November deer hunting was awesome for some folks, specifically those who hunt in the middle third of the state. Some hunters report that once the rut got started it just kept going and going. Some report that mature bucks were still chasing does as late as the weekend before Thanksgiving.
A few deer-cooler operators report the biggest bodied deer they’ve ever seen, which, they say, could point a finger to the efforts of quality-deer management. They say with more hunters taking more does, it’s meant fewer deer in the woods, which has resulted in a healthier herd.
Wayne Moore at Moore’s Deer Processing in Coweta County said he’s never seen deer as big bodied in his 27 years of cutting deer.
“I would say conservatively that we’ve taken in more than 100 deer that field dress more than 175 pounds,” said Wayne. “That’s unheard of for around here. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Wayne said the rack size of these deer doesn’t match up with the body size.
“I’m getting a lot of deer in the 120-class, 14- to 15-inch 10-pointers,” said Wayne. “I had one in here the other day that I guessed would go 145, but that’s really about it.”
Wayne said he’s on pace to break an all-time record for number of processed deer.
“It just hasn’t slowed down any, which I think is because the rut’s still going on. It started about normal, the first week of November, and they’re still running them right now (November 20). I expect it’s starting to slow down.”
Ricky Smith at Newborn Taxidermy said his cooler business is about average but his taxidermy business was up 10 percent.
“These are some of the biggest-bodied deer we’ve seen,” said Ricky. “(Rack) quality is up, too.”
In middle Georgia, taxidermist Frog Mullis of Cochran said the hunting started out a bit slow the first couple of weeks of gun season, but it really picked up by the second and third weeks of November.
“Last year was the busiest I’ve ever been, and I am four (heads to be mounted) off that number,” Frog said. “Usually my busy week is the first week of November, but this year after that week I only had half the number of heads as I’ve had the past two years. Then this past week it picked up pretty good, and now I’m just a few off my busiest year ever.”
Frog said the acorns have been spotty to poor in middle Georgia.
“We didn’t have many acorns. The water oaks didn’t even do good. The folks who have food plots are really seeing the deer,” he said.
Benjie Fennell of Swainsboro said the Emanuel County rut could be the best ever.
“The bucks down here are still chasing; I saw a monster running a doe wide open on Saturday (November 18),” said Benjie. “Clint Braswell saw a big one running two does yesterday evening.”
Benjie hunted Oak Park in southern Emanuel County on November 19 and out of six hunters, two of them killed mature bucks chasing does.
“Everybody I’ve talked to said it’s the best rut they’ve seen in a while,” said Benjie. “The oddest thing is that nobody is seeing sign. Very few rubs and scrapes, but everybody is seeing good chasing.”
Bill Hilsman at Hilsman’s Deer Cooler in McDonough said his overall numbers of deer taken in have improved over last year, and he has taken in a bunch of big-antlered bucks.
“I am up about 75 deer from last year, but the numbers have started to slow down. I think the rut is pretty much over (on November 20). In the Henry County area, the weekend of November 4-5 was the best. We took in 91 deer on Saturday and 77 on Sunday, and the week after that was pretty fair. That was when a lot of hunters were saying they were seeing bucks chasing does.”
Bill said he had taken in several outstanding 10-pointers. He also had the rack from an exceptional 12-pointer that some lowlife shot and left in a pasture near Bill’s business.
“It has been a good year so far,” said Bill. “The rut was strong, and the deer are in great condition.”
Matt Williams at Tim’s Deer Processing in Swainsboro said deer numbers look about average, with some nice-racked deer showing up.
“The bucks’ necks are still swollen and the glands are black,” said Matt. “It’s almost like the rut came in kind of light opening weekend and then came again really hard.”
Down south, Shannon Little with Little’s Taxidermy said the cooler business at Terry Huey Taxidermy and Processing in Crisp County was taking in a record number of deer.
“The body size on these deer are big,” said Shannon. “The racks are about average.”
Shannon said in the Crisp County area hunters aren’t seeing a whole lot of big-deer movement, and that his best deer seem to be coming from the Dooly County area.
“The guys around here are seeing a lot of small bucks,” said Shannon. “I think it’ll get better through next weekend; they’re definitely still rutting.”
Buck Davis at Turner County’s Little River Plantation said a few good deer have been showing up in rifle scopes the last few days. He said the rut was at its peak the third weekend of November with quite a few hunters seeing mature bucks chasing does.
“I’ve never seen it crank up this late,” said Buck. “The rut itself is below average. They’re not running and ripping like they always do.”
Look for Turner County’s rut to be on the downhill slide the first week of December.
Bob Miles at Bob Miles Taxidermy and Deer Processing in Terrell County said the bucks are running the does.
“The big deer are starting to show up now,” said Bob.
Bob had a 13-pointer that would score about 155 in the cooler that was killed the third weekend of November. He’s taken some 140s, too.
“This cooler weather got them going. I’d say it started back around the (November) 10th and should peak out just after Thanksgiving,” said Bob.
Bob’s overall deer numbers are about the same.
Northwest Georgia has also had a banner year for big, healthy bucks, according to “Big” Bob Shaver, with Big Bob’s Wild Game just outside of Summerville in Chattooga County.
“We’ve had a fabulous year so far,” Bob said.
Thirty-one deer were brought to the cooler the week of November 12, and business is up from about 19 deer brought in last year during the same week. And since there were no doe days that week in Chattooga County, all of those deer were bucks.
“It’s a ruttin’, them ol’ necks are all swollen out,” Bob said on Monday, November 20. “We got in more deer last weekend than we did opening weekend of gun season, and they’re all large. The acorn crop is plenty, and judging by the quality of the meat, they’ve been eating mighty well.”
The rut began the week of November 12 and was in full-swing the weekend of November 18, Bob said.
His son-in-law Chris McGraw, owner operator of the cooler, keeps the books, and according to his records Big Bob’s has seen about a 10-percent increase in business since last year — or 45 deer. The best deer to come in so far was a 12-pointer that field dressed at 162 pounds. Bob said he’s also got about 10 10-pointers in the cooler waiting to be caped.
“The season started out very poor, but the last couple of weeks have been fantastic,” he said. “The weather’s right — frost of a morning and very light wind. We’re trying right now to clean our coolers out because come Thanksgiving Day, they’re going to get overrun.”
Greg Long of Ball Ground hunted Pine Log WMA and said he saw seven does.
“The bucks are just now starting to lay down sign,” said Greg. “We’re starting to see a lot of scrapes and a few rubs. The rut up here around Cherokee, Bartow, Pickens and Gordon counties is about Thanksgiving.”