The weather's been turbulent in the Southeast this week, with warm temperatures and buckets of rain — but it's getting better now
By the time sun sets on Friday the 13th, I'm expecting more than a few Southeastern hunters to have had a lucky day. The weather has been a mixed bag through the region this past week, with the remnants of Hurricane Eta dumping buckets of rain across Florida, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Meanwhile, the Mid-South states farther west have been stuck in a long spell of stale, warm weather. But a cold front has passed, and today it feels a lot more like deer season in most of the region.
Even in warm weather, the rut goes on. I've heard multiple reports of steady action all week. On Tuesday, my buddy Ryan climbed into his stand in Kentucky and soon saw a stud of an 8-pointer chasing does in the bean field in front of him. He made a few deep grunts, and the buck charged in. Ryan shot him with his crossbow but centered heavy bone in the buck's upper shoulder, resulting in a superficial wound. Ryan jumped the buck from its bed the next day, and verified it. My buddy was sick over it, even though he's a veteran hunter who knows such things happen to the best of us. Interestingly, the same buck appeared on camera Thursday morning — in the same spot — chasing does. Bucks are tough, and the urge to breed trumps about everything else.
Yesterday evening, then, Ryan opted for a change of scenery and jumped across the state line into Tennessee, where muzzleloader season is open. He passed on a couple of young bucks cruising, and reported seeing a genuine bruiser tending a doe in a thicket, maybe 100 yards from his stand. He never could get a clear shot, but he's headed back down there today.
Meanwhile — literally as I type this — I'm getting texts from my brother, Matt, who's in a pinch-point stand on our farm, where I killed a good buck last fall. He's seen the same shooter 8-pointer twice, once yesterday evening and once this morning, but the buck has peeled off after a doe both times, just before the moment of truth. Kentucky's rifle season opens tomorrow morning, so if Matt doesn't fill his tag with a bow today, I'd say his chances are good in the morning.
Over in Virginia, where Realtree contributor and Big Deer TV host Mike Hanback calls home, things are getting good. After a week of 75-degree days, 3 inches of rain yesterday along with a 10-degree temperature drop finally got mature bucks up and seeking, he says. Bucks cruising and pushing now will morph into full-blown chasing this weekend. It's on! Hanback followed that up with a photo of a stud 10-pointer that they killed on film for Big Deer TV yesterday afternoon.
With gun seasons opening throughout the region, it's tempting to set up on open food sources, where you can see and cover a lot of country. That can certainly work, but if it's not happening in the fields, don't hesitate to leave them and tuck into cover, where 50 yards would be a long shot. Right now, your No. 1 strategy should be to find does, and a good many of them are going to be hiding in thickets — either to catch a few moments' peace from the young bucks cruising the field edges, or to lock down with a mature buck.
The best days have yet to come for hunters in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, but for most hunters in this region, the best days are happening right now — and it'll start getting tougher in the near days ahead. Get out there and make the most of it.
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.
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