Surprisingly slow movement in Kentucky, Tennessee for early November
For all the excitement of the first few days, when I had some really good hunts in both Kentucky and Tennessee, early November has been slow. Blogger Mike Hanback nailed a prediction for a trickle rut in this post back on Oct. 20. I've hunted every day of November save for one, usually sitting till 10 in the morning, coming in for lunch and a few hours of work, and then hitting the stand again around 2 p.m.
Now, I can't say the hunting's been bad because I've had deer in bow range every sit but one. I've seen a handful of nice — but young — 8-pointers that tempted me to fill a tag. But I've yet to lay eyes on a mature buck this month, even though my trail cameras tell me a few of them are around.
The rut action seems to be stop and start, too. On Tuesday morning, I had a parade of does — all still with fawns in tow — under my stand from an hour after sunrise to near lunchtime. Two bucks, including the biggest I've seen yet but not quite big enough, marched in for investigation, but after a little lip curling and grunting, they gave up on love, gobbled a few acorns, and ambled on to parts unknown. Yesterday evening, I watched a basket-racked 6-pointer bump a doe and fawn around in the timber, but she wasn't even interested enough to lead him on much of a chase. He, too, soon gave up and went to feeding.
That said, the groups of does I was seeing in food plots and cut cornfields a week ago have vanished — and in fact, deer sightings in general have waned on those open food sources. That's a sure sign does are retreating to thick cover, where a lot of the breeding ultimately takes place. Another sure sign? All but the big primary scrapes are going cold right now. Generally, bucks put a pause on scrape making when the breeding begins.
As such, I've shifted my hunting locations to the thickets, and that's where I've found the best hunting action the past two days. This morning, ahead of the rain, I had a pretty nice buck cruise down the edge of a tangle of cedars on the back side of a pond dam, where I was waiting in a lock-on. Even if I'd wanted to shoot him there'd have been no chance, as he was moving too fast and the cover was too thick. So goes it this time of year in spots like that. At least I saw him.
My guess is we're still a few days away from peak estrus, but year after year, fawn conception dates in this part of the world show that most of the breeding occurs over the next week. That means, despite my not having seen any of them, some of those bigger bucks are already locked down with receptive does. The only way to get a shot is to be there, grinding out the hours on stand.
Temps are supposed to fall once again this weekend, just in time for the Kentucky gun opener. Despite the up-and-down rut activity to this point, I do expect some big deer to hit the ground this weekend. By Thanksgiving, be looking for the action to pick up elsewhere in the region, especially in places like southwest Tennessee and northern Mississippi, where the peak breeding usually happens around the first week in December.
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