Drought grips parts of the region, but early October hunting has been surprisingly productive in places
There are tales of weather extremes right now across the region, with areas nearer to the coasts inundated with heavy rains, while parts of the interior Southeast remain parched. Meanwhile, the bright full moon, rapidly changing food sources and a few well-timed cold fronts are keeping day-to-day hunting interesting.
Down in Georgia, Realtree's Tyler Jordan says the moon is making it tough, but he has been seeing more bucks on the move the past few days. Fresh rubs and a few scrapes are popping up, and he's seeing a few bucks making the early rounds, appearing on three or four cameras during the night. Still, he says, the acorn crop is heavy, and hunting has been tough. Daylight deer movement remains difficult to predict, and Jordan says most bucks are still on a nocturnal routine.
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This past week was fall break for my crew, and we celebrated by taking a trip to central Texas, to a property we've hunted the past several years with my buddy (and Southwest Region Rut Reporter) Miles Fedinec. The archery opener was Oct. 1 in Texas, and we found the hunting to be generally stale there, too — especially by Texas standards. We saw a few bucks, and there were hints of action to come. One morning, a pair of young 8-pointers squared off to spar at the base of my stand, situated in a live oak. A few thrashed bushes and light scrapes were popping up, but in general, it seemed bachelor groups of bucks were just beginning to separate. Movement from mature deer was especially slim. We had a couple of fleeting sightings right at dark, and that was it. We made the drive home with empty coolers. That it was dry and near 90 degrees most days didn't help.
We got back to Kentucky in time for the two-day October youth season. My 8-year-old son and I sat in a ground blind overlooking a big winter wheat and clover field Saturday evening. The field is in a bottoms and caught a couple of good rains right after it was planted in early September, so it's still nice and green. We saw a pile of deer, including one nice buck that bull-rushed a couple of doe groups in the field. Unfortunately, that buck never made it into comfortable range for my son. We were greeted by a light frost the next morning — the season's first — and my wife, who was bowhunting a stand a few hundred yards from us, managed to fill two antlerless tags with two perfect arrows. It was a great end to a good week.
Though the cold fronts have been cooperative, we need rain in western Kentucky and Tennessee. The news said this morning that we're going on 30 days without it. Corn and soybeans are being cut quickly, but the drought has left most of the food plots I planted in early September in pretty dire shape. Combine that with a mast crop that's spotty at best, and the late-season hunting in particular could be tough.
Good news is, whitetails are tough, too — and we're another week closer to the best part of the year.