Even though the deer season is not quite over—open statewide until Jan. 14 this year—it is time to look back and reflect on another five months in the Georgia deer woods. Our Hunt Advisors are spread across the state, and each year in the January issue they give a season wrap-up, a look back on overall hunting quality, the timing and intensity of their rut, and whether it was a good year for big buck.
This is also the issue of the magazine where we ask all Georgia deer hunters to reflect on this season and give us your opinions on how the hunting was and why, and also to give your opinions on what might be done to make our deer hunting even better.
Please take a few minutes to participate in the VOTES survey, which appears on the cover of this January issue.
Here are the reports from our Hunt Advisors:
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “Our season has been great as far as the number of deer seen while hunting. We have not harvested many deer, mostly for the following reasons: (1) letting small bucks walk, (2) given that we have had two abundant food years in a row, we want to see what next year will be like from an overall heard perspective. The rut lasted longer, but it would be hard to say when peak occurred. I’m guessing peak is getting later due to all the spotted deer still being seen mid to late October this season. Still seeing fresh scrapes and rubs in the woods now. Food plots are being hit hard as I write this season wrap-up. Looking forward to next year so we can see the effects of two great food years and low harvest numbers—should be fun! Hey, we still got till middle of January 2018. Until turkey season, this is a WRAP!”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “Well, another five-month-long deer season is nearing an end, but it has been an enjoyable one. I have only been in the stand five times when I did not see anything, bow season included. The acorns fell early and were plentiful, and there are still a lot of water oaks on the ground and will be through the end of the season. The deer are working the food plots hard, also. The rut was right on schedule, early to mid November, and it seemed to be pretty strong. But I think the peak was the week before Thanksgiving when I was in Saskatchewan on my dream hunt and took a very nice buck up there. I’ve seen a lot of bucks this season, and a few decent ones, which gives me excitement for the seasons to come. I haven’t taken a deer in Georgia yet this year, but that’s been by choice. I’m off the week between Christmas and New Years, and I plan on taking one or two to put in the freezer and to have jerky and summer sausage made. I’ve enjoyed reporting this year, and hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
North Fulton County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Bucks chasing in the streets was the report from hunting buddies on Dec. 14 while they were stuck in traffic. December was a total hit-and-miss month for rut action. On Dec. 4 I had a nice buck stand near a doe that bedded by me for more than three hours, so I know the rut was on then. The second rut is quite strong in suburbia given the string of corridors with unbred does. If you were near a hot doe, then usually you would see multiple bucks. The season seemed pretty typical overall. That is, bucks were on cameras more the end of October and several were seen and killed early to mid November. I missed out on some hunting, especially during Thanksgiving, when I normally see several nice bucks out cruising again. I feel the wet spring and early summer rain helped add a few inches to the antlers, and it showed with several great bucks being shot in north Fulton. It was a little slow personally for bigger bucks, but for us surrounding ATL we still have an entire month of the season left for bowhunting through Jan. 31. Now is the time to figure out a food source. This might mean that deer are approaching homes and yards even more for any remaining browse. It also means privet becomes more preferred. Brush up the stands for cover, and look for doe fawns coming into heat that might just pull in a bigger buck this last month of the season.”
Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “When asked about the 2017 deer season, we would have to say it was a success. It has had its ups and downs, but overall we are very pleased with the memories made and freezer-filling opportunities.
“Deer sightings were plentiful, and rut activity was normal. There had been the couple of weekends early November which did not seem productive due to above-average temperatures, but this is what happens some years. There were signs the rut was happening, but it must have been more at night. Scrape activity had changed, and the does seemed very timid. Other than when the weather was not cooperating, we appeared to have normal rutting activity. The does we are killing show they have been bred as normal. Some were bred as expected in November, and a few show breeding happened later.
“At the recent point of the season, scrapes are being worked and a few new rubs are showing up. Deer are feeding hard in our food plots. The are coming in the plots, keeping their heads down with the priority of filling their bellies. Evenings are productive sitting over a food source. Mornings are a little tougher for deer sightings, and we are seeing them traveling from a food source to a bedding area. Finding a mature buck or doe at this point of the season is tough. You really have to try hard to get in the thick with them, and they do not seem to want to move very much after being hunted for a couple months.
“As stated earlier, plenty of memories have been made this fall. With lots of laughs heard, hunting stories told and great meals shared, we have had a blast. And, to top it off, this past weekend, Turner, the 8-year-old son, shot an 8-pointer for his first deer. We had seen this same buck in the same food plot two weekends ago. He had taken the safety off six or seven times that first encounter, but the buck never gave him a shot. With the patience of a seasoned hunter, his wait paid off. Turner became the last of my three boys to kill their first deer and did it with a rifle that the other two, and myself, used for first deer. That little .243 will always have a special place in the Gilbert family.
“Davis, Wilson and Turner have been three young men who are making me so proud as I get to watch them grow up learning about land, family, and tradition. The outdoors has provided more strength in our worlds than we all can imagine. With the ups and downs our family has endured this last decade, there seems to be one common thread to keep things together. Spending time working and playing together at the ‘hunting land’ has been a healing property for us all. The time spent this year with siblings, cousins, in-laws and parents has been irreplaceable! I pray it continues, and encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy their families!”
Meriwether County: Jason Swindle Sr., of Carrollton, reports, “This was an excellent season in Meriwether. I always hunt near Beech Creek because on our property it runs through a huge thick swamp where deer bed. While I did not pull the trigger, I saw a number of good bucks who need one or two more years before they are harvested. This season was full of surprises. On opening day, I was hunting with my 6-year-old boy, Reagan. For the first time in his young life he saw a buck actually making a scrape about 75 yards away from our stand.
“The cold front along with the steep drop in barometric pressure had bucks moving opening weekend. I have learned, based on my cams and sitting in the stand, that the pressure and temperature are the two most important factors by far regarding deer movement. When the barometric pressure is below 30.00, the deer movement picks up significantly. I plan my hunts around the weather and predicted pressure.
“The rut was right on time as usual; Nov. 5-12. The peak seems to be Nov. 9 every year. Even if temps are warm, they are still in rut and seeking does because the does control the rut with their estrus cycle. When it is warm during the rut, I think they just breed at night.
“The rut was great this year. I saw plenty of chasing, heard lots of grunting, and actually misjudged a buck during the rut. When he first came out, he was broadside where I could get a shot. But, I thought he was too young based on my angle. When he turned around (where I could not get a shot) he had a massive wide rack and was probably 5.5 years old. Well, we all make mistakes in the woods…
“Because we had a bumper crop of acorns, I primarily hunted near food plots surrounded by white oaks in the afternoons and in the hardwoods near bedding areas in the mornings. Some people hunt at midday. I don’t do this because our trail cams do not show buck activity in the middle of the day. Ninety percent of deer movement according to numerous cams and hunting occurs between 7:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. until dark.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “The year was one filled with lots of acorns that keep deer in the hardwoods longer into the season. They finally started hitting the food plots this last month. It was a good year for people getting their first deer but slow for bigger bucks. I could never figure out the rut, or work just got in the way of preferred hunting times. The season was frustrating on older-age-class bucks. They were never consistent on the camera and seen only on a few occasions. I know we have heard quite a bit of shooting near us, but the reports on better quality bucks in the county appears lower than in years past. We will make an effort next year to get more quality food plots up a little sooner. I think this early food will help draw in the deer a little better. The key to holding more deer on our land; however; is more cover. This is an often overlooked need, and we know will make steps to create more security and bedding cover. Overall though, it was very successful season with introducing first-timers to the outdoors.”
Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Grayson, reports, “Although only a few mature bucks were seen, I would rate this deer season as great. Lots of potential with more than a couple dozen different 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-year-old bucks seen. Food sources were abundant this year with enough rain for food plots and lots of acorns, and we still have some water oaks falling in late December. Peak rutting activity for mature bucks was about the same as last year. Early rutting activity was seen in late October; however, the most intense activity was seen the second week of November. Hopefully the clubs around us let some of the young bucks go, and we have another great year next year and will harvest several mature deer.”
Early County: Sam Klement, Founder of Good Outdoor Technologies/Huntin is Good! hunts a trophy-managed lease in southwest Georgia on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. “Our deer rutting activity is right on schedule this year. Starting around the 5th of December after a good cool snap, my hunting buddies and I started to see smaller bucks cruising and harassing the does. I did have a couple of really nice 130- to 140-inch deer taken on properties very close to mine. The bigger deer started showing up on daytime photos more frequently around the 10th till today as I write this Dec. 18. This past weekend we had three more shooters shot on our QDMA tracts, and all were running does pretty good. The proverbial full-blown southwest Georgia rut is in full swing! Now, depending on the temperatures throughout the remainder of the season, the rut and chasing will typically wax and wane and stay pretty good till season ends. My focus now has shifted to hunting my doe honey holes and more open areas like planted pines, clearcuts, etc.
“Our acorns are all gobbled up or rotten. I will also focus on my small food plots in evening hunts. We have only shot a few does early season with our bows, letting our does do what they do without any pressure since the freezer is full. I love to use a drag rag with a tarsal gland on a string this time of year, freshening it up with a few sprays of VOODOO deer lure. I typically will drag this in, taking a longer route than normal to arrive to my stand and hang it approximately 20 to 30 yards from my set. On more than one occasion this year I have had a great deer follow my line right into my set, as if they read the script.
“Bucks will still be checking scrapes after a rain and mid morning, so that is a great time to hunt near edges and bedding areas in hopes of catching a mid-day cruiser. For the folks who hunt in southwest Georgia, my tip would be to hunt as hard and as long as you can from now till season ends. Last year I did get a shot in a heavy drizzle the last day of the season on a good Pope & Young 10-point cruising an edge of clearcut with my PSE. Unfortunately I hit him a little high and didn’t recover him. The good news is he survived and is being hunted again this year. The point being, it was a cold drizzly day, and the bucks were still searching for the last remaining does to breed. I spotted this deer and gave him a few grunts, and he came right in. Enjoy the rest of the season. Good luck, stay safe, and remember… Huntin’ is Good!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “As I look back on yet another deer season in Harris County, the one thing that jumps out in my mind is the large number of bucks of all ages that my family and friends saw while hunting on our properties. I can’t think of another season when we saw more bucks, including many mature legal bucks which we passed, especially during the traditional mid-November ‘peak rut’ in our area. In fact, it wasn’t unusual on any given hunt to see four or five bucks for every doe seen—or to see only bucks and no does. To top it off, the Harris County rut, at least on the properties we hunt, was intense, and bucks responded very well to calling—much better than in many years. Buck movement also seemed to be good both in the mornings and afternoons throughout the month of November. Finally, our Heavenly Father blessed us with excellent November weather, as well, which, all combined, resulted in some very respectable Harris County bucks being taken to deer coolers and taxidermists. However, I believe the number of truly high-end bucks killed in our county was down slightly from what we’ve seen the last few years. Now, let’s get out there and kill some coyotes before turkey season sneaks up on us!”
Laurens County: Tim Knight, of Dublin, reports, “The gun season here in Laurens and surrounding counties started off wide open with many great bucks being taken the first three weeks of the season, and then it was like someone shut off the water spigot. Buck movement slowed to a snail’s pace. Overall it has been a good season for numbers of deer and some great bucks. The peak of the rut here was early this season by three weeks compared to prior years. Some does will still be coming into estrous along with young does that may be getting their first estrous cycle. Does coming to a food source will be the best chance to catch a late-season buck on his feet in the daylight. This will also be the time to let that borderline buck walk in hopes of letting him reach maturity. He may very well be the trophy buck you take next season.”
Macon County: David Keene, of Oglethorpe, reports, “I have seen at least four ruts this season. We had bucks chasing does the last week of bow season and the primitive-weapons week, then we saw bucks chasing the week of Nov. 9th. The first week of December, I had 14 different bucks run does past my stand but no Macon County legal bucks. On Dec. 15 I had a mature 4- to 5-year-old buck chasing does up and down the creek but no shot. This week he’s nighttime only on my cameras. So far we have taken two does and one 2-year-old buck on our property. I have seen more deer and a good many more fawns than last season. I am also seeing many more turkeys than last year. Some button bucks have just been run off by their mothers so still more does to be bred. The deer are tearing up the food plots that have survived the few rains that we have gotten.
“I’ll say it has been a good season by the number of deer that we have seen and several of my friends have taken some nice bucks.”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Another season is in the books, and it was not bad. My granddaughter Shaye Grimes killed her first buck which was a nice 6-point chasing a doe on Nov. 15 in the morning to go with the doe she killed in October. My daughter Laci killed a doe to go with her buck from October so freezers are full.
“The rut was better than it has been around here from the past few years. It was going hard on one tract I have from Oct. 28 until Nov. 10, according to my trail camera and sightings. On another tract 5 miles from there, it was from Nov. 13 until Nov. 15, so November was the time to be in the woods as usual. But there were actually signs of a rut this year, unlike some recent seasons.
“I have pics of so many different bucks cruising in the daylight this year that makes me think they have me patterned better than I have them. This year is by far better than the last four or five. And the size of the bucks is considerably bigger. I think that’s because people are feeding better protein and supplements in their feeders, and it’s showing.
“It’s been one of the better years by far with the cooler weather and rain, and now it’s time to start planning for next year.”