Pre-Rut Cruising As Peak Rut Gets Closer Across Much Of Georgia

Timely Reports From GON’s Hunt Advisor Team

GON Staff | October 27, 2020

Kinzie Miller, 20, of Oxford, got her biggest buck to date, and she got it done with her new bow that she practiced with every day. Kinzie downed the 10-point buck with a perfect heart shot. She was hunting in Newton County on Oct. 3.

The timing of the rut peak gets lots of attention from deer hunters, but the pre-rut cruising phase may just be the best time to get on a more predictable plan to kill a mature buck. That exact scenario was mentioned by several of GON’s Hunt Advisors this month.

Here are their reports through the second week of gun season, including how rut activity is looking in their areas.

Bill Bruner, 88, of Lawrenceville, put some venison in the freezer while hunting with his crossbow in Pike County.


Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “Opening weekend of gun season was nice and cool with temps in the low 40s. I was able to take some freezer meat on Allatoona WMA here in Cherokee, which hosted a two-day specialty hunt. I checked with my processor and they stated numbers were up from last year as far as opening weekend. The acorn drop has occurred for the most part, but while hunting Dawson Forest WMA this week, I noticed the red oaks are still holding on in the tops of trees. Another sign acorns are on the ground would be the feeders have not been hit with any regularity. Not much rut sign in the woods. This could mean a late rut but only by a week or so, which would put it peaking around Thanksgiving here in Cherokee.

Bryson Amos, 16, killed this Cherokee County 11-pointer with a split brow tine on opening day of gun season.

“Hey, for all you old guys like myself, over 65, pay attention to the specialty hunts across the state. I was able to limit out down at Rum Creek WMA back at the first of October, which was a sign-in hunt with a two-deer limit.

“I’m looking forward to some mountain action coming up starting about the middle of November. The north Georgia WMAs run two four-day hunts, one in November and one in December. I still have the No. 1 buck on Swallow Creek WMA, killed in 2015. I’m going back up this year to see if another one has moved into the area. With cooler weather, maybe with a good still and frosty morning and some chasing going on, who knows what may happen. Until next time, stay calm and hunt on!”

Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “Last month I was talking about how the deer season in my area was shaping up to possibly be the best it had been in years. As of the gun opener, nothing has happened to change my thinking. It has been pretty much wide open since the opener of bow season, with only a couple of sits where I was skunked. The most I have saw in one sit was 19.

Hunt Advisor Keith Ingram with his Madison County 8-pointer.

“On the evening of Sept. 20 at 7:25 I shot what may be my best Georgia buck with my crossbow. I made a good shot, but it was a high lung, and there was no blood whatsoever, and I did not recover him until two days later. There were four other bucks with him, two that were shooters, and they were all almost right under me. It was pretty nerve racking to say the least. I have two years of trail-cam pics of him, and that evening was the first time I had laid eyes on him from a tree. He was a 4.5-year-old 10-pointer with really great mass and a split brow on the left side. I walked within 20 yards of him that night, it was just so thick I could not locate him. The morning of Sept. 23 my son Zack shot a very nice 8-pointer that didn’t run 40 yards before he expired. So all and all, the start to our season has been pretty incredible.

“I did something before the season started this year that I have never done before, and it’s paying off big time. I raked trails out to our stand locations, and by quietly getting in the woods, we are seeing deer almost as soon as we are sitting down a lot of times.

Zack Ingram, of Jefferson, son of Hunt Advisor Keith Ingram, took this 8-pointer on the morning of Sept. 23 in Madison County.

“Food sources are very good this year, as it is raining acorns now, and my foods plots are in very good shape and deer are mowing them down. Zack and I have spent a good bit of money and time this year on supplemental feeding, and it has paid off, especially back in early bow season, but it’s an afterthought to the deer now with all the acorns on the ground. I’m not sorry for that financially.

“The rut seems to be right on schedule. The bucks have split up and are cruising and laying down plenty of scrapes, but the does are still bunched up and are still keeping their fawns close. The rut in my area is typically around mid November, through Thanksgiving, and into early December. By all signs I think it’s going to be as strong of a rut as we have seen in years. The deer are healthy, with plenty of food in the woods—a recipe for a lot of Bambi making. No real strategy for hunting this. If you have acorns or whatever food sources you have, get on them, and stay there all day if possible because you could see a good buck at any time. Especially with the harvest moon by the end of the month.”


Fayette and Meriwether Counties: Jeff Scurry, of Fayetteville, reports, “Acorns are definitely falling, which includes white oaks and lots of red oaks. Deer have moved from corn and supplemental feeding to acorns and persimmons. I have a great crop of persimmons this year.

“The pre-rut is kicking in with lots of scrapes in both counties. I started off a few weeks ago with some mock scrapes and have had several bucks hitting them daily on trail camera, along with does. Lots of scrape lines through pine thickets also have been seen. The bucks have broken up their bachelor groups and are now more solo. I am also picking up a few new bucks on camera that I have not seen before. The cold snap we had last week seemed to jump start things a bit with lots of scraping, but the week of Oct. 18 the warm temps slowed things down a bit. I noticed one primary scrape is still getting a lot of attention. Once the cooler weather returns, the first two weeks of November will be the best weeks in both Fayette and Meriwether counties based on past years.

“I was blessed to get a Fayette County 8-point on Oct 3. The buck was 5.5 years old and came in feeding on red oaks and persimmons. Took him with 100-grain NAP Thunderhead from my Hoyt Carbon Matrix. Buck only ran 45 yards. Green score is 131 4/8, net 129 3/8. Had 22-inch main beams and 18 1/8 inside spread. Fingers crossed after 60-day drying period.”

Hunt Advisor Jeff Scurry arrowed this Fayette County 8-pointer that’s been green scored right around 130 inches.

Hancock County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Hunters on our property near Baldwin County line have steadily seen an increase in buck activity over the last couple of weeks of October. I keep hearing reports of an early rut. I feel there is not really such a thing. The rut time is the rut time every year. I think what is happening is that we’ve seen several cooler-than-normal days that seems to have gotten them up during daylight more. The young bucks are always up seeking girls prior to the big boys. It is a great sign as usually a couple weeks later the older mature bucks will be doing the same thing, great sign for early November for sure.

“It looks like after Halloween there may be a timely cool front coming, so it may be an exciting early November for many in Hancock County. We have started moving our cameras over scrapes, and I hope that will help paint the picture of travel by these bucks.

“I hope I figured out where there are some bedding areas and preferred food sources. The bucks will be up cruising on the downwind side of those spots looking for receptive does. I’ll play the wind, but it’s the time of the year to be more aggressive based on the most active sign. The good  news is this tactic may work all month long in November. If you see a cool front coming in, get out there, put in some time and you just might be rewarded.”

Garrett Autry, of Social Circle, with his super-nice Morgan County 9-pointer buck, his first bow-buck.

Meriwether County: Jason Swindle, of Carrollton, reports, “Opening weekend of gun season was full of deer movement, primarily because of the cool temps and a high rising barometer (30.1-30.3). I hunted with my 9-year-old son, Reagan. We saw a number of 2.5- and 3.5-year-old bucks alone. We also saw the first scrapes of the year. The bachelor groups have split up, and the dominant bucks are establishing their territory.

“The pin oaks are still dropping, while the white oak acorns have been eaten. For the next several days, it will be hot. I do not hunt in the heat for many reasons. So, I will keep the pressure off the deer by staying home until the cold snap hits. I have also found that when I hunt a stand and wait three to four days before returning to the stand, I see a lot more deer.

“I am excited and wish the best to my fellow hunters this year.”

Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Well it’s almost here, the rut. My property outside of Forsyth is too open, and we have lots of deer, mostly does, but they travel at night due to lack of cover. However come November every year nice bucks show up on the property, so we will be ready. White oaks seemed to fall late, but we got ’em dropping well in mid October. Food plots are in and rain has been timely. Nothing earth shattering with this advice, but we will hunt timber in am and food plots in the evenings.

“Matt Duffey has spent some time in the woods near Forsyth and had this to say, ‘Not much daytime activity in food plots. White oaks started dropping, and deer are being seen in great numbers on hardwood ridges, with plenty of daylight movement. Trail cams are showing plenty of young buck harassment during the night with an occasional mature buck playing the game. Great pre-rut shows promise for strong rut activity with promise of being right on time. Hunting the swirling wind with constant change in direction is difficult. Using a beehive smoker has shown very positive results. Deer have been downwind and  I’ve been undetected. Took a doe with my bow and she was right under me  downwind.’

Greg added, “I like to rattle in the pre-rut, so early this month give that a try. So play the wind or get a smoker, and get out there this month. It should be prime time for you to get that target buck or maybe even one that just shows up.”

Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Bishop, reports, “Great opening weekend of gun season as we had two mature bucks shot off our place. I was able to take a 4 1/2-year-old 8-point, and club member David Coffee took a brute 11-point that scored 145. David’s buck was all-out chasing a doe in planted pines during an afternoon hunt. My buck was laying ground scrapes and horning trees in a thick creek edge during a morning hunt. A hot doe got mature bucks on their feet, but it’s only the pre-rut. Bucks are cruising and looking for a hot doe. In the morning I’m on acorns, but food plots are great in the evenings. Most does still have fawns with them, and it always seems a dead week occurs right before the rut.”

Hunt Advisor Dwayne Britt with his 4 1/2-year-old Putnam County 8-pointer killed opening day of gun season.

“Putnam for the past five years has key rutting activity from Nov. 4 through Nov. 16 on our place. Peak dates seem to fall around the 7th through the 12th. A hopeful cold snap should help matters, and we have a new moon on Nov. 15, so deer may be more active early mornings and late evenings around those dark nights. Midday or 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. hunts are great with the full moon.

“Good luck and get those kids in the stand during the rut!”

After four sits in a stand without seeing a deer, Shaw McElroy, 8, of, Griffin, and his dad Josh tried rattling on Saturday morning, Oct. 24. A few seconds later this Spalding County 8-pointer stepped out looking for a fight.

It was a father-son double up in Morgan County on Oct. 19. Blake Malone and his 11-year-old son Brody Malone were hunting early season clover plots.


Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “I don’t know about y’all but we are thoroughly enjoying our time spent in the woods. With the excitement of gun opening weekend behind us, we are anticipating a good November. We are seeing a few mature bucks, still during the overnight hours for now. Hopefully we will get to see them in the daylight when they start chasing the does. Some have been working a scrape line for weeks pretty regularly with lots of rubbed trees in the area, as well. We have seen some young bucks moving around in the daylight and did get pictures of a decent older buck in the daylight so they are starting to move around more during hunting hours rather than in the middle of the night. I haven’t seen much of anything as far as pre-rut trailing of does, but when they start here it seems to happen in a hurry. We usually start seeing the bucks trail does the third and fourth week of October, then they will be full rut by the second and third week of November. Maybe then we will be able to see one through the scope.

“I have seen some mature bucks taken in our area and surrounding counties on social media. Seems like there are more deer taken earlier this year than in the past or maybe it’s because there are more people out in the woods trying to fill their freezers.

“Our food plots are really looking good right now. The deer are feeding on them some. Hoping they will last a while longer. There are still a few persimmons left, and the deer are eating on them. I think that when all the persimmons and acorns are gone they are going to be hitting those green plots pretty regular, so if you are lucky enough to have them I would surely hunt them.

“We always hunt the travel routes where the deer are moving between feeding and bedding areas, there’s always a good bit of movement in those areas. Hoping you all have a great November. Hunt safe, God Bless!”

Dustin Parker, of Grovetown, with his first-ever buck, a 15-pointer taken with crossbow at Fort Gordon in Richmond County on Oct. 1.

Early County: Sam Klement reports, “The big bucks are doing what they are supposed to be doing in October. They are shifting from their typical summer/early fall sanctuaries and becoming less visible on mine and my adjoining neighbors’ camera surveys. I haven’t heard of any mature bucks being shot around me as of late October. I did manage to shoot a doe last week and put some deer in my freezer! I also got very greedy on a very mature deer, a big wide 8-point. Setting up in a very thick transitional area during the first week of October, I was hoping to catch a mature deer slipping back into his bedroom off some adjoining agriculture fields. I had been in the stand for approximately 35 minutes before shooting light and heard deer approximately 100 yards away in the darkness tickling and sparring and more than likely making rubs. After hearing this several times, just as daylight was breaking I heard deer walking my way. Just as the daylight was breaking this deer stepped out at less then 10 steps. Immediately I went to full draw and was seconds away from releasing my arrow. While at full draw I heard another deer walking up behind this buck. Still at full draw I turned my head to see if the deer traveling with this buck may be a bigger one? Rookie error! I stayed at full draw as this second deer picked me off and had a Mexican stand off with me at full draw. I could hear the other deer slowly walking under my stand. By the time the second deer, which was smaller, started to walk, I shifted my head back to my drawn bow only to see this buck walking directly away offering a very limited kill shot opportunity, and I let my bow down without killing either deer. Chalk one up for the big buck.Lessoned learned… I just knew the second deer would be bigger.. Greed cost me the buck.”

Here’s a trail-cam photo of the buck that Sam Klement let slip by him.

“At any rate, we are starting to see more rubs and scrapes appear daily. With the pin oak acorns are really dropping everywhere and the white oaks starting to drop, as well, I am shifting my hunts now to the thicker out-of-the-way historical acorn hotspots. I love this time of the year. The bucks will respond to light tickling of antlers that I always have tied to a rope at the base of my stand. As daylight breaks, I like to bring these up approximately 3 feet off the ground and let them hit the ground and bushes under my stand. I will also lightly give a few grunts from my call and have already sprayed a few mists of VooDoo around my stand. Every year I end up rattling in some great deer in late October and early November using this tactic, equally as well on my morning hunts as well as evening hunts. During the evening hunts I will typically get two to three light rattling sequences, which I start once the sun has fallen below the tree line. If a buck is bedded close, most times the curiosity will get them traveling toward my set up. Caution… when you do this, be ready! As I mentioned I have most my stands in thick out-of-the-way spots that I know deer like to bed in. The views aren’t pretty, but the deer love these spots.

“For my fellow southwest Georgia hunters, please be on the lookout for no-shoulders. I’ve seen three rattlesnakes in last two weeks heading in and out of my stands. They are on the move!

“Good luck! Enjoy every sunrise and sunset you are blessed to witness. Hunt smart and don’t over-hunt your good spots. I rarely hunt the same stand or area on back-to-back hunts for this reason. Enjoy the outdoors and The Good Lord’s incredible beauty! Huntin’ is Good!”

Irwin County produced this super bow-buck for Chase Powell, of Woodstock. Chase just may have the new No. 1 Irwin County bow-buck on GON’s Deer Records once the rack is measured.

Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “As I write this on the last weekend in October, the mature bucks in Harris County have just started their pre-rut cruising on both edges of daylight. And as you read this in early November, the pre-rut in Harris County, at least in the eastern two-thirds of it, should be in full swing, with the western portion of our county a week or so behind that. To go along with all of the other strange happenings of 2020, I observed something this season I’ve never seen before in the Harris County deer woods, and that was a mature doe obviously in actual ‘heat’ exactly a month early, on Oct. 14. And when I say obviously, I mean that was based on the doe’s behavior, the behavior of the many bucks with her, and her receptive response to those bucks. So yes, it does happen, but not very often; it took me over 35 years of deer hunting to see actual early breeding for myself. As for when the peak of breeding will occur in Harris County, just reference the GON Rut Map; it is spot on!

“But my suggestion is to try to concentrate the majority of your hunting, if possible, seven to 10 days prior to the start of peak breeding, because that lock-down period can be one of the most frustrating times to deer hunt during the entire month of November. Doing that will put you in the woods during the highest activity period of the pre-rut, which I calculate simply by subtracting a week from the start date of lock-down, and then focusing my pre-rut hunting three days on either side of that calculated date. For example, in a large portion of Harris County, peak breeding, or the lock-down period, begins on or around Nov. 15. Subtracting seven days from that date brings us to Nov. 8, so I try to concentrate my hunting on three days before and three days after that date, meaning my high-priority stand days are Nov. 5 through Nov. 11. After the 11th of November, buck activity will gradually begin to slow over the next few days until lock-down occurs around mid-month. In the western portion of Harris County along the Chattahoochee River, a week or so should be added to these dates due to the peak of breeding there occurring slightly later in November.

“As far as where to hunt in November, I only hunt two types of areas—where the does are and the travel corridors bucks use to get to those areas where the does are. This season hasn’t been exceptionally hot, but it hasn’t been cold yet either, and based on the long-range weather forecast it doesn’t look like we’re going to have any really cold weather in Harris County until at least mid-November.

“I’ve been seeing a much higher number of deer than usually coming to standing or slow-moving water, especially in the afternoons, so creek bottoms will be where I spend a significant amount of time this November. This will be especially true in creek bottoms where white oak, or even red oak acorns are falling, since does will come into those bottoms to feed, bucks will use them as travel corridors to cruise, and both bucks and does will come into them to drink water.

“Although we were able to get our food plots into the ground around the end of September, and they’re starting to look nice and green, I won’t be spending much time hunting them until much later in the season—after the acorns have played out, the weather has gotten much colder, and hunting pressure has dropped a good bit.

“It’s been just an average start to this deer hunting season on the properties my family hunts, but there have already been several very good bucks killed in Harris County this season, including a couple of outstanding ones. And we all know the hunting will only get better during the month of November. So hunt hard, hunt safe, and, most importantly, have fun and make some memories! Because we all need something good to remember about 2020, right?!”

This tall-tined Wilkinson County 8-pointer was Cameron Thompson’s first buck with a bow.

Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Well, sounds like the COVID-19 hit J’ville hard this year. I knew opening morning of gun was going to be good but had no idea how good—81 shots were fired around me morning and evening combined, so my guess is people got tired of paying those high prices for beef this year or just getting ready for the next pandemic.

“But there were some nice bucks killed before the opener. My little cousin Cooper Floyd, who is 9, was hunting with his dad Blake behind their house in Bleckly County when he shot a dandy buck with his crossbow. Blake said the buck had been in the plot every morning and evening for two weeks prior to season then showed back up the morning of the 17th. They waited till the evening of the 20th to try their luck. Some does came in and fed along, while one was just 10 yards from the ladder stand they had in a pecan tree. She looked across the field at something, so when they looked up the buck was 25 yards facing them. Blake told him to stand up and get ready when he could. The doe got a little nervous, but he was able to make a great shot on the buck, and he only ran 40 yards and piled up.”

Cooper Floyd, 9, with his crossbow buck—a dandy from Bleckley County.

“Another good one was killed by Cameran Thompson just over the line in Wilkinson County on the 13th. Cameron had the deer in daylight a couple times in his food plot, so he knew he was there. He worked till 5 and got in his lock-on about 5:30. At around 6 the buck and out of a thick clearcut and offered a 30-yard shot. He make a good one and he ran 70 yards and piled up for his first bow buck.

“The bucks have been pawing up a storm here. The does still have the fawns, but another week and they will be motherless for a while. White oaks and water oaks are raining down, and life is getting good in the deer woods. If we get another spell of cool weather it could be awesome, but if the weather stays warm it will mostly happen at night probably.

“People are seeing plenty of deer, and man there are some good one being killed. A&M Deer is taking in some great ones and plenty of them. Now’s the time to be in the woods, so get out there and good luck.”

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