Timely Reports From The Georgia Deer Woods
GON Hunt Advisors Report From Across The State
GON has a great team of deer-hunting experts across the state who file regular reports as Hunt Advisors. Here are their reports as we shift from bow season to the November rut.
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “I have noticed the bucks are later than normal breaking out of groups and singling out. This could indicate a later-than-normal rut, which goes with the fact that they are not putting down much sign yet.
“I have been on two WMA specialty hunts, one in the south and one in the north. The same thing was true at both as far as not much buck sign. However, I was blessed to get a doe at each hunt for the freezer.
“The best food source right now is acorns, as they are coming down enough to concentrate deer feeding if you find that one or two trees that are loading the ground with those nice brown acorns. The doe I took last Friday the 21st was feeding on white oak acorns, and looking in top of trees with my scope, there are plenty more to come down. The three killing frosts in a row this week has already moved the deer from natural browse to food plots and grass fields. Again, this transition in food sources helps with determining how well the herd is doing due to the concentration of deer in a given area. Having said that, the herd here in north Cherokee is strong and growing.
“Looking forward to November and what always comes with that month for the large majority of the state. I was blessed to get drawn for a mid-November quota-50 hunt on a trophy-managed WMA in south Georgia, can’t wait! Until next time, stay safe and hunt on!”
Fulton County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “I have a couple of good reports from hunters who have had great success in Fulton County already this year. Justin Mizell had this to say, ‘The bucks have started splitting up and staging their rut areas. There are a lot of rubs and scrapes in the woods, and new bucks are starting to show up on my trail cameras. They don’t stick around though. Some of the younger deer are even sparring and checking on does. There are a ton of acorns on the ground, but I’ve still had deer hitting corn and other supplemental feed. Mature bucks are starting to show up in areas that held mainly does and small bucks during the summer and early season. There seems to be a lot of midday movement as well.’
“Chase Turner had a similar report on north Fulton County, saying, ‘Getting late into October and bucks are definitely changing. Noticing a lot more buck movement, new bucks showing on camera, and a lot more sign being put down like horned trees and scrapes. The hunt I had the night of Oct. 21 was the first night of actual chasing. I had 40-plus deer and small bucks chasing and fighting and a couple were grunting and being pretty vocal. The buck I shot that night had made a huge scrape before he come in and daylighted the first time on camera that morning. In the next two weeks things will really start to ramp up and I will be in a stand somewhere whether a big one is on camera or not. You never know what could show up these next few weeks! My plans going into November is studying big creeks for random bucks and other bucks cruising and chasing laying down scrapes. I’m huge on making mock scrapes, so I will have one of those under every stand I have. I usually base my November from my notes the past year and bigger temperature drops.”
Justin said in November that he plans to focus efforts on areas that have heavy doe populations. ‘In suburban areas I like to focus on creeks once the mature bucks start pushing does,’ Justin said. ‘The bucks are able to travel long distances while checking on does by using the creeks between developments.’
“Pretty solid advice, and I would add that looking at data I’ve collected the peak breeding actually takes place around Nov. 9, but I have the most buck encounters around Thanksgiving.”
Jackson County: Michael Williams, of Nicholson, reports, “For October, it’s either a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask. It’s amazing how quickly deer change patterns from summer to fall.
“I have been seeing a lot of scraping and rub activity for the last two weeks, and it’s gradually getting more intense as we ease closer to Halloween and November. Most of the scraping I’m seeing on camera is being done under the cover of darkness. Not many day-walkers on the properties I hunt. Yet… We had a pretty significant cold front push through the week of the 18th leading up to the firearms opener. I hunted the morning and evening of the 19th and 20th, and I saw some young spike bucks and a doe family but none of the big mature bucks I have on camera—which I’ll add were showing up on camera in daylight less the four weeks ago. Remember, October is a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask.
“AKERNS! Lots and lots of white oak acorns in the areas I hunt. If you can locate what I like to call a ‘Feed Tree’ and set up close to it, you are in for an exciting morning or evening hunt.
“Going forward into Halloween, I expect we’re going to start seeing some big bucks cruising a little later into the morning looking for the first hot doe.
“Stick close to the downwind side of doe bedding areas and food sources because these big bucks will start scent-checking these doe beds for the first signs of a hot doe. Personally, I don’t care where he sleeps. I always wanna know where the does sleep.
“Hunt every major cold front that pushes through from now through November, if you’re able to do so. I wouldn’t miss any cold front that sees a significant drop in temp within 24 hours, especially if it’s got a high barometric pressure with it.
“Here’s to November!“
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “From the looks of things so far, it is shaping up to be another awesome November here in my home county. I saw plenty of deer during archery season, but the one thing I didn’t see was the mature bucks. Was not even getting pictures of them, but all that changed the week before the muzzleloader/youth week. The pics are night pics for the most part, but they are some of the best bucks I’ve had on my home grounds in the last few years. As of the middle of October, they were still running together, but I have seen a lot of fighting on camera, and now I’m getting pics of some of the potential shooters with broken tines. “
“With the best temperatures in years for opening weekend of gun season, they were on their feet and moving. I saw 15 deer on opening morning and 18 that Sunday morning, with one of them being a shooter, but he was right in line with my neighbor’s pasture with cows, so I had to pass on a shot. The does still have their fawns with them, but I did see some signs of them trying to separate from them.
“The acorns started dropping around the middle of October, and they were really raining down by the rifle opener. The bucks are working scrapes regularly. That’s how I actually saw that buck on Sunday of opening weekend. He was working a scrape and throwing his rack in the limb above it. I believe the rut is going to be right on schedule, around the middle of November, seeing how the does and fawns are still together. My plan for November is to stay in those acorns and wait for the frenzy to begin. If it’s anything like the past seasons, it’s going to be fun, especially with the number of mature bucks showing up. So find your best food sources, preferably acorns, and sit on them as much as you possibly can.”
Fayette & Meriwether Counties: Jeff Scurry, of Peachtree City, reports, “The cool snap we have had the past week really had the deer on their feet. I’ve been seeing lots of scrapes appear on field edges, firebreaks and logging roads.
“Chestnut oaks are falling good on hardwood ridges, as well as a few very late muscadines. Every sit in my stand I have seen young bucks spar a bit and push each other around as tension rises in old bachelor groups from summer. Started seeing lots of big rubs appear as the mature bucks start moving more. Food plots are coming up good as the weather cools down.”
“I’ve also seen good numbers of deer this year. It seems that lots of fawns have made it through predator season. The herd is thriving. I was able to take a Meriwether County 11-point buck on Saturday afternoon of opening day of gun season. I had 21 does and two spikes in a field, and then they all scattered out when this brute walked out bumping a few does after I had done a few rattling sequences. A 200-yard shot brought him down.”
Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “With an unbelievably dry couple months, acorns are raining, and the plowed dirt is sitting almost bare. As usual, we got everything planted food plot wise, but we have had less than a one-quarter inch of rain fall in our part of Hancock County. The moisture was great at the time of planting, so a little has come up and is hanging on. When the rains do come, the plots will hopefully blow up out of the ground.
“While waiting on the rains, we know we need to be in the woods with all the sign under oak trees. Deer are hammering the acorns, and the disturbance in the woods is far greater than normal years. Muscadines are gone, but some persimmons are still falling. When we find a hard or soft mast tree with any food source falling, we are seeing an abundant amount of sign. The plan, until the plots grow, is to concentrate on the other food sources that are concentrating deer. This may take a little work moving stands or hunting climbers, but we know the effort will result in some success.
“The rut activity we are seeing seems minimal. Rub and scrapes are scarce compared to a normal year. The only thing that we can attribute this to would be the lack of rainfall and the deer on an abnormal pattern. This past week, we hunted some with the kids, and we saw some young bucks nosing does around. This is normal for this time of the year, so we know not everything is off.
“Hunting funnels between some bedding and food sources is always a great way to hunt, but we are going to concentrate more on the food source itself in both morning and evening hunts. The deer we have seen have moved early, making it to the food sources with plenty of shooting light. If the rains come, this may change, and we will adapt.
“This fall is the first time in the last 14 years none of my three boys are playing soccer. They are getting older, becoming young men. Same thing is happening with the three nieces. Over the years, me and my brother-in-law, Jeremy Bullington, have done what we could to instill hunting, and anything outdoors, in the kids. As enjoyable as the sports are, it sent us all to different places. One of the things that helped our family get together regularly was our time at the hunting land. This fall, we all are excited that our time together will be more. One thing we have learned is being involved with sports comes and go with age. All generations can enjoy the outdoors together with a bond lasting a lifetime!”
Jasper County: Tim Zech, of Monticello, reports, “Jasper County has had a lot of mid-October deer movement during daylight hours in the last two weeks. Deer sightings are increasing, and so has the harvest. Shakur Sands connected on a heavy old 7-point the last week of archery season. The buck was a fighter, and one eye had been lost last year.
“Muzzleloader season finally had bucks laying down scrapes and rubs. While no deer were harvested during the week, several good deer were seen and new ones were showing up on the cameras.
“Opening day of gun was a success for my dad, Mike Zech. He put another nice buck on the ground opening day of gun season, which his normal routine.
“Good luck to all. The last week of October and the first week of November are always great times to be in the woods in Jasper County. Many of our biggest bucks are always harvested right around Oct. 31 during the pre-rut week.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “The cold snap on Oct. 19 had a few new bucks showing up, as well as a shooter. The plentiful acorns have the deer scattered all over the hardwoods and hard to pattern. Very few red oak acorns are around to persist later in the year, mostly it is all white oaks. The early season food sources have played out. The cold snap and frost has killed all warm-season grasses. We use our land for an outdoor ministry and need lots of food later in the season to draw in the does for the kids and new hunters to target. The only hunt we’ve had was good with young bucks sparring.
“We plan to hunt this next month around a few pinch points that we have created. One spot that is getting good pictures is a travel corridor just above a new pond that we built. Once the acorns are gone, there are few food sources left as our food plots are not looking good. We drilled several acres just before a couple of good rains and our food plots looked better than ever a couple of weeks later, but with no rain since it appears like we didn’t even plant anything. If the forecast holds true, I plan to drill rye just before an Oct. 28 rain, and I think we still have time with this current warmer weather to still get some production.
“The GON rut map is spot on with the peak in the middle of November. There is good pre-rut buck movement that should be starting when this article comes out. If I hunt, it is with a bow, so I’ll have the grunt call and rattling horns ready to try and pull them in closer. I used to just use it in the Midwest, but a decoy is effective too at taking a buck’s attention away from me drawing back with my bow.
“This is the time of year we all look forward to so good luck out there.”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “We are well into gun season by now and glad to be out enjoying the hunting season. There’s not a whole lot to report from my neck of the woods. Things are slow right now, although we did see a few does and a couple of small bucks on opening weekend. The cold mornings must have had them up and moving. I have seen a few mature bucks on social media that were taken on opening weekend in Crisp and surrounding counties, so the bucks are moving.
“We are excited for things to pick up during November. We always look forward to the second and third week when things really heat up and get those mature bucks up and chasing the does and out into the openings. We rely on trail cameras a good bit to get a look at what’s moving around the property and what times of the day. We have had a little movement right at daylight and just at dark. We still are not seeing rubs and scrapes like we normally do.
“We will definitely be hunting the green food plots that are looking good and starting to show some growth. The travel routes from bedding areas to feeding will surely be a hot spot to catch the deer moving through.
“I hope you all get out there and enjoy the outdoors and hunting. Good luck, hunt safe, and God Bless!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “The beginning of firearms season has been very slow on the properties where we hunt in Harris County. This is likely due to a lack of major food sources to concentrate the deer. Acorns from both white and red oak species are almost non-existent on our properties this year. Lack of rainfall from early September until mid-October delayed the planting of our cool-season food plots until Oct. 14, after which time no additional rain has fallen. To compound our food plot issues, we had one of the earliest frosts I can remember during the middle of the muzzleloader/youth week. We’re now waiting to see if our food plots begin to grow before we spend $25 to $30 per bag of fertilizer to spread on them. Unfortunately, and also due to the prolonged drought, natural forbs and browse aren’t looking much better. On a more positive note, supplemental feed/bait has continued to draw and concentrate the deer. This has been especially important for hunters wanting to put some meat in their freezers before the rut gets going full speed.
“Speaking of the rut… Scrapes really started showing up in significant numbers in Harris County around the time of the early frost on the morning of Oct. 20, and trail cameras began revealing more daytime movement of mature bucks after that same cold front passed. That type of increased buck movement will continue this month as the pre-rut and rut ramp up. Luckily for me, I’m now retired, but if I had to pick one week this year to take vacation from work to go deer hunting in Harris County, it would be Nov. 5-13.
“And with deer food sources somewhat limited this season, I’m planning to concentrate even more than I usually do on hunting travel corridors in the mornings and the fringes of doe bedding areas in the afternoons. I’d also encourage my fellow hunters not to get too discouraged if they haven’t killed their target buck by the middle of this month, because I’ve killed some of my best bucks over the years during the week of Thanksgiving. If you need to—and I usually do—take a few days off from hunting between Nov. 15-19 to recharge your batteries, then hit it hard again once we get to the November calendar dates that start with a 2. You might find yourself giving thanks that you did!”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “So far the season has been pretty good weather-wise. Not much rain, but temps have been OK. I should have my freezer filled with meat but for some reason I don’t—release problems and limbs being the culprits. I did manage to stick a doe finally on the 12th and my great-granddaughter Wrenlee Lynn got to see her first deer being skinned. Her mom Shaye has skinned a few herself.
“Dylan Little has had lady luck on his side. Remember he killed a good one last month, and now he tagged out before the end of September with another good one—a big 10-point this time from Twiggs County. He’s got the boat ready now for early crappie season till the ducks start falling.
“Jerry Barron had an awesome day in the woods too when he carried his granddaughter, Anna Lira, and she killed her first buck, a nice 8-point. She killed him at 7:59 on youth opening day in Wilkinson County at 70 yards on a food plot that she planted. She had already seen seven does when the buck came out. Anna made a good shot with her Savage 7mm08. Now that’s a good memory there. I love when my kids go with me.”
“I’m not seeing much for sign yet, but with cooler temps coming I’m sure they will get cranked up. I’m looking forward to seeing those big ones chasing the ladies. I just hope I can get one to stop. Just keep the does around with plots or feeders or just corn on the ground and they will come. The best thing about the rut is bucks come from other places to check for does, so even if you don’t have any on camera but have plenty does, that’s all you need.
“It’s going to be a good year, I feel it in my soul. We need something good to happen in this world or we are doomed for sure. We are being controlled by the few. I’ve always enjoyed life for what it is. An adventure for us all.
“Good luck to everyone that loves the outdoors and to those that don’t. You have no idea what you’re missing.”
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