2018 Rut Reports From The Georgia Deer Woods
Early rut, scarce acorns?
GON Staff | November 5, 2018
There’s a question mark with that subhead because, while that’s the most prevalent report we are hearing about this Georgia deer season, it literally can vary from county to county. That’s why we have such a good group of Hunt Advisors spread across the state to give timely reports.
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “Prayers answered, cooler weather with frost on Oct. 21! Buck sign everywhere in the woods. We’ve had some early rut activity going on here in north Cherokee. The reason I specified north is because it is not happening in the south end of the county.
“Deer running wild through the woods is normally a mid November event, but not this year. We had such a great fawn drop this year with twins being the norm leads me to believe that part of what is going on may be the does trying to run off the yearlings and bucks are very interested in what’s going on. One of my twin grandsons, Chase, got a nice 8-point opening day of primitive-weapons season, and the hocks were black and stinking. The other twin, Tyler, got a big-bodied 7-point in the south end of Cherokee and hocks were blonde and no smell. So, starting now, I will be using the old Buck Stop in a can just in case.
“What little acorns we had this year are down and for the most part gone. Getting a lot of pictures right at daylight and at dark on food plots. With what’s going on this early with the rut, it’s hard to predict what mid November is going to be like. The only way to find out is to be in the woods as much as possible. That’s my plan, and I hope it’s yours, as well. Till next time, God bless!”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “Deer season is in full swing here, and it’s been pretty dang good since the last week of archery season. I’ve seen good numbers every time out since the second week of October. The rut seems to possibly be coming earlier this year, as it is normally around mid November through Thanksgiving. I’ve seen bucks hounding does since late September, and they are putting scrapes down all over the woods. On the morning of Oct. 27 right at daybreak I took a decent 3 1/2-year-old 8-pointer that was flat out chasing a doe hard. Although his rack wasn’t what I thought it was, he was the heaviest deer I’ve taken in Georgia, weighing in at 180 pounds and had the most fat on him that I’ve seen. Guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, they have been fed very good all summer and fall. The reason I think it may be an early rut is my processor in Jackson County told me every decent buck being brought in was chasing.
“The natural foods sources are just okay this year but probably will be gone earlier than usual. I’m still not a fan of the bait, and I took that buck several hundred yards from any bait, but it will help though the winter, and that buck was an example of its benefits. I’m very fortunate in the fact there are no hogs around my place yet.
“I think the rut is going to be a good one, and if it is early, then the secondary will probably be early also and might even get a third in before season’s end. Strategy for November is to stay on the foods, whether natural or bait, because that’s where the does will be, and wherever they are, the bucks should be, too.”
North Fulton County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Sad, but since the opening day bow-kill by my oldest son, I’ve only been in the north Fulton woods four more times. These were all spent trying to get 7-year-old his first deer. We haven’t seen hide nor hair. Cameras show lots of 2-year-old bucks with one decent 3-year-old.
“On Oct. 28 I went scouting to set up cameras to find a bigger buck. There are some rubs but lots of smaller scrapes. I found a nice recently freshened scrape and set up a camera there. Also, I’m not seeing this bumper crop of acorns that some report—maybe my deer are wherever that is. We do have a decent amount of northern red oaks dropping. I think that food source will be around into December.
“I found a major doe bedding area that I plan to hunt this month. I will get tucked in close with the right wind on the downwind side now that the bucks are out cruising. Others have reported seeing the bucks up on their feet in the last few days. I think the warm trend predicted for early November will suppress some of the potential bucks moving during daylight hours. My fetal data has backdated most breeding in early November, so I need to be out there. However, I’ve always seen more bucks around Thanksgiving in north Fulton. Anyway you slice it, it’s time to be in the woods this month—just be pulling for some cool weather. Good luck, aim low, and hunt safe.”
Rabun County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “A recent mountain hunt in the Chattahoochee National Forest proved to be interesting and educational. The hike in revealed more bear and hog sign than deer by far. Now, that’s OK if you are hunting bear and hog, but when hunting deer, it leaves one to question, where’s the deer? I know we are about a month and half out from rut in northeast Georgia, but they still got to eat, right? Acorns are poor at best, especially 2,000 feet and above. A bright spot is the wildlife openings the national forest personnel have taken care of and in some cases completely reworked.”
“Now is the time to establish where the does are hanging out leading into pre-rut. Included is a picture of a wildlife opening taken Oct. 17 while scouting with my smokepole in hand. As you can see, it is lush and should provide feeding opportunity for many species of wildlife.
“As I often say, to enjoy the mountains is to hunt the mountains!”
Columbia County: Dylan Hankal, of Appling, reports, “The bucks seem to be ready to breed does, but the does in the area do not seem to be in estrous quite yet. I think it will kick in the next couple of weeks or so. With that said, I have been hunting over acorns very heavily the past few weeks. I started to get more and more pictures of a buck I have watched grow over the past year and a half during late September and early October. On Oct. 13, he made his way to my stand, offering me a 30-yard broadside shot at last light. The buck went about 150 yards before expiring in the nearby pines. I firmly believe the key to this hunt in particular was hunting close to the bedding area and in the closest feeding area where the buck ran about three different scrapes.”
Fayette County: Shane McMonigle, aka “rutnbuk” on the GON Forum, reports, “Folks, the long awaited for, much anticipated, best month of the year has finally arrived! Yep, you guessed it—Doe-vember is here again! New buck sign is showing up daily in my areas, and the younger bucks are walking all over the place. Since the cooler weather hit, deer sightings have certainly been on the rise for me, and some locals have seen some really nice bucks showing up on camera. As usual, this is the time of year to get in the woods as much as possible, and, of course, being where the does are is key. A fellow asked me the other day if I thought it was going to be an early rut. I politely said, ‘Yes, early in the morning, early in the afternoon, and early in the evening!’ Don’t worry about date, just getting to the woods is the best strategy!
“With white oaks being spotty, water oak acorns have been the main food source I have noticed deer keying on. Johnny Black, from Black’s Deer Cooler in Fayette County, has seen a steady stream of deer since youth week and firearms season came in. Johnny reported, ‘It has sure been a blessing seeing all the kids come in with their first deer.’ It seems the evenings have still been the better bet for nicer bucks, but as we get shorter days, and colder nights, the mornings will be a good bet for a big boy to show up. A grunt tube and a bleat can will be major factors in all of my hunts this month, as well as a decoy. If you ever considered hunting with a decoy, this is the month to do it.
“Folks, it is a great time to be a deer hunter in Georgia. So make sure you make some time to get out and enjoy it. Good luck, and God bless!”
Hunt Advisor Shane McMonigle spent some time opening weekend of gun season hanging out at the deer cooler and got some pictures for us. (Left) Parker Maxwell, 10, with his first deer, a Fayette County 4-pointer. (Middle) Coleman Davis, 13, with his first deer, a Fayette County doe. (Right) Jackson Bilotti, 11, pictured with his papa Jim Bilotti, with his second deer this season, a Meriwether County doe.
Laurens County: Tim Knight, of Dublin, reports, “Post Hurricane Michael, Laurens County had lots of wind and lost a lot of the mast crop of white oaks and swamp chestnuts. Water oaks and pin oaks were very spotty at the least to start with. The small and big dead limb debris is everywhere in the woods, and boy it makes for noisy walking. The white oaks and swamp chestnuts that did survive should now be dropping hard. Wilkinson County just north of Laurens did not receive near the tree damage as its southeastern border counties. The first of November is a great time to hunt where the does are feeding and just watch them. Bucks will be on their feet looking for receptive does. Rattling and grunting with some snort wheezes thrown in just might get a buck on his feet and committed to your stand location.
“On Oct. 19, the eve of gun season, I was able to rattle up and give a Bipolar episode to a great buck in Laurens County buck that will be featured in an article in a future issue of GON.
“Lots of great bow bucks taken this season already, and the gun season is off to a good start with cooler temps showing up just in time.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “I’ve gotten reports from neighbors of more buck movement in October than ever before. The cooler weather got the younger bucks fired up for sure, it seems. The older-age bucks will start getting on their feet during daylight more this month. Going forward in November, I will be hunting in the low timber by the creeks in the evenings to get a deer staging before coming out into the food plots. They may not care about the food plot food but will be smelling the does that frequent there.
“The white oak acorns are thick, and I’ve found some flats between bedding and food plots, and that should prove to be the best pattern this month. I’ve really been trying to get a better handle on thermals, and thermals don’t rise until mid morning in my favorite spots, and it acts more like an evening sit with scent being pulled down.
“Cameras on the food plots show most mature bucks are still nocturnal, but I hope that will soon change. I’m not excited about the forecast for early this month. The warm weather will suppress daytime action to spite any moon influence. Most of my deer bed off property, so if I’m gonna get them in killing light, I plan to hunt my oak stands closer to the bedding sites if I can catch the right wind direction.
“Since baiting is legal, I’ve had my best success with rice bran and Purina Quick Draw blocks rather than corn. We got set up as a dealer for a bran bag. It protects the bran from any rain and lasts longer than just pouring it on the ground. I’m excited to see later in the season how they react to it once food is more limited. However, as mentioned the white oak acorns are thick. The acorns not sprouting will last a while because a bunch are still coming down green. This is the month we dream about, so get out there even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. You can’t kill ’em on the couch.”
Walton County: Darrell Dickens, of Loganville, reports, “October started out with the temperatures above average. My sightings were low the first couple of weeks. Around the opening weekend of primitive-weapons, the temperatures started to cool down a little and the deer started to move around more in daylight hours. I’m now starting to see deer a couple of hours before dark because the temperatures are about where they are supposed to be this time of year.
“Around the middle of October the bucks in my area started moving around going to their breeding areas. I lost some of the mature bucks that summered in the areas I hunt but got some new ones. On the night of Oct. 20, my buddy Justin Beal and I started getting pictures of a tall mature 7-pointer. We both determined if given a chance we would pull the trigger on him. On the afternoon of Oct. 25, with rain on its way and the wind in my favor, I decided to go after the mature 7-pointer hoping he’d be on his feet before dark. I had seen several does and small bucks early in the hunt. About 15 minutes before dark a 3.5-year-old 8-pointer came out to feed in the food plot. With about five minutes left of legal shooting time, I saw the 8-pointer quickly look to the opposite side of the food plot. I quickly glanced toward the direction the 8-pointer was looking with my binoculars and saw the 7-pointer enter the food plot. I picked my rifle up and steadied it behind his shoulder. I made the 113-yard shot, and my aim was true. A friend of mine Jake Jones sent me a text and told me that was the 7-pointer he had on camera all summer long. I used an app to measure where he had him on camera and where I shot him, and it was 2.42 miles as the crow flies. That just confirms how much these bucks move around during the rut.
“As of the first week of rifle season, the little bucks are aggravating the does. I’ve seen a couple of 3.5-year-old bucks cruising during the second weekend of rifle season looking for does. I have not actually seen any does in heat yet but it won’t be long.
“The deer right now are hammering the white oak acorns, water oak acorns and food plots. I’ve caught several bucks scent checking the plots and never even entering them.
“The time we all dream about is now here. The first week of November is always when I see the most rutting activity. Try and get in the woods as much as you can. Good luck to everyone, and be safe.”
Colquitt County: Adam Childers, of Norman Park, reports, “It’s time to be in the woods, ladies and gentlemen! Late October has finally brought some cool weather, and the early pre-rut activity is starting to show up. I’m finally seeing some rubs and scrapes and have heard of young bucks showing interest in the does. I think we are still 10 days to two weeks from prime time, but I believe bucks will be on their feet more and more in the coming days. As I am writing this on Oct. 28, my brother Ben Childers is putting a tape on a fine middle Georgia swamp buck he arrowed this afternoon behind a doe, and I’m still smiling about a buck I was fortunate enough to kill yesterday afternoon making his way along a scrape line.
“For the next few weeks, I’ll be focused on rub/scrape lines and food sources that the does like. Green plots and acorns will be my top choices. The strategy for the next few weeks is simple. Be in the woods every second that you can. There are no bad spots, but some spots are just better than others. I try to always remember that a long unsuccessful season can become a huge success in a matter of seconds during November. If you stay after them, success is sure to come. Good luck as we enter the month of sweet November!”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “Well, we are a couple of weeks into gun season, and the deer are moving pretty good in our neck of the woods. We are seeing a good healthy deer herd this year with several yearlings and buttonheads. We have seen them moving early to mid morning. There were a couple of days that I didn’t see a deer until 9:30. They haven’t seemed to be very interested in stopping to eat on anything except for an occasional nibble on green browse and persimmons. Trail cameras have picked up a couple of good mature bucks in the middle of the night but not much more to brag about. I saw one good buck in daylight hours on the 21st just before dark trailing 10 minutes behind a doe. I have found numerous scrapes and rubbed trees that are being worked regular. Our action usually picks up around the first week of November and into the second week they are chasing the does. We will see if that still holds true. The bucks seem to still be in bachelor groups with one or two mature bucks traveling alone. I have been monitoring the scrape line with trail cameras and have several bucks and does working the line. Hoping they decide to check the scrape out in the daylight hours in the near future. The local processors have posted several good local bucks on social media. Good luck, hunt safe, and God bless!”
Early County: Sam Klement reports, “Hurricane Michael has put a hurting on everyone down here. It’s hard to even get excited about hunting when you see the devastation and know so many people have been affected. We had all our properties planted, stands hung and were ready to start hunting, and Michael sure made a mess out of most of my leased properties. I haven’t been able to check all stands, but so far about 50 percent are now under fallen trees and will have to be replaced. It’s a sickening feeling. Like everyone else, we will get our homes squared away and then focus on our deer hunting. Based on what I have seen, pretty much all the acorns are blown down. The deer will have a hard time getting them out of the cups because it’s way too early for most to be dropping. The food plots look very good, minus a lot of limbs that have blown in. The woods are very open because of the early leaf drop from the winds.
“My strategy when I get my roads and stands checked and re-hung will not change. I like to hunt very thick spots with as many timber changes as possible in the vicinity. Deer relate to edges, and big mature deer like thick cover. I will start to use some VooDoo deer lure and tickle my antlers on a sting to imitate small bucks sparring. If a mature buck is close, he will come to investigate. I will also start use my grunt calls. I tell most folks that when the bucks shed their velvet, they are ready to breed. They are just waiting on the does. If you use lures and horns sparingly in the right situations, they will work.
“Good luck to my fellow hunters after Michael’s devastation. I hope we all sit high in a tree this year and take in the good Lord’s beauty and glory, and thank Him for all our blessing. Huntin is Good.”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “Good gracious, opening day of the 2018 firearms deer season in a Harris County deer stand was warm! And, apparently, our Harris County deer herd mostly decided to rest and not sweat that morning, because I can’t remember a quieter opening morning than I heard —or actually, did not hear. I heard exactly one shot all morning long. Luckily, the temperature cooled somewhat by Sunday, and the deer movement pick up somewhat as well, with one of our Flatrock Hunting Club members, Branten Kreuzkamp, killing a wide, 131-inch 10-pointer on a club food plot the afternoon of Oct. 21.
“Speaking of our food plots, in a prior month’s hunt report, I had stated that we were going to plant our club food plots this year with a no-till drill rather than plowing them up and then sowing like we had done in previous years, both to save time and money, and that I would report the results of that experiment so you could learn with us. Well, I’m doing that as promised, and let’s just say that the buck described above was killed over the second planting of that food plot. Simply put, all of our drilled food plots failed and had to be re-planted the regular way. I don’t know if it was a lack of moisture at the right time, the way we planted due to our inexperience with the no-till drill, or something else, but I do know we ended up spending more money in the long run by having to do two plantings. Since we’ve never had to re-plant all of our club food plots when we’ve disked them, we’ll be going that route in future years. But, on the bright side, the second planting of our food plots are all looking great. And, with only very scattered white oak acorns on our Harris County properties this year, and with fair-at-best red oak acorn production, these food plots have been, are, and will be one of the best places to kill a deer – buck or doe – this season, provided they’re at least somewhat isolated and don’t get over-hunted.
“An interesting thing about the rut in Harris County—and the GON Rut Map is spot-on about this—is that the rut actually kicks in earliest in the eastern half of the county and progresses westward throughout the month of November, occurring later in the month the closer the deer live, and someone hunts, to the Chattahoochee River. This is a major reason why hunters in one part of Harris County will experience very different rut activity than someone who may be hunting just a few miles away. I’m reporting this, and emphasizing it, because you don’t necessarily need to listen to what your neighbors are saying—or what I’m saying—about the current stage or timing of the rut, because it very well may be different on the land you actually hunt. You need to know, based on your own observations from year to year, what the deer are doing on your own hunting property. And the best way to do that is to keep a log book of your observations related to deer activity. If you’re like me, if you don’t write it down, you won’t remember from one year to the next what you saw happening when—but that info can be much more important to your hunting success than any trail-camera picture you’ll ever get. It’s the magical month of November, so you probably have all of this figured out and a big buck on the ground by now anyway. But if you don’t, stop reading my ramblings and get out there in God’s great creation. This is the time we’ve all have been waiting 11 months for!”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “If you’re saying it’s too hot to hunt this year, then you are right—but you’re missing out on some great hunting. I killed my biggest Georgia bow buck on Sept. 30 coming to white oaks and roasted corn (see Week 4 Truck-Buck coverage), a great 10-point with a 17-inch inside spread and 8-inch tines.
“This is the hottest bow season on record and washing clothes in between hunts gets old, but it does pay off even though I have had more deer blow at me this year than any other year I can remember. Despite the heat, I have been seeing deer morning and evening with pictures of them feeding midday. There is still no sign being put down in the middle of the county, but I guarantee when the does start getting right, nothing will stop the rut. It might happen mainly at night, but it will happen, everyone knows that.
“The white oaks are all on the ground now thanks to Michael, plus a few of my stands and trees. But the rain helped the plots finally. Once the cold got here, it was like a switch was thrown. Literally over night paw marks were laid down, and bucks started showing up in daylight on the cameras. I think I have more shooters on camera this year than any other year, and I’m hoping one of my kids can connect. November is the month we’ve been waiting on, and it looks to be a good one. Time to sit and sit some more, and enjoy what the woods can offer. Rattle some horns and throw out some grunts, and you might be surprised what shows up. It looks like the moon will be perfect for the rut in this area with it coming off full headed to the new.
“I’ve been experimenting with the roasted corn and soybean mix the feed store in Jeffersonville has, and believe me you want some. It will bring ’em and keep ’em. Every time I put it out after running straight corn for months, the deer doubled and more bucks showed up. I did it at four different places, so I know it works.
“It’s gonna get wild these next few weeks, so hold on and enjoy the ride. Should set up to be a great month for some great deer.”
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