Early archery hunters were successful on big velvet bucks in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi
Though the traditional kick-off to Realtree’s annual Rut Report isn’t until October, many southeastern hunters have been hunting for more than a month already. The 2023 deer season is off to a great start, too, with a number of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky hunters arrowing some great velvet bucks during early archery seasons.
I’m reporting from southwestern Kentucky, where the summer and fall weather has been something of a roller coaster. We had a hot and dry start to the summer in June followed by record rainfall and flooding in July and early August. Some of the season’s hottest weather was around the first of September, and we again bordered on drought conditions for most of the month. A number of hunters, me included, took a gamble in planting fall food plots in early August. The mid-summer rains led to outstanding germination, but most of my plots were then zapped by a combination of heat, drought, and grazing deer. Last week, I fueled the tractor and replanted several acres of failed brassicas with cereal grains in an effort to keep some green on the landscape later this season.
Challenging as the weather has been for food-plotters, it’s been outstanding for mast production. Much of the Mid-south has had a bumper crop of acorns (white and red oaks), as well as hickory and beech nuts. For the past couple weeks, white oak ridges have definitely been the ticket for hunting, too. I sat in a ladder stand with my son and his crossbow last week, and he arrowed a fat doe that was gorging herself 30 yards away under the canopy of a big white oak.
Though the hot, dry weather made for fairly stale deer activity in late September, things changed in a good way late last week, with the arrival of the first big cold front of the season and a full day of much-needed rain. Temperatures dropped into the 70s, from near-90-degree highs, and there were even reports of patchy frost in some areas of Kentucky over the weekend. I watched a little 8-pointer work over a licking branch during the cold rain one evening, and have noted a significant uptick in buck activity on my trail cameras since the front passed.
We’re still several weeks away from any notable pre-rut activity in most of the Southeast, but scattered scrapes and rubs are beginning to dot travel corridors and staging areas. Most of my trail cameras are set overlooking active white oaks on field edges right now, but by late next week, I’ll probably move a few of them deeper into the timber and start making some mock scrapes.
There are a number of notable upcoming October dates for the region including the second split of Archery Season for Mississippi’s Southeast Unit on Oct. 14, Kentucky’s 2-day youth rifle season Oct. 14-15 and 2-day early muzzleloader season Oct. 21-22, Georgia’s Primitive Weapons / Youth-only firearm season Oct. 14-20, Alabama’s archery season beginning Oct. 14, Arkansas’s muzzleloader season Oct. 21-29, Louisiana’s Primitive Firearms seasons (select units) beginning Oct. 14, the Oct. 11 gun opener for Game Zones 1 and 2 (private land) in South Carolina, and the Oct. 14 gun opener in the Northeast and Southeast regions of North Carolina.
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