Opening Week Statewide Hunt Reports

Cool hunting weather follows sweltering opening day.

Hunters reported that opening weekend of bow season was about normal — hot and humid. Most folks GON spoke with still had no blood on their arrows. However, as is always the case, several early season bucks were taken. By Sept. 18, seven Pope & Young-class bucks had been arrowed.

In general, soft- and hard-mast crops look excellent. Muscadines are fixing to play out, and several hunters reported ripe persimmons already falling, and the deer are eating them up.

Most of the state’s white-oak acorn crop looks to be a bumper one this fall. Look for those brown acorns to begin hitting the ground around the opening day of muzzleloader season.

Below are the reports from our GON Hunt Advisor Team. They were out across the state opening week, collecting the news for readers. To be added to the team, e-mail <letters@gon.com> and type “GON Hunt Advisors Team” in the subject head.

NORTH GEORGIA

Elbert Co.: Stewart “Rabbit” Holcombe busted a doe opening weekend on a summer food plot that had muscadines dropping around it.

“Everything is loaded — we got the food,” said Rabbit. “Muscadines are falling fast; we got another week so for them. The persimmons that are out in the sun are already ripe and falling. I’ve found apple trees this year I didn’t even know we had. The white oaks I checked looked to have a good many on them.”

James Pullien’s deer cooler off Hwy 17 only took seven deer opening weekend.

Gilmer Co.: Estle Clayton doesn’t bow hunt, but he does a lot of pre-season scouting on Rich Mountain and Cohutta WMAs, and he said the acorns in Gilmer County are looking good.

“It’s looking pretty good. I’ve seen quite a few white-oak acorns. They’re down low, in the middle and up high,” he said. “And they’re falling. I wouldn’t say it’s excellent, but it’s real good.”

On Rich Mountain, Estle is seeing lots of hog sign, some bear sign and a bunch of deer tracks around the white oaks. On Cohutta, the acorns are a little spotty, which should make the hunting good, he said.

The soft mast is doing well, also.

“If you run across a muscadine, it will be loaded,” he said. “And the persimmons are loaded, too. I can’t tell yet about the fox grapes. You won’t know about them until they start coming down.”

Gwinnett Co.: Eric Bruce hunted an area opening day where he’d found success the previous two years, but he zeroed in his attempt at the hat trick.

“I did not see anything,” said Eric. “Saturday evening I hunted a stand overlooking kudzu and saw three fawns and two does. I let my 17-year-old daughter take a shot at a big doe at 20 yards with the crossbow, and she missed it.”

Habersham Co.: Doc Estes said there’s a pile of deer food in the woods.

“The white oaks are already falling, but they’re green,” said Doc. “I don’t know if it’s the squirrels or drought making them drop early, but there’s plenty of acorns still in the trees. The persimmons are loaded, too. Some are ripe and on the ground, and there’s still some green.”

Doc said the muscadine crop has been excellent, but it looks to play out in about a week or 10 days.

Walker Co.: Belfield Carter said it won’t be long before the deer abandon food plots and head into the woods.

“There are tons of white-oak acorns, and a few on the ground,” he said. “But they’re still green.”

There’s also a bumper crop of muscadines that were ripening opening weekend. All the ripe grapes low to the ground had been devoured, but there are still some up high waiting to fall.

“We’ve got an old pear tree on the front of the property that is absolutely loaded,” he said. “It will be a few weeks, on into October, before they start hitting the ground. Watch out when they do.”

Belfield caught a glimpse of a little basket-racked 8-point opening weekend. He said the deer was still hanging on to its last few shreds of velvet. There isn’t much buck sign showing up yet.

MIDDLE GEORGIA

Fayette Co.: John Lester was glad he only watched half the Georgia-South Carolina football game on Sept. 13. He went hunting during the middle of the game, and he was rewarded with a 140-class 12-pointer.

“I had a spot in mind by a persimmon that had quite a few fresh rubs around the area,” said John. “At 7:45 I sent a text to a friend asking how the dove shoot went that I was supposed to be on. When I looked up, the deer was heading my way down the edge of the pasture. He came straight into the persimmon I was hunting from.”

John’s shot was a little farther back than he had hoped for, so he left the area to give the deer time.

“I returned at 3 a.m. to find him 100 yards from the place I shot him,” said John.

John said the persimmons are starting to ripen and drop. Muscadines and crabapples are still producing.

“I am noticing some water oaks starting to fall, but it’s still a little early for the white oaks,” said John.

Hancock Co.: Opening morning for Matthew Gilbert was slow.

“At 7:25, a fawn came to the persimmon tree I was hunting and fed for 10 minutes,” said Matthew. “At just 7 yards, it was close enough that I could hear it sniffing for the fruit that was on the ground. The fawn moved on and headed for some thick pines. Just before 8 a.m., a 4-pointer walked to the edge of the opening toward the persimmon tree. He stopped about 10 yards from it and looked around. After two or three minutes, the 4-pointer moved on his way skirting around the persimmon tree but also heading toward the thick pines. This was the last of the action I saw during the morning. The other hunters on the property saw very little movement also. A few does were seen, but no mature deer offered any shots.”

Deer seem to be walking established trails between bedding cover and food sources.

“During this time of year, if you find one of these trails that crosses a creek, you’ll see deer and hopefully get a shot,” said Matthew. “Along the field and road edges, the muscadines and persimmons have plenty of tracks under them as the fruit is beginning to fall consistently. The ground looks like fresh-plowed dirt under these two food sources. The white oaks are absolutely loaded this year; the limbs look like they are going to break just like our persimmon trees do.”

Matthew added that the abundance of water-oak acorns made the deer tough to see last year. This year’s white oaks should make seeing a deer a little easier. His food plots are coming up well, and the recent rain should get them off to a great start.

“Our game cameras are showing that the bucks are still working off their summer patterns in the afternoons,” said Matthew. “We are excited about the cooler weather coming in and are hoping to take advantage of some evening hunts while the deer are a little more predictable than they will be in a few weeks after they feel a little pressure.”

Laurens Co.: Tim Knight of Dublin shot a “camel-nosed doe” at 7:45 a.m. opening day while hunting over pin oaks. “There are quite a few pin-oak acorns falling,” he said. “The persimmons are a week to 10 days from being a slam-dunk hunting food source. Muscadines are pretty heavy in places, but they will be gone in two weeks.”

Oconee Co.: “My land is ate up with food for the deer,” said Brandon Colquitt. “My persimmon trees are loaded with the limbs sagging. I have one starting to drop, and I’ve been running a camera on it for a week. Only small bucks are showing up so far.

“It looks to be a better-then-average acorn crop again this year. Not every white oak seems to be loaded like last year, though. Hopefully the acorns will start dropping by the third weekend of the season.”

Oglethorpe Co.: Brandon Colquitt hunted in Oglethorpe County opening weekend, and things were slow.

“Deer aren’t on any primary food source up here yet,” said Brandon. “Muscadines are about gone, and the ones that are left are very scattered out. I hunted Saturday and Sunday mornings and didn’t see a single deer. Deer have really changed their summertime pattern on my place. My picture count has gone way down over the last two weeks.”

One of Brandon’s club members, Seth Martin, killed a big doe on Saturday afternoon right at dark as it headed toward a bedding area.

Taylor Co.: Greg Baugus said the mast crop looks good on two pieces of property he manages in Taylor County, but opening weekend was slow because of the hot weather. He arrowed a healthy doe opening morning but said reports from other area hunters pointed to little deer movement over opening weekend.

Despite the slow opener, Greg has high hopes for the season.

“We had rain down here this year,” he said. “As a whole, the mast crop is reasonably good. We’ve got some good bucks on camera, and everything looks good. It should be a good year.”

Greg said the deer are no longer hitting his food plots as much as they did during the summer months because of an abundance of woodland food sources. He said the muscadines are loaded down, and the sawtooth oaks are falling heavily on his properties.

The white oaks and other acorn bearers have not yet begun dropping heavily, but there is a good crop of acorns still in the trees. He said the persimmons are also about as heavy with fruit as he’s ever seen them.

Walton Co.: It was hot and humid for Dwayne Britt.

“I did see a few deer crossing a dirt road around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday,” said Dwayne. “Our food plots look great. We planted our normal fall mix but added some summer mix to help keep moisture and reduce overbrowsing, and it appears to be working.

Muscadines and persimmons are abundant, and so far the white oaks look good. I’ve noticed a few red-oak as well as water-oak acorns. A few of the white oaks are actually falling, and after talking to a buddy on another property in a neighboring county, a member in his club saw several deer feeding on acorns.”

Dwayne said the muscadines are falling and may last another week or so. The persimmons are still on the limbs and getting ripe.

“I think this weekend I’m going to try and set up my morning hunt about 200 yards from a food plot on some well-used trails heading toward a bedding area that is located in a thicket near some water. On the afternoon hunt, I will likely hunt over any white- or red-oak acorns I can find falling near thick bedding areas.”

SOUTH GEORGIA

Camden Co.: Cale Stancil said it was a brutally hot opener.

“There were no deer taken on the 16,000-acre Kings Bay Naval Submarine base,” said Cale. “Many of the approximate 30 or so hunters reported seeing deer on the drive in to their stands during the morning, but the deer had already found their beds after sunrise. A full moon, helicopter mosquitoes and a 105-degree heat index made hunting a tough venture.”

Cale reports live, water, red and swamp chestnut trees are loaded with acorns, and ripe muscadines are falling from a bumper crop this year.

“Many rubs are showing up, and trail-camera pictures indicate the velvet has been shed for several weeks now,” said Cale. “Maybe the weather will cooperate this coming weekend or at least dip into the 80s. Even the skinny guys lost weight this past weekend.”

Decatur Co.: John Cofty with Mossy Oak Hunting Preserve in Decatur County has properties across southwest Georgia in Decatur, Baker and Early counties, and he said it’s shaping up to be a good season.

“We’ve seen tons of does and fawns and a few good 8-pointers on trail cameras,” he said. “And three weeks ago we saw three 140-class bucks together in one of our food plots.”

Those three bucks have John excited, but he’s also excited about the food sources. He said deer are mowing down his summer peas and soybeans and that the sawtooth oaks are already dropping. The white oaks are still green, but he said they are loaded down and gives credit to the 15 inches of rain the area got several weeks ago.

As for soft mast, John said his persimmons are very strong.

“They’re still green, about the size of a big grape, but they’re getting ready to turn colors,” he said.

John said the bucks are still in full velvet down in Decatur.

Dooly Co.: Bob Scherer said his weekend was better suited for snake hunting than chasing whitetails with a bow.

“Muscadines and persimmons were plentiful, and the water-oak and white-oak crops appear to be healthy,” said Bob. “Some were just starting to drop, but most were still hanging in the trees.”

Bob added that no rubs or scrapes have showed up yet, which is normal for this time of year in Dooly.

Tim Rutherford and Laide McDonald were also hunting opening morning.

“Laide was hunting in the creek around some white oaks that are just beginning to drop,” said Tim. “I was in the middle of a cutover in a big hickory tree that is in a transition area between a soybean field and a bedding area in some planted pines.”

The temperature was hot, but the humidity was worse.

“By the time we got to our stands, we were wet with sweat,” said Tim. “We both sprayed down before going to the stand, and we both had ThermaCells because the mosquitoes were so bad.

“I saw a doe about 7:30 or so, and Laide saw a yearling right before we got down at about 9:30. I think the full moon along with the heat stifled deer movement for the most part.”

Tim said they didn’t see any fresh rubs or scrapes. With acorns beginning to fall, cooler weather should kick off some early buck sign.

Dougherty Co.: Garrett Jones at Nilo Plantation proved that lightning can strike twice in the same spot. For the 2007 bow opener, he arrowed an 8-pointer that netted 145 5/8 inches.

“This opening morning I was sitting on the same tree and trail, and I harvested a 10-pointer that will gross in the mid 140s,” said Garrett. “The buck harvested this year lay only 20 yards from were last year’s 8-pointer did. We had more than eight people who hunted on that morning, and the sightings of deer were slim.”

Garrett believes the full moon hurt movement on opening day. The best movement seemed to be in the mid-morning. According to trail-camera photos, the best big-buck movement is around 9 p.m.

“The acorn crop is good on the water-oak trees, but the live oaks and the white oaks are weak this year compared to the past years,” said Garrett. “Our summer deer patches are doing real good and attracting a lot of deer. Our does this year have had more fawns that usual; there are a lot of does with twins this year.”

Turner Co.: Southern Backwoods Adventures TV host Michael Lee said he’s seeing the most deer in the evenings from 6 until dark. He’s focusing on planted pines with food plots.

“The deer are really hitting the food plots right now,” said Michael. “We have corn and peas planted for the most part with a mix of peanuts and sunflowers. The deer are also really hitting the persimmons right now as well as feeding on some of the smaller acorns that are falling.

“The bucks are still traveling and feeding in groups, and we have seen lots of mature does with fawns as well. Several bucks were still in velvet but looked to be close to losing it any day.”

Michael’s dad, Mike, did take a 120-lb. doe opening-day afternoon.

We’ll be looking for deer-hunting reports all the way through December. To be added to the Hunt Advisor team, e-mail <letters@gon.com> and type “GON Hunt Advisors Team” in the subject head. If you hear about a big buck down, call GON at (800) 438-4663. We’ll be collecting that information for Fab-40.

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