Things are finally starting to heat up in the deer woods
Realtree writer and Virginia hunter Mike Hanback had a great post Wednesday on why Oct. 20 kicks off the best bowhunting of the year. This year's moon phase creates a special circumstance, but that aside, years of data shows that rubbing and scraping really picks up, at least in the Midwest and Mid-South, around this time of year.
What I'm seeing in the woods in western Kentucky and northwest Tennessee certainly reflects that. After a painfully slow start, October hunting is finally getting good. Last weekend's two-day muzzleloader season in Kentucky was timed perfectly with the year's first big cold front. My son managed to bag a doe in a clover plot the first evening, but our best action happened on an oak ridge the next morning, where we watched a parade of young bucks for a couple hours into the morning. Most were stopping to gobble up white oak acorns, but there did seem to be some aimless traveling in the mix, too — perhaps the first signs of seeking behavior. Meanwhile, Midwest reporter Josh Honeycutt — also a Kentucky guy — bagged a fine Bluegrass buck on Saturday evening. You can check that full hunt out on Midwest Whitetail.
Late last week, prior to the front, I made a big mock scrape on an oak bench, next to a couple of fresh rubs I'd found while scouting at midday. I snuck in and hunted a stand nearby Sunday evening, and though I didn't see any deer, I did have multiple photos of bucks working my faux licking branch and pawing at the scrape.
Encouraged by that effort, I moved a few cameras around on Monday (Oct. 18) and made new mock scrapes near some of my other favorite stands, scattered across a few different properties. Those scrapes have been alive with buck activity virtually every night. Of note, the most active ones were made with doe-in-heat urine; hunters do a lot of hand-wringing over the best scents for mock scrapes, but I don't think that matters as much as putting the scrape in a good location and especially under a good licking branch. Soak that branch down with doe pee or buck tarsal or whatever else you want to use. If a buck is passing through anyway, he'll stop for a sniff.
Down in Georgia, Tyler Jordan had a similar activity report. Deer seem to be generally moving around a lot more, and I'm getting photos of the same mature bucks on three or four different cameras, where I was just getting them on one before, he said. That tells me they're starting to roam around a bit.
Timing the rut gets notoriously sketchy in areas of the Southeast. Alabama Black Belt hunters wait all fall for the peak of things in January, while South Florida hunters saw the best action back in August. Still, regionwide, look for the buck sign and overall deer activity to rise steadily in the coming 10 days, ahead of the big show.
Will Brantley is an outdoor writer and whitetail outfitter from western Kentucky. He spends much of his fall bouncing back and forth across the border between Kentucky and Tennessee.
(Don't Miss: Why Deer Hunting on Halloween is Scary Good)