Mature bucks are cruising, coming to calls; scrape lines are hot
As I write this it's Nov. 4, 2020, and there is big news to report: The best phase of the rut is rocking right now in much of the Southeast. Far as I'm concerned, nothing else going on today is more worth my attention. Turn off the TV, ditch work, and get in a stand. The news will be waiting for you when you get back.
I abandoned my desk duties completely on Monday, Nov. 2, to hunt in northwestern Tennessee, where it was time well spent. I was sitting in a cluster of big red oaks, with a hayfield on my left and thick creek bottoms on my right. The edge of the hayfield was torn up with fresh scrapes.
I spotted a big buck cruising through the bottoms an hour after daylight, and so I hit him with a grunt call. Ten minutes and a perfect arrow later, one of my best bow bucks ever was piled up just 15 yards from the base of my tree. As I've been out and about in western Kentucky and Tennessee over the past two days, I've lost count of the number of bucks I've seen cruising and chasing. Tyler Jordan has been in Kentucky the last few days, and he managed to fill a tag of his own with a big 9-pointer earlier this week.
Over in Virginia, contributor Mike Hanback reports similar action. The seeking phase is full throttle, with both young and mature bucks out cruising for does, he says. The chase phase is just days away. With the moon still bright, there's good movement midmorning and into the early afternoon. They're scraping hard, and it's a great time to carry a grunt call!
All this is to say that if you're hunting in the Mid-South area and waiting for the light to come on, consider the switch flipped. The best part of the season is happening right now. I'm seeing a lot of deer wherever acorns are on the ground, but as reported previously, the mast crop is fairly spotty in much of the region, so don't expect that to last. Deer are hammering fresh-cut cornfields, but with most of the crop in the bins, you can expect that to wane a bit. Cover-crop wheat is around 4 inches tall in these parts, and deer are all over it. It's been a good fall for food plots, too, and you can expect clover and cereal grains to remain attractive through the end of November or longer.
Farther south, in places like Alabama and northern Mississippi, the rut progression is a little slower. Peak rut dates for many of those areas aren't for another month yet — but still, you can expect to see ever-better buck movement with the passing of each new cold front.
There's a serious warmup in the forecast for the days ahead, but don't let that deter you. The deer will rut regardless, and you can't kill one if you're not out there. With many firearms seasons just days away — muzzleloader season opens in Tennessee on Saturday and modern gun opens in Kentucky the 14th — I expect some good bucks to hit the ground in the days ahead.
But in the immediate near term, bowhunters should enjoy the most action-packed part of the season. In much of the region, we're still a week to 10 days away from peak breeding, and so frustrated bucks are on their feet and cruising right now. They're more susceptible to calling and aggressive hunting tactics right now than at any other time of the year.
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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