Reports From The Deer Woods

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GON's Hunt Advisors report from across the state.

A tropical storm brought high winds, rain and knocked the power out for many Georgians for days, and then that was followed by summertime-like high temperatures. Didn’t slow us down… apparently it’s about impossible to stop Georgia’s 2017 deer season from getting off to a great start.

A great benchmark for how the season is going is the Truck-Buck contest, where GON subscribers just set a new record for the first week of the Truck-Buck contest (see page 64 in the October Issue of GON).

While bowhunters were able to get on some good bucks, especially on opening weekend before the hurricane rolled through, GON’s Hunt Advisors are looking for cooler temperatures to really kick-start some good hunting and buck movement.

Here are the Hunt Advisor reports from across the state.

 

NORTH GEORGIA

Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “Weather has not been friendly to bowhunters so far this season. The storm caused a lot of green acorns to hit the ground early. It’s been my experience that deer will not have much to do with them until they turn brown, which must change the taste of the nut.

“After the storm came through, we went back to hot and dry conditions here in Cherokee. A plus side of the storm was it also brought down the remaining grape crop, which seem to concentrate the deer in a particular area for food. It’s too early to know how the overall mast fared, but it should be fine due to the abundant crop.

“As for October strategy, look for cooler weather and hit the hardwood ridges. Be patient—bucks sometime hold together until late October. If you find a tree that is being hit hard, let the deer gather and begin to feed before you draw for a shot. Deer are feeding in food plots during daylight hours, but mostly does and spotted fawns. Hold the course, the best hunting is on the way.”

Lumpkin County: Richard Von Scherr, of Dawsonville, reports, “Early season hunting in north Georgia has been a challenge to say the least. The majority of Lumpkin County was without power for the better part of a week. And a BIG THANK YOU to all the power crews who worked their tails off to get it restored. All of Lumpkin County thanks you!

“The hunting that was had saw smaller bucks moving around in the mornings looking for their familiar food sources.  The does are running around with their fawns and doing the same things.

“The hard winds did do one favor, and that was to get the acorns on the ground ahead of schedule, and the deer are starting to pick up on that as of this writing.

“We should start moving into cooler mornings after the next full moon, which should get at least the smaller bucks a little anxious.

“Hunt hard, hunt safe. And again, a big thank you to all of our power workers—great job ladies and gentlemen! God Bless.”

Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “I have been in the woods a handful of times so far. It’s tough to make myself go sit in a tree with these temps like they are. On the upside, I have seen a lot of deer the times I have hunted, and there are the most fawns in the woods that I’ve seen in years. Every mature doe I see has one or two little ones with them, and they are healthy as can be. There is some buck sign starting to show up. I’ve found some rubs and a few small scrapes. I know the scrapes are probably just young bucks feeling their oats a bit because they are making them and not returning to them. The food sources are great, but Irma took most of the white oaks and red oak acorns off the trees, and the deer are wearing them out. The water oaks held on pretty good but are starting to drop. My food plots are coming along but could really use some water.

“Going into October, I will continue to stay on the foods because that’s where the does are. And if we can get some rain and cooler temps, the bucks will start feeling spunky and get more active, and they will be there with the does during the daylight hours.”

 

MIDDLE GEORGIA

Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert, of Loganville, reports, “During the past few weeks, things have changed a little on our property. Soft mast is falling, sawtooth oaks are dropping, and our food plots have been planted. The recent rains have helped with moisture, keeping the native forage growing until some of the plots sprout. The food plots should have enough moisture to keep get them started, but they need a good rain on them pretty quickly to get them going.

“We have noticed a lot of deer activity has still continued around our summer food plots. Plenty of scrapes are active, and we are starting to see some good rubs on field edges. The expectation is this will change quickly once some of the larger oak trees start dropping. Our water oaks are loaded, but we have not found many white oaks with many acorns. We have stayed out of the woods to reduce pressure, so we are hoping to find white oaks in production once we start spending more time in the woods.

“Just recently, a few of our cutovers have been sprayed. This will change some of the movement due to cover being there, but the food source will be limited in these areas. Scouting the edges of these cutovers will help us know where the deer are bedding and then traveling toward other places to eat. It should be an interesting season with this change thrown into the mix. One fun thing about land manipulation is there is always a challenge to hunting, which makes it more interesting for us to spend time in the woods.

“Also, this year, my 8-year-old, Turner, is ready to take his first deer. All three of my boys have been in the woods since they were 2 years old. They learn a lot about hunting, wildlife and nature before they become proficient with a weapon. As their daddy, the actual hunt being in their hands is incredibly rewarding. Last year, Turner had proven himself toward the end of the season, but we just could not make it happen. Now, with Davis, 13, a seasoned hunter, and Wilson, 11, hunting alone, the concentration can be placed on the youngest brother’s first kill. Not only are we looking forward to the family and friend time in the woods, we are looking forward to a first deer down for another one of Buster’s grandchildren!”

Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “The 2017 bow season started off for me like I’m sure it did for many other deer hunters in Harris County and around the entire state of Georgia—getting my family, house and other property ready for the arrival of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irma rather than sitting in a deer stand. I actually did go to the woods on opening day, but it was to add a few extra ratchet straps to several new ladder stands that my son Joe and I had put up a few days earlier. But I did not actually hunt. The ratchet straps did their job, but some of the trees—and the attached ladder stands—didn’t do so good. But that doesn’t really matter; I just hope and pray that all of you and your families made it through the storm safely because that’s all that’s really important.

“I reported last month finding almost no white and red oak acorns being produced this year on the properties I hunt in Harris County. Since that time, I’ve done more extensive on-the-ground scouting and have been able to find scattered patches of both white and red oaks that have acorns growing high on their limbs. But production still appears to be spotty, and the trees look to be producing this year later than normal based on the current size of the acorns. Still, if you can find those isolated trees that are producing these large white and red oak acorns, you can bet that the deer will find them, too. So that will definitely be where you’ll want to spend some time as the leaves start to change color and the calendar turns to October.

“The month of October, as we all know, is a transition time for the deer, and it’s very hard to give advice to anyone how to hunt during this month. In all honesty, I try to hunt the month of October to basically not mess up the rest of my season. By that I mean I’m very careful about when, where and how often I deer hunt, and I won’t take any chances by hunting on marginal days. Until very late in the month—essentially the last week of October—I’ll only hunt in the afternoons, and I’ll very likely not hunt any of my best stands until then, either. The only exception is if I have a buck very well-patterned, and even then everything has to be perfect for me to go in and try to kill him because I want it to happen on my first hunt in that stand. Of course, that’s probably why I have close to three dozen stands out at any one time, to cover the different stages of the season, various wind directions, etc. Still, I’m not suggesting that you avoid hunting October entirely. I’m just suggesting that you pick your times to do so carefully. Basically, the advice is don’t educate the deer and burn out your stands before the best days of the season arrive after Halloween.”

Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Grayson, reports, “It’s been slow the past few weeks with the warm weather. Deer are moving in the evenings more so than the mornings. Following the hurricane, a few trees came down, including my favorite white oak that was loaded with acorns. Deer are eating acorns that have fallen from the high winds and eating them from the downed trees. Food plots look great, they just need rain and for the temperatures to get out of the upper 80s and 90s. We’re still seeing a lot of coyote sign, as well as coyotes on game cameras.

“I’m actually going to try and lay low the next week or two and let the deer get more comfortable with their new feeding habits on food plots as well as some of the areas I know have acorns. In early October, I’ll focus on travel corridors into food sources, or I may actually hunt closely to the food sources if the deer or not receiving much pressure. Mid to late October, I’ll focus more on previous years’ scrape lines or known active mature buck areas I have recorded in past seasons. I’ll be looking for cooler weather and checking my winds. We have a lot of 4- to 5-year-old planted pines with deep hips and valleys holding hardwoods and creek bottoms. I’ll try to play the wind to get in from one side and watch the opposite sides of these natural funnels. If you can get in undetected and play the wind right, you should be able to catch some early bucks scraping and foraging along the edges of these hardwood drains.”

 

SOUTH GEORGIA

Camden County: Bo Russell, of St. Simons Island, reports, “Irma made a mess and has produced a bumper crop of skeeters. She did not blow all the mast off the trees; however, as I had feared she would. There are still persimmons and spotty crops of acorns left on the oaks that did not topple over. Look for post oaks. I have some that blew down that were loaded with acorns. Many white oaks and swamp chestnuts that normally produce appear to be barren this year. Bucks are tearing up the scrapes, and pre-rut cruising is building quickly. Grab two ThermaCells, and hit the woods!”

Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “Our bow season has gotten off to a slow start. We haven’t been seeing a lot of activity, mainly just some does in the afternoons. We did see an increase in movement right before the hurricane blew through.

“As far as food sources, they are still hitting the persimmons pretty regular, and persimmons are still plentiful. We have a few acorns on the ground, also. Our food plots are looking good, and the deer are eating in them a little already. Hopefully the plots will last a while. We have seen local pictures of a few deer taken already but not a lot. I think the heat has kept the movement to a minimum.

“For October, we plan to hunt those same feeding areas and some known travel routes. Maybe we will see more activity in the green plots. We have also started seeing a good bit of rubbed trees, which is normal for here. It won’t be long and the bucks will start making their scrape lines.

“Hope you all have a good October. Hunt safe, God Bless.”

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. “We have had two nice P&Y caliber bucks shot so far this season on farms that border ours. Both were on evening hunts, and the bucks were coming to agriculture in transition areas. Most of the folks I share info with are seeing plenty of deer and activity. With the high winds and recent storms from Irma, our soft mast has all hit the woods floor. Also, pin oak and red oak acorns are literally everywhere. They are still a little green, but the deer seem to be hitting them pretty good, and it will get better over the next couple of weeks. Our white oaks and swamp chestnuts have not started to drop as of yet.

“We did manage to get our food plots planted before Irma. They are coming up good and should be a good hold for late-season sits. We’re seeing an unusual amount of does still with spotted fawns. Starting to see some good rubs popping up around my stands, and my deer-camera photos are about 50/50 from hard antler to velvet as of Sept. 25. I feel like by the time you read this, all bucks will be hard antlers and starting to start some early scraping.

“My strategy is pretty basic—have multiple good stand choices  for  different winds, but always focus on pinch points, timber changes and transition areas. Deer relate to edges, and the thicker the better in my opinion for mature deer. I will start to sit longer as the cooler October temps start rolling in and expect to see more deer  moving  mid morning. I love this time to the year. I will also keep my antlers/grunt call in my pack. Often times lightly tickling my antlers on a string hanging down from the stand to the ground works when critters should be moving. I’m trying to entice a curious buck to head my way. I will also start to use some Voodoo deer lure this time of the year. Good luck to my fellow hunters out there. Enjoy the Good Lord’s creation and the memories made with your family and friends this fall. Huntin is Good!”

Toombs County: TJ Fountain, of Glenwood, reports, “Things are starting out pretty good for the ’17-18 season. It seems we have a nice acorn crop, even with what the hurricane blew down. Some big bucks have been turned in so far, and things should only get better. Hopefully cool weather will be coming soon.”

Twigss County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Irmageddon didn’t play around did she? We had a great opening week going, and then BAM! If you could have stood the wind, you would have seen deer probably because every feeder camera I checked had deer feeding right during the middle of it, but it’s been a scorcher since the storm left.

“The problem now is that everything they eat is on the ground, and I mean everything in most places. A few water oaks stayed on, but fruits are down around here. Food plots benefited if you were lucky enough to have them planted.

“Cooler weather needs to come on down, or I’m gonna wash the camo off my clothes. I haven’t seen much rubbing going on, but I have seen a few paw marks, probably from smaller bucks getting excited, but who knows. I made the prediction last month about a cold winter, and I hope it holds true because I like hunting paw marks in October, and the cooler the weather, the bigger the scrape. Good luck guys and gals.”

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