Tupelo fruit seems to be in normal abundance, and I have found some under-developed swamp chestnut acorns that were knocked out by squirrels. So there will be at least some mature ones falling by Halloween. Live oaks are very spotty, but isolated trees are loaded for no particular reason. Right now on the coast, if you find one of these isolated live oaks that is producing “swamp candy” look no farther for a place to hunt.
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “For us the persimmons have been the hot food choice so far. They don’t stay on the ground long. I have found a few acorns dropping. We have some nice looking green plots with wheat, rye, oats and trophy radishes coming up that we will be hunting in a couple of weeks, thanks to some much needed rain on the 21st. The hot weather has made it hard to hunt, but we’ve toughed it out. I really enjoyed the few cooler mornings. I have seen a few small bucks out of velvet already, and I started seeing some rubbed trees. The reports around here are very little deer movement. One club member managed to take a couple of does the first week. It’s too early to predict an on-time rut. Hopefully the weather will cool off by then.”
Decatur, Early, Miller and Baker counties: John Cofty Jr. and Marty Phillips, of Mossy Pond Hunting Preserve, report, “We finally received some rain, and we planted some iron clay pea and soybean plots for bow and early gun stands. We also decided to plant some of our fall plots a little early. Our deer movement has been limited because of the heat, but we have some good bucks on camera early in the morning, and it looks like the deer movement is early, midday and very late in the afternoon. Our acorn crop surprisingly is good. Our sawtooth oaks are dropping a little early this year, and the deer are eating them as fast as they fall. The rest of our oaks are loaded in places and so-so in places. We have a bionutrient that we are trying this year, and wow — our peas are keeping up with the deer grazing not like in the past. Hunt around food plots, like peas and soybeans. If you have acorns dropping, set up close to them. They are hot early. We think the first couple of weeks of gun season will be great if it cools down a little. Our first rut will be around Thanksgiving, followed by the second around Christmas and our last will be in January.”
Effingham County: Jonathan Hyre, of Savannah, reports, “The deer movement has been slow on the warm days. Our club has killed a few does and two 8-pointers the first few weeks of the season. The majority of the movement has been during the few cooler days and right at dark. I did catch a buck mounting a doe on camera on Sept. 8. I’m not sure what that is all about? The deer are eating corn very well, and Trophy Rocks are working also. The key to killing deer over corn is don’t over hunt it. Hunt your baited stands once per week for best results. The cooler weather is really going to help deer movement more than anything.”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “The bow season started off in Harris County just as most of them do — hot and dry. The warm-season food plots had really taken a beating by the time we finally got some good rain the week of Sept.19, but that rain served to jump-start the cool-season food plots planted earlier in September. Those food plots should be in good shape for hunting by mid-to-late October. Based on the acorns I’ve seen on the ground, it should be a good year for white oak acorns and an even better year for red oak acorns in Harris County. In fact, the red oak acorns I’m seeing are very large, and the deer have already found both them and the white oak acorns. Many of the deer that have already been killed in Harris County have been does killed under white and red oak trees while the deer fed on acorns that had been cut by squirrels. As we move through the remainder of September and on into October, these same spots should only get better, especially for bucks. Trail cameras are showing that the mature bucks in Harris County are still doing almost all of their moving and feeding at night, with the exception being an increase in movement toward food sources near bedding areas very late in the afternoons. As the weather cools into October, and we get closer to the true pre-rut period, daytime buck movement will obviously begin to increase. Nothing at this point indicates the rut in Harris County will be significantly off schedule this year, but we should be able to predict that with more certainty when we get a little closer to that magical time in November.”
Jeff Davis/Toombs counties: Glen Solomon reports, “GON Tracking Dog List to the rescue again! William Waldrop, of Tifton, arrowed a doe Saturday morning at Bullard Creek WMA. He called and asked me to contact our friend, tracker Burtis Taylor, who lives adjacent to Bullard Creek, to see if he would come out and do a track. He was concerned he shot too far back as the deer did a quick hop through some thick cover just as he released. He tracked blood for about 50 yards and decided to pull back, afraid of jumping the deer in the thick briars and vines. He didn’t want to lose this deer, as it would end his streak of nine years killing a deer on opening day, the last four alone on Bullard Creek. Burtis arrived with his redbone, with which he found nine deer last season. When they arrived, the redbone without hesitation, went right to work. He knew what he was there for, following right in on William’s tracks, right on past the last blood, and 40 yards later, located the deer. Great job Burtis on find No. 1 of the season, and William for 10 years! For his age and medical conditions, that is quite a feat. God is good! Directly across the river on the Circle W Hunting Club, I had some excitement, too. I slung arrows at does Saturday and Sunday, not cutting a hair on any, ending my opening weekend streak. I haven’t missed that much accumulatively since the last 3-dozen deer. Ouch! Without drawn-out excuses, I’ll leave it to shooter judgement and equipment failure. I still had a ball figuring out the deer and enjoying all the adrenaline blood-pumping fun up until the shot. It’s all cleaning and dragging beyond that anyhow. I also got to see a bachelor group of six bucks at 10:49 a.m. while leaving out. Rewardingly, they exposed a definite travel funnel. I was blessed with an eventful weekend.
“I have never seen deer so hard on green vegetation browse in this area, even forsaking early water oaks — which have been few —fruit trees and even yellow acorns. Most muscadines have dropped early, but deer are eating the leaves as high as they can reach. My son Corey watched does browse on greenery for 38 minutes opening morning, while ignoring a dropping crabapple tree only 20 yards away. Corey bit into one and said it tasted as good as a Granny Smith apple. The swamps and hardwood flats have been dead for us during preseason scouting. Grown-up clearcuts and thick pine ridges were key areas this weekend. We’ve seen a lot of clumped droppings also, which is indicative of deer feeding heavy on green browse.”
Macon County: David Keene, of Oglethorpe, reports, “The temp was nice on opening morning. I heard two grunts around 8 a.m. and saw a tail flicking up the hill from me around 9:30 a.m. A trail camera 150 yards from me had a large-bodied 8-pointer that was now Macon County legal and three does in front of it at the time I was in the stand. Acorns were falling all morning. I was in a hardwood bottom. Saturday afternoon, water oak and red oak acorns sounded like popcorn falling. I saw a buck going down the creek about an hour before sunset. He was about 75 yards away, and the leaves were too thick to tell much about him. My neighbor was hunting the farm next to us and saw a nice buck at 7:30 a.m. as he was going into his stand. Its spread was out past its ears. My brother and his buddy both got does Saturday morning. They were hunting on the edge of freshly planted food plots. My brother shot a 100-lb. pig saturday afternoon in a CRP thicket. Persimmons are starting to fall well, and we’re finding deer droppings with seeds in it. Scuppernongs are gone, and we have plenty of honeysuckle. We need some rain and cooler temps. We’re still getting some good daytime pictures of large bucks on my six trail cameras. We had a very good fawn crop this year. We’re seeing several sets of twins and even a couple of sets of triplets.”
Schley/Sumter counties: Jake Smith, of Ellaville, reports, “The hunting has been fair the last couple of weeks. Opening weekend was really slow, probably due to full moon and high temperatures, but the action has picked up some. The deer that have ag fields available are targeting peanuts, soybeans and sorghum and are feeding right at dark for the most part. The acorn crop and muscadines are gone, and feeders are producing well in the areas that are not near crop fields. I haven’t heard of anyone killing a big deer in this area, but good deer have been seen out feeding in the fields but never got close enough for any shot opportunities. The 2 to 3 inches of rain we got during the week of Sept. 19 was perfect timing for the fall food plots that have been planted or that were planted since. The deer will start using these plots over the next month, especially when the foliage start to turn and drop and the crops are out the fields. The action over feeders should pick up also as the temp drops and the deer start to store fat for up coming rut and winter.”
Taylor County: Adam Childers, of Fort Valley, reports, “Since the season opened, deer movement has been off and on. On Monday of opening week, the buck I’ve been after came out with his bachelor group 20 minutes before dark but got no closer than 61 yards. The following Saturday evening, I shot a mature 7-pointer coming to a sorghum field at 7:45. Since then the buck movement in daylight hours has dropped as expected. Acorns are falling all throughout the river bottoms, so pinpointing a particular tree to hunt has been somewhat difficult. The grapes have been a pretty hot food source but are nearly all gone. Persimmons are still falling and are also a good food source to key in on. I’m still seeing lots of deer in the evenings coming to sorghum and soybean fields. However, the mature bucks are waiting until after dark to make their appearance. Seems we’re entering the so called October lull before the rut begins to pick up. I’ve started noticing several scrapes along known buck travel routes. They appear to be right on schedule this year. In the Flint River bottoms of Taylor County, the pre-rut begins a little earlier than in the surrounding area, usually around Oct. 15-20. This equates to the peak of rut being the last week of October and the first week of November. However, steady rutting activity will be going on at least through Thanksgiving. I’ll start light rattling sequences beginning around Oct. 15. This can be a very effective method to use to attract a mature buck during the pre-rut.”
Turner County: Michael Lee, of Backwoods Life TVR, reports, “The season has started slow this year for us with the moon phases being tough. The weather has been great the first two weeks with cool temps. We need all the rain we can get. The deer are still hitting the peanut fields pretty good, though the bigger bucks have gone more nocturnal based on our cameras. They are hitting the persimmons hard right now that are falling, and the acorns are falling earlier this year with it being so dry. The rut could be really good if the temps stay normal or below normal for this time of year. We are starting to s
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