Bowhunters Seeing Lots Of Food, Good Deer Movement As 2006 Season Begins

GON Staff | September 22, 2006

David Byrd of Leesburg killed this velvet-covered buck in Lee County on September 13 on the edge of some planted pines. The deer is a basic 5X5 that grosses in the low 160s and should net in the high 150s.

In the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) annual mast survey, the overall oak rating was a 3.14, which ranks as “Good” and is the highest rating that oaks can receive. A rating from 0.0 to 2.0 is poor, 2.01-3.0 is fair and anything above 3.0 is good.

Red oaks topped the list this year, with an overall rating of 4.24; the white-oak rating was a 2.62 and the chestnut rating was only a 1.65.
Scott Frazier with WRD said the red oaks were actually patchy. Some red oaks scored extremely high and some very low. The message to mountain hunters is that if you haven’t seen a red oak that is slam-loaded, keep looking.

The mast-crop survey is done on north Georgia WMAs and sections of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The state’s acorn information pretty much matches what bowhunters have told GON; the red oaks are brown, falling and the deer are all over them. White oaks seem spotty across the state, which has hunters happy that they’ll be able to better pinpoint deer when gun season starts.

Overall, hunters who have braved the hot weather seem pretty happy about the number of deer they’ve been seeing. Mornings and evenings seem about split for deer numbers, and rubs and scrapes are just beginning to show up in many areas.

• Cherokee Co.: Greg Long said the red oaks are raining down in north Georgia.

“They’re dropping, and the deer are eating them,” said Greg Grimes. “The white oaks are spotty. I’ve seen just a few that have started to fall, and some of them are small — the size of the end of my pinkie. I think the drought messed it up.”

Greg is actually pretty excited that the white-oak crop won’t be a bumper one this year.

“It’s just the right amount to get the deer drawn in — you’ll be able to pinpoint them and kill them,” said Greg. “I’ve seen no rubs or scrapes yet.”

• Habersham Co.: Dickie Edwards has been bowhunting a lot.

“I’ve been real lucky; I’ve seen deer about every time I’ve been in the woods,” said Dickie. “My son missed one, my brother has had several shots at does but didn’t take them, and I shot a 5-pointer with a 15-inch spread — it didn’t have brow tines.”

Dickie said the 5-pointer was running with an 8- and a 10-pointer, but he couldn’t get a shot at the other bucks.

“Right now I’m hunting red oaks real hard,” said Dickie. “They’re not really dropping, but I’m finding some where the squirrels are dropping them out real hard. Most of the red oaks have a lot of acorns on them.

“The white oaks are real spotty. You have to find some around a creek; most of the ones up high have no acorns.”

Dickie said the persimmons are loaded, it’s a bumper crop.

“I found a few dropping the weekend before the season came in, but they’re really falling right now,” said Dickie. “The crabapples are falling, but deer don’t really get on those if they’ve got persimmons.”

Dickie said that nearly all of the deer activity has been in the afternoon; he’s seeing very few deer in the morning.

“It’s just been so hot, and people aren’t really hunting much,” said Dickie. “This morning (September 19) was the first comfortable morning we’ve had.”

Dickie has yet to see the first rub or scrape.

• Union Co.: No reports of any good bucks or good bears yet, according to Mike Akins of Owltown Outfitters in Blairsville, but he said a group is heading up the hill this weekend to a bear camp.

“It’s been kind of slow, just some young deer and does that I’ve heard of. I got within 80 yards of a good bear but couldn’t close the deal,” Mike said. “The acorns are spotty. The white oaks, some are absolutely loaded down and some don’t have any. That should help the hunting if you find them. The soft mast is poor. Persimmon trees that were loaded to begin with, they didn’t finish out. They’re empty. The grape vines are empty, too.”

Mike said there’s still a lot of game low around the agriculture fields.

• Crawford Co.: Persimmons pulled in a doe for Yancey Houston of Bollingbroke on September 17.
“There are big persimmons 50 feet tall that are loaded and falling,” said Yancey. “It’s a prime spot. It sounds like a deer feeder when they fall. The doe I killed came in like she knew where they were.”
ancey said a friend had killed another doe on a pea patch on the same property.

“We haven’t seen any bucks, yet,” said Yancey.

The white oaks on his property are without acorns, but the willow and red oaks have a good crop, he said.

• Fulton Co.: Larry Nichols of Douglasville killed a doe on September 15.

“I was hunting red-oak acorns; they just starting dropping three or four days before that,” said Larry. “The muscadines are dropping, and the deer are eating them but I haven’t seen any deer under them. I’ve been trying to see some white-oak acorns, but I’m not seeing them. I won’t say they’re not there, but I can’t see them.”

Larry is hunting a 30-acre hardwood flat, and he’s seen 14 total deer on three morning and two afternoon hunts.

“That’s above average for September,” said Larry. “I’m seeing about the same amount in the mornings versus the evenings.”

Larry hasn’t seen a buck yet; however, his hunting partner, Phil Lewis, saw a decent buck.

• Meriwether Co.: Charles Worley said the hunting has been slow.

“We had eight in camp over the weekend, and I think only four deer were seen,” said Charles. “It was hot and muggy, 87-88 degrees. Everybody I talked to in town wasn’t seeing deer either. The red oaks are falling heavy, and the white oaks are barely falling from squirrels knocking them out. The white-oak crop is decent but not abundant.”

Charles said his muscadines are very late falling. He’s still got some hanging on the vine that just started to fall.

“I’ve seen some young-buck activity: four or five small scrapes in the hardwoods and a couple of small rubs,” he said.

• Morgan/Walton Co.: Dwayne Britt said the red oaks are looking great.

“They’re better than I’ve seen in years,” said Dwayne. “When you find them the ground is just tore up underneath. I guess they’re the best food source with the most nutritional value.”

Dwayne said the muscadines fell early and are all gone. The persimmons are “slam” loaded but aren’t very close to falling, and a few water oaks have started to drop and the white-oak crop is spotty.

“Some of the white oaks have little-bitty acorns, and some have large ones — they’re real spotty,” said Dwayne.

One of the best patterns Dwayne has seen in bow season is to hunt along briar edges.

“I’ve seen deer tearing those briar leaves up,” said Dwayne. “We have cut timber, and the deer come on edges of the cutover and eat briars. I watched a spike eat briar leaves right by a red oak that had acorns on the ground. He never touched the acorns.”

Dwayne planted food plots in August, and he said they look great.

• Appling Co.: Deer hunting has been real good in this southeast Georgia county. Tim Sutton said hunters braving the hot weather have been seeing great numbers of deer.

“Opening weekend I saw deer at every setting,” said Tom. “I’ve seen a few small bucks and killed one doe. The deer movement has just been real good, even through it’s hot and muggy.”

Tim said the live oaks really have the deer concentrated. Recently Tim was hunting and actually heard deer chomping on the acorns before he saw the deer.

“Most of the live oaks dropping are in the bottoms where there is a little more moisture,” said Tim. “The deer are definitely on the acorns.”

Tim has checked dozens of persimmons trees, and the trees have no fruit.

“Opening day I was sitting 50 yards from a persimmon that is always loaded, but it’s got nothing on it,” said Tim.

Rubs are everywhere, and the few scrapes showing up are only the size of a basketball.

• Lee Co.: David Byrd killed a Lee County buck on September 13 that should net in the upper 150s. David killed the buck on the edge of some planted pines in an area where he’d seen the buck before the season. Since then David’s been concentrating on agricultural fields.

“I’m seeing anywhere from 12 to 40 deer in the afternoon,” said David. “Right now the peanuts fields are hot. The best time to hunt a peanut field is right before they dig them. A few farmers have just started to dig now, but by the end of the month they’ll be in full swing. That’s usually when you start looking for acorns, but I haven’t seen any on the ground yet.”

David has seen a few very small scrapes and no rubs.

Macon/Sumter Co.: Food plots are where Tony Morris of Americus says he’s been seeing the deer so far this season.

“The acorns haven’t started falling yet. The squirrels are cutting out some swamp chestnuts, but they’re not ready yet,” Tony said.

He said the persimmon trees are loaded, but they’re just starting to turn and are two to three weeks from falling.

“All the tracks and the deer I’m seeing are in food plots, they’re not in the ag fields,” he said.

• Sumter Co.: Michael Lee has been filming the Southern Backwoods Adventures T.V. show, and he says they’ve been seeing quite a few does and some young bucks.

“Opening weekend was terrible; the moon had them all fouled up,” said Michael. “Those deer were moving between three and five in the morning.”

Since then Michael’s hunting has picked up. He’s hunting a 10-acre un-cut corn field that was planted just for deer hunting.

“I watched a 4-pointer eat corn off the stalk,” said Michael. “I had a 6-pointer come in with four does.”

Michael missed one of the does, but since then he’s not having trouble seeing deer in this food plot.

“I know one thing — I’ve never seen this many spotted fawns,” said Michael. “The fawn (recruitment) rate is pretty high, but a lot of these does must have been bred in January. I saw one the other day that had to only be a couple of months old.”

Michael’s dad, Mike, has killed two does, one in the afternoon on a peanut field and the other a morning doe that was killed near a deep gully in a hardwood bottom.

“The gully was a bottleneck,” said Michael. “We’ve been seeing as many deer in the mornings as evenings, but right now I’d bet more on the afternoon hunts.”

Michael said the water oaks have started to fall, but the deer are focusing more on the corn and peanut fields. Although he hasn’t checked his persimmons in a week, he’s betting they’re just now starting to fall and could be a factor from now until the start of gun season.

“I found a lot of scrapes this past weekend on hedgerows coming into hardwood ridges,” said Michael. “There’s been a few rubs where they’ve been rubbing velvet off.”

Michael rates the first half of bow season as average.

• Toombs Co.: Shane Rogers has had a few hunters in at RoseAllen Plantation, and most of the deer they’ve seen have been in the food plots.

“Peas are the main thing, but they’re hitting oats, wheat, vetch and clover, too,” said Shane. “They’re seeing as many in the morning as in the afternoon. After the second weekend the water and live oaks started to fall, so they’ll start getting on them.”

Shane said that scrapes have started showing up on the oak ridges.

Georgia’s rifle season fires up on October 21. Look for opening-day coverage, along with more food updates, in the November issue.

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