Drought Could Change November Deer Patterns

The current drought has yielded dried-up foot plots and delayed plantings for many.

Georgia hunters continue to watch the skies for any signs of rain as food plot plantings remain on hold and game animals shift their hunting season travel patterns to watering holes. The bad news for hunters is that there’s no real signifiant rain chance in the forecast at least through the first week of November.

“It’s going to have a general impact on everything,” said biologist Ken Riddleberger, northeast Georgia region supervisor for WRD’s Game Management.

Ken said the drought has affected their WMA food plot plantings. Whereas most WMA food plots are planted prior to hunting season, WRD’s schedule has been altered because of the drought.

“We’ve held some back, waiting on rain,” said Ken. “Some we’ve planted, and when you don’t get rain on something you’ve planted, then it just doesn’t do very well.”

Ken said some plots were planted on Chestatee WMA, but it’s looking like the time spent may have been wasted.

“As soon as it got planted, it got a little rain on it, and it came up, but then there’s been no rain on it ever since,” said Ken. “It looks like we’re going to lose the whole stand on those wildlife openings.”

Thankfully, most mountain areas have seen a healthy acorn crop, so the game will find plenty to eat likely through November. However, it’s the winter months that are coming when the acorns play out that has mountain hunters worried whether or not rain will ever come so food plots can get established.

“It’s going to be critical as far as getting some rain on those to get them going and thriving to provide some of that winter forage we like to provide. Probably the most critical thing at this point is those winter openings,” said Ken.

Not only has the drought impacted food plot plantings, it is greatly impacting wildlife, as well. Animals are having to travel just to find water.

“Larger, more mobile animals are going to be able to find some water somewhere to meet their needs. Some of the less mobile animals are going to have a harder time locating water sources as things start to dry up,” Ken said. “It’s going to have some impacts on their physical health and nutritional plane.”

Deer hunters can expect changes this season as a direct result of the drought.

“Whenever we have dry weather like this, it can cause deer to change their movement patterns,” said Charlie Killmaster, WRD’s state deer biologist. “They get a lot of their liquid intake from the vegetation they consume, but in dry conditions, the liquid content goes down in the plants, so they do have to go actively find more water sources to drink from. It can either increase movements, and it can cause a shift in where deer are using. Deer might shift toward food sources closer to water.”

Charlie also added that the drought could cause deer to be more susceptible to hunter harvest.

The next several months is not just about deer hunting for some sportsmen. November is one of the best fishing months of the year. GON spoke with Lake Oconee fishing guide Doug Nelms on Oct. 24, and he’s very excited about the upcoming month of fishing.

“November is a huge numbers month for us,” said Doug. “It won’t be unusual to boat 30 stripers/hybrids on a four-hour trip. For us guides, this is the month we have all waited on.”

Even with the great fishing, boaters are cautioned to use extreme caution right now on lakes since most of them are down due to the drought.

For current lake level information, visit https://www.weather.gov/ffc/rrm. The data is updated every morning.

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