Despite a slow start, the November action is now off the charts. Call in sick and get in the woods
Beforee Saturday, Nov. 12, my deer season had been about the slowest one in memory. The rut action in western Kentucky and Tennessee, where I hunt most of the time, seemed nonexistent. That was due in large part, I think, to an extended stretch of near-record heat. Say what you want about the weathe, the moon and the rut — I know there are studies suggesting they don't matter — but the full moon of Nov. 8 was complemented by a real winter cold front on Friday night, Nov. 11. When that happened, the woods blew up with deer movement.
Saturday morning was the gun opener in Kentucky, and we had almost an inch of fresh snow on the ground — one of the few snowy openers I've seen in my lifetime. Though deer movement was sluggish at daybreak, it picked up big-time by midday. My son and I were sitting in a box blind in the timber, and he shot a fine 8-pointer at 2:30 p.m. that was chasing does. The next morning, I filled my tag with a big 10-pointer that I've been after all season but had yet to see on the hoof. I'd never gotten a daylight photo of the buck, either, but he strolled into a food plot like he owned the place an hour after daylight.
Normally, many of our mature bucks are locked down with does by this point in the season, as this is typically the time for peak breeding. There's no doubt some of that happening, but I'm still seeing does with fawns in tow, too, in person and on my trail cameras, and bucks up and cruising. Scrapes were still active during the weekend, too.
Down in middle Tennessee, Kerry Wix agreed that the rut might be a little late, but he thinks it's important for hunters to remember that the action can be extremely localized, too. I think if folks kept journals of activity on specific farms from one year to the next, they'd see trends that show some farms get good on the same day year after year, while other properties just down the road might seem dead at the same time, he said.
Tyler Jordan says things are "wide open" down in Georgia. "Deer are full out chasing, and I think some of our bigger deer are locked down or out roaming," he says.
The rut's not firing throughout the region, though, especially in points farther south. Matt Harrison works for Ducks Unlimited and lives in Mississippi, near Jackson. He sent me a trail camera photo from early this morning that showed a bachelor group of bucks gathered around a feeder.
There's not rut action as of right now, he said. We're still about a month away from it down here. They're really just now starting to split up from their bachelor groups.
Chasing the rut is one of the beauties of hunting the Southeast. Hunters in places such as Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and most of Georgia and Tennessee can expect pretty good hunting from now through Thanksgiving. In places such as southwestern Tennessee, Mississippi, and portions of Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, the best is yet to come. Hopefully, this cool-weather trend continues. Even if it has nothing at all to do with the rut, it sure makes it feel like deer season outside.