Drought grips much of the region, but a weather reprieve is on the way
It seems there's been a sampling of weather to suit just about everyone in the Southeast over the past few weeks … unless of course you've been hoping for rain in the western stretches of the region. About a week ago one of the strongest early cold fronts in memory brought sub-freezing temperatures to my neck of the woods in western Kentucky for three mornings in a row. The cold north wind in the wake of that front was a shock to the system for sure, seeing as how we'd been swatting mosquitoes the week prior.
Daylight deer activity was excellent during that time. I spent most of my time hunting an oak ridge between a thicket and food plot, and saw a veritable caravan of whitetails almost every sit. Still, family groups of does and fawns traveling together — and at a leisurely rate — told me about all I needed to know about rut activity in the area. Furthermore, buck movement was conspicuously absent despite the November-like weather.
It turned off hot again after that, and though I haven't hunted much since, I have been spending a good bit of time in the woods adjusting a few trail cameras around mock scrapes. The action there has remained slow (maybe even more delayed than normal), but a card pull this morning did reveal a couple young bucks working the licking branches in daylight over the past two days.
Though there's a rain in the forecast, we're flirting with severe drought in my part of the region. Some counties in western Kentucky haven't had a measurable rainfall since the first of September. Hilltop food plots are parched and dead, and even those planted in lower-lying areas are barely hanging on. Most of the soybeans and virtually all of the corn has been cut. As mentioned last week, the mast crop—which seems to have been delayed a bit—has become a bright spot. Oaks of all species are continuing to drop. There aren't acorns under every tree by any means, but there are enough of them out there to give deer some much-needed nutrition during these lean times—and to influence your hunting strategies, too. As a final point on the drought, my most active trail camera right now is set up right over a flowing creek that does not run dry. Deer are watering there at all hours of the day — as are turkeys, predators, squirrels, raccoons, and a host of other critters.
Conditions are a little better in coastal parts of the region, thanks to the tropical influence. Some contacts at Realtree HQ said that despite the warm weather, the deer woods were alive over the weekend in southern Georgia with bucks fighting, chasing, and grunting. My younger brother, Matt, lives over in South Carolina where he works as an HVAC technician. He's been on the road working long hours this fall, and said that during last week's cold front, deer seemed to be up and moving everywhere, though most of the activity did seem to still be from does and fawns. Matt said virtually all the deer he saw were feeding under oaks.
The rain and cold front forecast for this week couldn't be at a better time. Judging by my notes from years of past hunting, October 28 has over and again been the first day that I've seen bucks chasing does around here, and that includes a couple good ones that I've tagged over the years in late October. Typically the rut action only increases in the two weeks following that. That's excluding outlier areas of the region, of course, like Mississippi and the Alabama Blackbelt, where hunters will need to wait several more weeks before seeing much rutting activity.
A good many firearm and muzzleloader seasons are open or opening soon throughout the Southeast. Over the next week, watch and hunt the weather fronts — and if you don't tag a buck, it's then time to get in the stand every free moment you have. For most of us, the best hunting of the year is just around the corner.
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