Reports From The Georgia Deer Woods
Hunt Advisors give a November recap along with tips and tactics for December success.
The peak of the rut may be over in many parts of Georgia, but your chances at a mature buck and meat for the freezer are far from done. Our Hunt Advisor team has reports on how the action has been so far this season, and how they will hunt in December.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “The mountains are exploding with buck sign. Got some good WMA hunts coming up for anyone running low on buck tags. The acorns are still being attacked by bear and deer. I have spent a lot of November scouting for the late mountain rut. Got some stands on some fresh scrapes and looking forward to spending some time in the woods the month of December. Cold weather for this week should slow down the bear activity. Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving, and remember, stay calm and hunt on!”
Fulton County: Justin Mizell, of Cumming, reports, “I punched my first buck tag on Oct. 31. I only had two pictures of the buck this year but was familiar with this deer’s movement from previous years. This specific buck began making random appearances at my spot in October. He would show more frequently in the beginning of November, and then he would be gone by the time December rolled around. A cold front was supposed to be moving in Nov. 1, so I figured Oct. 31 would be a great morning to be in the stand. The deer came in 12 minutes after legal shooting light at 15 yards, and the rest is history. This deer came to an artificial food source that included 4S’s Corn Spike product. He wasn’t acting like a rutting buck, but his tarsals were black, and he sure smelled like a rutting buck!”
“I didn’t see a lot of rut activity this year. The cold front at the very beginning of November seemed to have bucks on their feet. When the warmer weather moved in around Nov. 7, the buck movement seemed to slow down. My trail cameras would get one or two pictures of bucks on the artificial food source, and then they would be gone. I knew they were a lot more interested in what the does had to offer than what my corn pile had to offer. In past years I have seen a lot of rut action the first two weeks of November, but I didn’t see as much as usual this year. I did notice new bucks showing up on camera in that time frame, so I know they were on their feet and searching for does.
“I am looking forward to the cold December days. I will absolutely be in the stand as soon as a cold front starts to push through. Peak rut is usually the first two weeks of November in Fulton County, but I usually see some chasing in December, as well. Hopefully I’ll have a shot at another mature buck chasing a doe that has yet to be bred in December. I like hunting over feed this time of year. The leaves have fallen off the trees for the most part, so stand location can be a bit tough. I started saddle hunting this year, which gives you the option to use trees that may not work for climber stands. It also gives you the option to use the tree itself as cover while you draw your bow. I focus heavily on privet bottoms and creeks during November. I will continue to focus on those areas during November while simultaneously keeping cameras on summer areas. Occasionally a buck I had on camera early season will return to his summer location after rut. I had some great deer on camera early season and I am hoping they will return after they have had their fill of hot does. While changing batteries in a camera Nov. 25 I saw a buck full-on chasing a doe. They ran within 10 yards of me and did circles around me. I was on the ground in plain clothes, and they didn’t have a care in the world that I was there. It looks like we still have a chance to catch a rutting buck behind a doe!
“Matt Nelson, of Cumming, had this to say, ‘As the month of November closes in and December begins, I would pay close attention to when we have cold fronts. This can be extremely effective. This time of year we can have big temperature changes from week to week. I would be actively searching pinch points. Looking for deer sign in those areas will be especially helpful to set up on. This time of year trees will be rubbed pretty good and bucks will be actively using scrapes. Be safe, wear your safety harness and play the wind to your advantage!’
“Scott Nelson, of Gainesville, had this to say about the November rut activity: ‘We saw a low in daylight pre-rut activity in early November in comparison to recent years. However with temperatures dropping Thanksgiving week, we have seen an increase in buck movement including active scrapes and a lot of vocalization from younger bucks as does are starting to get hot. Mature bucks are starting to cruise in daylight hours, and with the temperature drop, it will be the best chance to encounter mature shooters that will be on the move.’
Justin said, “Looking forward to December. The second week of December has historically been when we have seen a noticeable increase in buck activity as they try to find the remaining does that have not been bred. Pay attention to the temperature and weather fronts as we move through the end of November and into early December.”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “Hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving and was able to get out and enjoy some deer hunting during the holiday. For the second season in a row, it’s been a bit of a strange season on my two Madison County properties. As of Thanksgiving weekend, I had yet to see any serious rut activity, even though I did manage to take a nice 10-pointer the day after Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a really good season. I’ve seen tons of deer, and I’m thinking that could be the issue—too many does. I’ve always thought that was a good problem to have, but I’m starting to think differently.”
“Another thing is the acorn crop was absolutely incredible, and they have not had to look far for food. The bucks have been very active working scrapes and rub lines, but the activity was sporadic. They would clean them, and then it might be a week before they are worked again. I put cameras on some of them, and the activity was definitely not regular and mostly at night. To me this also may be a sign of too many does. All and all it’s been another good season with plenty of deer, and they are healthy and plenty of natural food is still available. Once that’s gone then they can move to the plots and feeders, and they should be good through the winter. This will dictate the remainder of my season. What hunting I do will be on the best food sources available, and maybe do a little doe control.”
Fayette & Meriwether Counties: Jeff Scurry, of Peachtree City, reports, “Hunting season is going well. I’m seeing lots of deer, especially young bucks and does. Lots of young bucks running does but haven’t seen many mature bucks as of yet, no 4.5-year-olds or older running does. Warm weather seemed to slow things down a bit the second week of November, but after the rain and cold snap, activity has picked back up.
“Lots of acorns, and fall food plots are greening up good after the rain. Based on the number of does I have seen, I think the second rut should be very good, which should happen in my areas around the week of Dec. 10. Going into December, after all the chasing rutting activity, does and bucks will need to keep their weight up going into the second rut as some food sources dry up. Food plots and food sources will be the key going into the winter months.”
Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “Successful is what we’d call this season so far! Five of the seven grandkids have killed a good buck, everyone is seeing deer, and good times are being had at our property. As kids get older, and more distractions appear, we are trying to take advantage of high percentage chances for everyone. At this point, we have had good luck with this timing.
“Throughout November, the acorns were the main attractant. There was a period of time we didn’t even try to sit on food plots unless they were littered on the woodlines with productive oaks. During the cool days at the beginning of the month, we witnessed decent cruising and some chasing. As the warmer weather came back, daylight activity was down. We have seen some decent rutting activity, but not the volume we always hope could happen. The closer it got to Thanksgiving, the slower the activity became. This can only be attributed to the warmer temperatures.
“With December approaching, we will move strategies from involving the oaks to the food plots. Afternoons will be primarily sitting on a food plot, and mornings will be in the woods between green fields and bedding. This is typically successful for us when focusing on our doe quota. Throughout the last weeks, we sometimes get lucky when one of our target bucks slip up and show themselves. Also, the focus tightens as the end of the season will be here before you know it. When an opportunity to get in the woods is there, you better go.
“A yearly, primary goal is to get a new hunter into the woods to kill a first deer. This has been a successful Gilbert goal since 1996, years before our family became landowners. There are very few greater hunting experiences than to witness a first kill by any hunter no matter how young or old. A second goal is to have all seven grandkids to end the season with a kill. This past year, we lost our dad. With dad being the one who taught me about the outdoors, it’s important to me for all grandkids to have success to show memory of him. It would be a special way to memorialize his love for the outdoors within the youngest generation.”
Jasper County: Tim Zech, of Monticello, reports, “Jasper County has produced some nice bucks this fall. I was fortunate to get one of them. The rut seemed to start at the end of October, maybe a few days sooner than normal. After taking my first buck chasing does on Oct. 22, I decided to get in the woods and stay in the woods for the week. I saw several chases the week of Oct. 23 and plenty of grunting in what would normally be our pre-rut period. On the morning of Oct. 29, I decided to try a property that I had not hunted at all this year and didn’t even have cameras on. The property is known for holding good deer, and I had hunted it some the year before. Without any scouting or walking the property, I settled in the stand 15 minutes before shooting light. I planned to hunt a few hours and then do some scouting and fill some empty feeders.
“I started a series of rattling and grunting every 15 minutes or so after daylight, and 45 minutes later a good buck appeared out of a thicket 90 yards in front of the stand. I pulled the binoculars up for a quick view. The buck was broadside, and I could see he was a nice 10-point, but I could not tell if he was a tag-out buck. He was obviously looking for a fight and coming to the calls I had been making. When he finally looked up directly at me, I could tell he was a ‘shoot right now buck’ as he was way outside the ears and just as tall. I dropped the binos to pick up my BLR .308.
“The buck was on the move after not seeing the fight he was looking for. Fortunately, when I bush hogged the property in August I had the foresight to cut a few shooting lanes through the oaks. The buck had crossed the first lane pretty quickly, but I was ready for him when he hit the second. A heart shot at 80 yards put him on a death run. It is always a pleasure to have one get bigger than you thought when you come up on them. At 21 inches inside spread, he is by far my widest buck and the second best for me in Jasper County score wise.
“Since then, I have been focused on guiding other hunters in Jasper County and traveling to hunt other states. The cameras showed the peak of big buck rutting activity from around Nov. 2-5 on some of my Jasper County properties with new shooter bucks showing up that we had never seen before. However, even as late as Nov. 25 my son saw five different bucks chasing on one hunt farther north in the county.
“Hunting for a week in Missouri and four more days in Indiana provided a good opportunity to see new land and new deer behavior. Missouri provided me with five all-day sits with more than 25 bucks seen and lots of rutting action, including watching two bucks square off and snort-wheeze. The most striking thing I notice when hunting the Midwest is that deer seem both more forgiving on scent control, and they don’t look up in trees very often. They are big believers in Nose Jammer in Missouri, and I can say for sure it works there, but I do not like it in Georgia, as way too many deer blow at it for me.
“My son scored his personal best deer in Indiana. Again the weather was warm and it was the first time we were fighting mosquitoes in November in Indiana. I am back guiding and doe hunting in earnest in Georgia now. Also lamenting all the pictures of guiding opportunities missed here in Jasper County while out of state. First-world problems, I know.
“In my opinion, Dec. 10-15 is a great time to kill a big buck in Jasper County, as proven over time. Acorns are drying up, deer will move back to feeders, bucks will start adding weight for the winter, and they move a bit more during the daylight. Some yearlings will come into heat, and does missed in the first round will come back in. Pressure starts dropping off when folks have filled their tags or run out of energy to hunt as much.
“Hope to see you at the feed store if you are around the county.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Our timber cut of mostly hardwoods has made a huge difference in deer travel. One quick note… I’ve waited for years to get the proper timber cut. A main goal was to get more cover for bedding and turkey nesting. However, the entire process has been a disaster. Get everything in writing before starting including loading docks and timing for clean up.
“Anyway, we have done our best to conduct our ministry hunts around the mess. The wide-open woods have worked out for some rifle doe harvest. The sporadic oaks left have really exposed acorns, and the deer have fed well but most seem to be at night.
“I had one good rut hunt. The buck was cruising the downwind side of a bedding area of thick pines. He found some does and the chase was on. Very fun and he gave me a bow chance, but I let him get through the shooting lane.
“This month we will be hunting the food plots. They came up late due to the drought. They have been barely touched since the rut was not about food. If they draw the deer in as I hope, it will all be about cold fronts to get ’em there by daylight, since most bedding cover is not close enough. The more I hunt, the more I don’t just hunt food but the travel to that food for chances of a daylight shot. I prefer mornings and hope to get some bucks cruising again through the hardwoods around the Dec. 12-18 time frame. The main rut hunting might be over, but we have plenty of chances to tag a target buck or get a couple of does for the freezer.”
Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Bishop, reports, “Lots of bucks! This November I saw probably a dozen 2- to 4-year-old bucks, lots of chasing, lots of scrapes and more grunting than I’ve ever heard. On Nov. 13 I was able to take a really nice 8-point chasing a doe. There were four more quality bucks chasing the same doe for nearly an hour as she circled my stand several times. I’m just not seeing many big mature bucks, mostly 90- to 110-inch deer. We have had bucks chasing does from opening week of gun season all the way up to Nov. 25.
“Moving forward, hunt the plots in the evenings as bucks try to recover from the rut. If you have any acorns left—maybe that late white oak or some water oaks—hunt them. Cutover browse is a plus if you have it. Late season is also a good time to get in those thick creek bottoms, overgrown thickets with ditches or any area with a lot of cover. Find those worn-out deer trails with crossroads, ditches or creeks that banks flatten out and provide an easy deer travel corridor. Set up a bait station or figure out that travel pattern to a food plot or food source, get downwind, and set up near the trails catching that buck on his way to the food or returning back to the bedding area. Be patient and hunt that spot you can only see 40 to 50 yards and maybe only that specific trail. These spots can be great after a lot of hunter pressure.”
Taylor County: Greg Grimes reports, “This first season having land in Taylor County has been rewarding in spite not getting one on the ground. I have figured out some travel patterns and have seen several much better bucks than I expected. Being a bowhunter can be tough. I had a known 9-year-old buck in bow range three times this season, but it was just too dark to make an ethical shot. Then I had a giant main-frame 8 come to 18 yards and bust me drawing back. He was there midday and was steady walking, and I should have let him pass then drawn back. It was fun being in the game. One mid-November day, I decided to move and then looked at Moultrie app to see the old buck was there three minutes before I arrived. I was thinking right, at least. He was killed by the neighbor a few days after that, but I bought the land for opportunities and I’ve had them. The best hunting was in the seeking phase when the bucks were on their feet much more in daylight. Once closer to peek breeding, not only did I not see any while hunting, I also lost them on most cameras except for a few bucks on camera near thick cover.
“I love the rut and what this means for buck behavior, but I also realize when it comes to killing with stick and string a food pattern might be easier.
“In December the plan is to use the camera to tell me about any shooter bucks in the area. If pics are at night, I’ll plan to hunt a front where they will come out sooner and get in closer to suspected bedding locations. The food plots finally came up from a few rains, so the hope is they hit them and the feeders this month. All patterns are driven by food this month. There are no acorns here, so I’ll be looking for browse on native vegetation, food plots and feeders. Good luck out there this month.”
Cook County: Josh Blackston, of Adel, reports, “November in Cook proved to be good with deer sightings, but daytime camera activity seemed to be a little slower than usual. I only got to experience seeing one full-blown chase, but the one I did see was pretty intense. I’m still on cloud 9 as my favorite hunting partner, my son Wyatt, killed his first buck on the 18th, and what buck it was! So all in all I’d say the rut was good even though it didn’t seem as intense as last year. I’m sure the high temps haven’t helped. I know deer are gonna breed regardless, but there’s just something about cold frosty November mornings that always seem better to me.”
“As December is approaching, I’ve got a rifle hunt on a south Georgia WMA that I’m looking forward to and a trip to the northern part of the state to hunt with a friend I made on Woodys Campfire GON Forum. The only real December tip I have is keep after ’em. It only takes one deer and one second to turn a whole season around. You can go from zero to hero in 2.3 seconds in the deer woods!”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “Well, let’s update as best I can since there has not been much of anything going on. We were excited to head into November and ready for all the excitement that comes with the rut. But… not much of anything has happened. We’ve seen fair deer movement but not a lot of rutting action. We haven’t seen but a couple of mature bucks chasing or trailing does. There have been a few young 1- and 2-year-olds running the does. The trail cameras have picked up a few mature bucks still moving during the night and an occasional daylight picture of one feeding alone in a food plot late morning. It even seems that the doe count is way down. With all that being said, we will not give up. There is still plenty of time to fill the freezer, and we will hunt. December is normally the slow time here, so we will have to put in some seat time and hunt the late food plots and always watch those travel routes.”
“I have seen social media posts of some great bucks taken in Crisp County, so it has been an active season in other parts of the county. One successful hunt ended with 15-year-old Aiden Coogle taking a buck Saturday morning on the 11th while participating in a Crisp County 30-30 Ministries’ Deer Camp weekend. It was cold that morning, and there was good deer movement that weekend and several deer were taken. Aiden also got a really nice 12-point on Thanksgiving day in Macon County.
“As always, as long as season is still in, there is time to harvest a deer. Hoping you are all successful in your pursuit. Hunt safe and God Bless!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “November in the Harris County deer woods was another one to remember! The month started off with freezing temperatures on Nov. 1, followed by early frosts on both Nov. 2 and 3. But after that, there were no additional freezing temperatures or frosts until the week after Thanksgiving. This resulted in cool mornings and mild afternoons, which, combined with no rain until Veterans Day weekend, allowed for pleasant hunting conditions and more good hunting days during prime time than usual. The freezing temperatures very early in the month seemed to trigger much more daytime deer movement than normal. In fact, I observed more rutting activity, especially chasing, than I ever have in any prior deer season, and I’ve been doing this a very long time. And my observations were mirrored by many of my fellow Harris County deer hunters. But this extremely high level of rutting activity shut down abruptly after Nov. 14, at least on the properties where my family and I hunt. Of course, this wasn’t unexpected due to the onset of the lockdown period in mid-November.
“As far as deer food goes, the acorn crop in Harris County this year varied significantly from one property to the next, and even between individual trees on the same property. Many white oak trees produced a bumper crop of acorns, while some trees produced few if any acorns. Red oak trees appear to be producing more of an average crop, with most trees dropping at least some nuts. Our cool-season food plots, which we didn’t get planted until mid-October, didn’t germinate until we received significant rainfall in mid-November, so they weren’t harmed by the early November frosts. All of those plots are now looking nice and green and starting to attract deer in significant numbers. This attraction will continue to increase as the deer transition off white oak acorns and onto natural browse in early December.
Now that November and the rut is gone, we’re into December and post-rut hunting. While bucks with hard antlers will obviously still breed any doe that happens to come into heat this late in the year, it’s not something I count on for when and where I hunt. Bucks are much more concerned now with feeding than they are breeding, so I’ll focus my hunting efforts either on feeding locations themselves or the trails leading to them. Since it’s very hard to successfully hunt food sources in the mornings, I’ll concentrate my hunting activities on the afternoons. Food plots are usually a prime hunting location, especially if they’re isolated and haven’t been over-hunted earlier in the season. Oak flats with multiple red oak trees dropping acorns is another good late-season option. And if you’re into baiting, corn is always a good draw for deer of both sexes, especially as the weather gets colder moving through the month of December. Merry Christmas!”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Hot. Cold. Hot. Not so hot. That about sums up the weather situation around here this season, but some good bucks have hit the ground regardless. Chris Ward, a good friend of mine, killed a great 9-point on our lease while I was in Ohio, like he usually does. He came out in a food plot on Nov. 3 in the evening, and Chris put the smackdown on him.
“Another great deer was killed on Nov. 12 by Brooke Wilkerson, my neighbor. She had been hunting another 9-pointer and could never get him to come out when she was hunting. On Nov. 11 at 3:15 p.m. she got the first picture of this deer. So she went to the stand around 4 with her sister Ansley, and all they saw were a couple of does. So she woke up early on the 12th and got in the stand at 6:37 a.m. with Ansley again, and at 6:51 he walked out. She wasn’t sure it was him at first, but once he stepped out in the open she knew she had only one chance to shoot before he left. She shot and dropped him right there. That was her first buck.
“Even the kids have been laying down some toads. Reed Burgumy killed a nice 8-point with his grandpa, although I don’t know the details.
“The rut around here was crazy, but it really depended on where you were at. Alan Sanders lives on the north end of Twiggs and said he had a pretty good rut going when I talked to him, but just 5 miles as the crow flies, Keith Walker hunts on Sawblade and theirs wasn’t that great, so go figure. I guess Alan’s does had better perfume on.
“My cameras are showing bucks moving good but mainly at night for the big guys. I’m hoping the second rut gets one in front of me or it’s gonna be ‘Cull buck December’ for me. I’ve got the 4-points on one side, spike on the other side gene bad on my hunting spots.
“Everyone’s food plots should be looking good this year with the rains. If you can get some nitrogen on them right before the rain hits it really sweetens them up for late season, but make sure it’s gonna rain or they will burn up.
“I really think the second rut will be good this year, I just have a hunch. So if you haven’t tagged out, you need to be in a tree not on the couch. See ya at the Outdoor Blast.”
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