Mast crop better than expected in parts of the Southeast; scrapes opening up and little bucks on the move
These days, it's easy to find research on whitetail deer behavior to support — or counter — just about any personal conviction you may have on a given topic. The October Lull is certainly one of them. Though plenty of studies suggest that deer movement steadily increases the entire month of October, I've always found the most predictable slow spell of hunting season to be about right now, from Oct. 10-20. That's in the woods or on the fields, in multiple states over the course of about 30 years of hunting whitetails.
That doesn't mean the lull is real, biologically speaking, or that there aren't exceptions; I've had some good hunts in mid-October, particularly when I've planned them around a cold front. With that in mind, on-again, off-again hunting has been the rule all week across the southern region, maybe partly because of the lull and partly because of one good cold front after another.
I've spent time in a tree in both Kentucky and Tennessee this past week. The ongoing drought is one big story, as it's causing green food sources, including food plots, to wither ahead of schedule this fall. It's also meant that farmers have been able to combine corn and soybeans quickly this season, without having to time their harvests between rains. Those things have caused a seismic shift in deer activity around fields the past two weeks.
Up in the timber, the mast crop has been a bright spot. Earlier in the fall, the acorn crop seemed pretty spotty around here. But I've actually noticed a lot of oaks — whites and reds — dropping this week. For whatever reason, it seems, some trees just held their mast a little longer this season. Personal observation says it's not a great mast crop, but it's certainly good enough to make a difference in the hunting and the health of the herd.
I have half a dozen cell cameras and another dozen traditional cameras monitoring properties that I hunt myself and outfit clients. Most of the movement is in the fringes of daylight and after dark, though I have seen a noted increase in young bucks that seem to be cruising through pinch points. I've also gotten photos of numerous young bucks sparring, and a shot of at least one good mature shooter locked up with a smaller buck. Some of the hottest cameras right now are set near creek crossings where there's water. That's not surprising given the drought.
The update is much the same in the rest of the region, if not a little better. Down in Georgia, Realtree's Johnny Carter says he's having a hard time focusing on work when he's in the office, because he'd rather been in a stand this time of year. He hunted Friday evening, and said scrapes have opened up everywhere, and little bucks are on the move checking does. The action was good, Carter said, complete with some chasing, grunting, and snort-wheezing. But mature bucks remained absent.
Over in Virginia, Mike Hanback says that scrapes are opening up, but rubs remain spotty. Deer are on the acorns. He's looking ahead to the cool snap in the forecast this week, and also has high hopes for the weather trend that's been in place so far this fall. If cool weather holds, the pre-rut leading to Halloween could be the best one in years for bowhunters, Hanback says. That guy's predictions on deer season are almost uncanny, so you might want to watch the forecast and plan to hunt over the next two weeks.
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