The first two weeks of bow season were dampened by historic rainfall and flooding across parts of the state, but plenty of dedicated bowhunters found breaks in the weather to score early season success.
As is typical this time of year in the deer woods, food is key. Bowhunters are finding soft and hard mast, although not as much as last season. That could work in hunters’ favor. When the white and red oaks are raining acorns everywhere, setting up on a hot food source is difficult. Not every tree is loaded this season, so scouting out the ones that are could provide a hotspot.
Reports are muscadines played out early, but persimmons are getting right early this year. Water-oak acorns are falling early as usual, while white and red oaks are still a few weeks away.
Also, make sure to check the Rut Map on page 27, and don’t wait for the peak of breeding — lots of good bucks are killed during the cruising phase that kicks in about two weeks before the peak of breeding.
Here are reports filed by GON’s Hunt Advisor Team members from across the state.
David Galli reports, “It looks like the acorns in the northern part of the state haven’t really hit yet. They are mostly just spotty, which makes for deer sightings that are few and far between. I have managed to see two rather large bears; however, a little out of bow range. I’ve seen more deer in the hayfields and corn than in the woods so far.”
DeKalb and Gwinnett counties: Eric Bruce reports, “I have not been able to hunt my properties in Gwinnett because they are flood plains and swamps and are underwater. I would have to use chest waders or a canoe to get in some of those places. On opening evening, I was hunting in DeKalb near a creek and the edge of a kudzu field. I saw two deer, including a small buck, 6 to 8 points. The buck found a black plastic bucket on the ground, the kind used for nursery plants, and proceeded to fight it with his antlers. After a small session, I tried to call him in, but there was no response. The second weekend I was getting in my stand overlooking a food plot that was just barely coming up when I spotted a doe. Before I could take a shot, another mature doe with two yearlings approached. The larger doe ran off the other doe, and then it fed away from the food plot and out of range. These deer were feeding on the kudzu and not yet hitting the food plot heavily because it was not up and high yet.”
Floyd County: Scott Justice reports, “I’ve seen a lot of deer movement early and late in the day, with some around midday. I’ve not had any shooters in bow range, but I’ve had a lot of yearlings under my stand that needed to grow a bit. I have also seen a great number of does and fawns. I look to have a good acorn crop this time. Some big acorns are starting to fall. The persimmons and crabapples are down a little bit from this time last year. With all the rain we’ve had this year my food plots are in great shape — probably the best I’ve ever had. I’m big on Biologic chicory. The deer are hitting it hard.”
Gilmer County: Terry Fowler reports, “I have noticed some white-oak acorns, possibly from all the rain knocking them off. Deer I have observed are eating browse, and they seem to be moving later in the afternoon. There seems to be an abundance of bears. Almost everyone seems to have a story. Anyone wanting to kill one could probably put some time in on an WMA here in this area and be successful. Opening week showed signs of bucks shedding their velvet, which is always a disappointment because many want to kill them while they are still in velvet. I have seen a high number of small bucks and does with twins or triplets. I have heard a couple stories of how people were watching bigger bucks during the off season, but I haven’t heard of a big one being killed yet.”
Gilmer County: Larry Fox reports, “I feared we would not have acorns this year like we did last year because we had a late frost. However, there are acorns in the lower elevations, just probably 50 percent less than last year, and the same for higher elevations. There are areas where there are none — just a matter of where a real cold spot was. I know one thing, we have a bumper crop of bears! They’re everywhere, and it shouldn’t be a problem to take one. People have worried the DNR to death wanting them to trap and get bears moved. These people don’t realize the bears were here first, and they built a house right in the middle of their habitat. There are a lot of deer, too. I have seen some good racks in velvet. That’s from the good acorn crop last year,” Larry said.
Oconee County: Brandon Colquitt reports, “Lots of acorns in Oconee County. It’s just a matter of time until the ground is covered in them. These are the kind of years where deer movement will be minimal because they won’t have to go far to get their bellies full. The grapes are gone. The persimmons are decent but not near as good as last year. I have some persimmon trees dropping already, and the deer are on them pretty good. If the rain will hold off some, I should get a shot on one soon. The best hunting should start in about two weeks.”
Oglethorpe County: Brandon Colquitt reports, “SLOW, SLOW, SLOW… That pretty much describes the first full week of the season for me. I guess I could say rain, rain and more rain. The rain kept me out of the woods for the most part this past weekend. We did have a nice 8-pointer killed on my club. I have only seen one deer while on stand so far, and she got downwind of me, and it was over before it got started good. The grapes are all but gone. Persimmons are real hit-and-miss this year. A lot of trees have fruit but not near as much as last year. The acorns are gonna be the key food source this year. The white and water oaks are absolutely loaded this year. The limbs are sagging on most of the trees that I have checked. The white oaks are starting to fall, too, and that is pretty early for this part of the state. It’s usually around the first of October before they start dropping. My food plots are doing excellent with all the recent rain, but I’m afraid that the deer aren’t gonna hit them with all of the acorns that are fixing to be in the woods.”
Walton County: Dwayne Britt reports: “Rain, rain and more rain. Not much deer activity, but the food plots are doing great. I planted iron clay peas that should be very tempting about the time muzzleloader opens, if the rain doesn’t wash them away. The muscadines were plentiful this year, but most have already fallen. All of our persimmon trees were loaded last year but are bare this year. I haven’t had a chance to really see how well the acorns produced, but it appears the white oaks look good.”
Dodge and Laurens Counties: Tim Knight said, “I am happy to report a successful opening day!” Tim’s son, Josh, took a doe opening morning in Dodge County while hunting a travel route from soybeans to a bedding area. “And I took a big doe on a food plot in Laurens County in the afternoon,” Tim said. “After lots of scouting, there are very few grapes, but the persimmon trees seem to have lots of fruit on them, and with the exception of one tree I found dropping in the swamp, the trees I checked are about two weeks from dropping. I hunted the persimmon tree in the swamp on opening morning but was messed up by a group of stray dogs running the property. I will try this spot again in a few days. There are plenty of pin oaks and water oaks; white oaks are spotty as usual, and swamp chestnut oaks did fair. Without a food source, travel routes are your best bet. This time of the year, afternoons are absolutely the best time to hunt. Most deer are back to their bedding areas before daylight, especially big bucks. Remember this trick — ask your boss to let you have time off in hours instead of entire days. Take off two hours early for four days and hunt prime time and only burn one day of work.”
Morgan County: Dwayne Britt reports, “We have plenty of white-oak acorns, but only a few are falling. The red oaks and water oaks are scarce this year. I’ve noticed some persimmon trees are producing well this year, and others are empty. The persimmons are still turning, but some are ripe and falling. Our food plots are doing great, and the deer are already active in the food plots. Several young bucks and does have been seen but no quality bucks. It appears some of the young bucks are already laying scrapes. The rain has limited the hunting on the property, but lots of deer activity was seen on the food plots during the breaks in rain.”
Harris County: Jim Harper reports, “The opening week of bow season in Harris County was literally a wash for most bowhunters, with it raining almost every day. The good news is that fall/winter food plots, if the seed has already been put in the ground, have started to take off. The bowhunters I’ve talked with who did venture out between thunderstorms have been seeing mainly does, fawns and small bucks on food plots. The persimmons are starting to ripen, and the water-oak acorns are starting to fall. Our crop of muscadines was only average this year, and most of them are already gone. It looks like we’re going to have a good year for acorns in general. Squirrels are cutting white-oak acorns that are almost mature, and hunting near these early dropping trees should be a good bet for the next few weeks. Red-oak acorn production looks like it’s going to be somewhat spotty, but, if you can find a tree that’s bearing, you should be in luck to see some deer traffic. Based on past experience and current conditions, the best hunting for the next few weeks is likely going to happen in the afternoons over food plots, isolated persimmon trees, in a grove of water oaks or near an early dropping white oak. After the first week or two of October, it should cool off a little and the big boys should start moving, at least some, while it’s still light enough to see your sight pins. And I hope to be under a white oak with acorns dropping — and deer feeding — all around me!”
Laurens County: Matt Adcock reports, “Opening week of bow season started well, and I downed a doe on opening day. I was hunting a trail where either a guest or I had taken a doe three out of the previous four seasons. The trail leads from a food source one-quarter mile away to a bedding area. In my six trips hunting so far, I’ve seen deer on four of those trips and had deer in bow range three different times. The deer are hitting the peanut fields and persimmons pretty hard right now, and locating a well-used trail is the key to getting close. Deer are also traveling through the pin-oak flats and picking up the acorns that have come down.”
Washington County: Dan Lewis reports, “The start of the bow season has been slow. No reports of any big deer being killed as of yet. More deer have been seen in the southeastern part of county than the rest. They are mainly feeding on native grasses, acorns and wild grapes.”
Brantley County: Glen Solomon reports that his buddy Paul Minter, of Waynesville, arrowed a doe at Little Satilla WMA. “He’s a handicapped hunter who doesn’t let his disability slow his love of hunting. I hadn’t talked to him in detail about his adventure yet, but he texted me some interesting messages — he’s a multi-task hunter too…
‘8:07 p.m: lookin 4 doe shot at Little Satilla…. 8:25 p.m: found blood, gone 300 yards now… 8:27 p.m.: arrow still in deer… 8:35 p.m: just found tip of arrow…. 8:59 p.m: found my deer!!!’
Dooly County: Tim Rutherford reports, “It seems almost impossible that deer season is open again. With the weather still in a summer pattern, it feels like July and August most days in the South. Most hunters I’ve talked to have said basically the same thing — it’s hot, you get sweaty going to the stand, and we’re not seeing anything but does and some small bucks or no deer at all. I haven’t heard of anyone killing a decent buck yet. This is an extremely hard time to hunt if you’re hunting for a mature buck. It’s easy to get too excited about deer season being open and spoiling some good areas to hunt. I’ve learned over the years that when the weather and wind are not right, sometimes it’s better to hunt another spot, and if you don’t have another spot, as hard as it may seem, don’t hunt at all. You may be ruining your chances of killing that trophy buck when he starts to move during daylight hours. You may not be seeing him because of his movement patterns, but I guarantee he knows you’ve been there, and if you over-hunt a spot and leave plenty of scent there, he won’t be back. The food plots have been getting plenty of rain lately, but the deer are not hitting them hard. Persimmons are falling, and if you can find an isolated tree, it’s as good as it gets right now. The problem is that you either have persimmons or you don’t, and if you do, it’s usually a lot of them and hard to isolate. As of last week, the white oaks have not dropped anything. I have some sawtooth oaks that are loaded this year and falling heavy the last two weeks. Hunt food sources and pray for cooler weather.”
Emanuel County: Jim Brown reports, “Deer movement was greater in the afternoon during the opening weekend. I heard of several misses, and only two does were killed. Deer are feeding on the remaining grapes, and they are really hammering persimmons and water-oak acorns,” Jim said.
In the agricultural fields, deer are hitting peanuts, corn and soybeans, in that order, and they’ve been in the fields early in the afternoons, he said.
“I have been seeing deer in these fields about two hours before dark or some days earlier,” Jim said.
Glynn County: Don Wood hunted a bedding area at Paulks Pasture WMA the second Sunday morning of the season. He waded a flooded streamside management zone to hunt the edge of a grown-up clearcut. He had a doe under him, but he had seen a wide 9-pointer bed nearby. The buck later moved and browsed a half circle around him, staying about 40 yards out the entire time. Don could only catch glimpses of brown once in a while in the tall swamp grass and weeds before it wandered off in the opposite direction.
Jeff Davis County: Glen Solomon hunted Bullard Creek WMA the second week of the season. “I got to hunt after expecting to be on the road working. I hadn’t taken the time to find any food sources because I thought I was going to be out of state, so I opted to hunt a bedding area of a big buck we’ve been after a couple years. I saw five very large does at 9 a.m., and strangely none of them had any fawns with them. Coyotes perhaps?
“After talking to a dozen or more folks and enacting the public-land hunting grapevine, it appears for the most part deer didn’t move too well in the daylight heat to feed. The folks sitting on food sources such as water-oak acorns and persimmons didn’t report seeing anything, only those hunting in or near bedding areas.”