The reports are good from opening weekend of gun season across Georgia, as hunters are reporting that they are seeing more deer than the past couple of seasons.
Acorns are looking good from the mountains to south Georgia, and hunters are already having success by keying on acorns that are falling like rain in many parts of the state.
Here’s a look at the gun opener across the state:
• Habersham Co.: Robert Taylor of Clayton hunted opening day in Habersham County over a kudzu patch and saw five small bucks. He also heard some hogs and ended up killing an 85-lb. dressed-weight boar. Rubs and scrapes are starting to show up in Habersham and Rabun counties, said Robert, and white-oak acorns are falling.
“Almost everyone up here is hunting acorns,” said Robert, “And we have a good crop. I am not seeing much bear sign, because the bears aren’t as active when they have a good supply of acorns.”
• Polk Co.: Russell Vann at Keith’s Deer Cooler in Cedartown said that after the fog lifted, hunters did pretty well.
“No big deer,” he said, “but we took in about 20 deer, which is about average for us on opening day. When you include archery season, we are ahead of last year.”
Russell said that acorns were falling well in many areas and that’s what hunters were keying on.
• Union Co.: Mike Akins of Owltown Outfitters said it’s shaping up like a really good season in the mountains.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of deer, more deer than common this year. I think I’ve sat one time and did not see a deer, and that’s out of about 15 hunts. We’re seeing more deer per sit than last year. I shot a decent 8-pointer with a bow that came in early at 5:30 in the afternoon. It came in with another buck, and there was a third one in the thicket.
“The acorns are just unbelievable. There’s a super mast crop up here. I’m patterning all my deer right now on the white-oak acorns. I sat on a ridge where red oaks are more predominant. I watched some deer filter right through the red oaks, and they came right to a white-oak tree and started eating,” Mike said.
The acorns appear to be good at all elevations this year.
“I’ve been up high several times, and it doesn’t seem to be that much difference,” Mike said.
Carroll Co.: GON Editor Brad Bailey was at the J&H Deer Processors in Whitesburg in time to see 10-year-old Shad Clayton of Douglas arrive with his first-ever deer. Shad was hunting over a food plot with his dad when he made a 100-yard shot with his .243 to kill an 81-lb. dressed-weight 4-pointer.
It was a good morning for young hunters. Matthew Jeffery, 13, also from Douglasville brought in his first deer, too, a buck that was almost a 3-pointer. Matthew made a 35-yard shot with his .44 to take the fat buck that was packed full of acorns.
Another young hunter, Matthew McGrew, 11, of Newnan was in a stand with his dad when they heard a buck grunt four times. When the buck stepped out at about 50 yards, Matthew made a perfect lung shot with his .25/06 to take the Meriwether 9-pointer that had an odd drop tine on one of the bases.
Overall, 53 deer were brought to the J&H cooler opening-day morning, an average opener. Acorns were far and away the most-mentioned food source, with food plots a distant second. No big bucks were brought in after the morning hunt, and the hocks of the 2 1/2-year-old bucks were still white.
• Henry Co.: It was a very good opening morning for hunters in Henry and surrounding counties in the central Piedmont. Bill Hilsman of Hilsman’s Deer Cooler said he took in 106 deer on opening day, way up from the 65 deer brought in last year on opening day.
“We had a pretty good bow season and muzzleloading season, too. Better than the last couple of years,” Bill said. “People are seeing a lot of deer. On opening day some saw bucks chasing does already. We had a real pretty buck from Putnam County, an 11-pointer that weighed 210 on the hoof.”
Bill said the majority of opening-day deer were full of acorns.
“Deer aren’t hitting my food plots yet, but that’s probably because the acorns are there,” he said.
Some of the best news from Bill is that on opening day he saw lots of kids with their first deer.
• Oglethorpe Co.: Lots of shots heard, lots of deer seen, and plenty of deer were brought in to Hicks Processing in Crawford, according to GON Publisher Steve Burch, who spent the day talking to hunters there. Most of the hunters said acorns were really coming down, and the hot topic all day was hunters seeing bucks already chasing does. Stanley Baker of Bogart was hunting in Oconee County and saw 30 deer total, and he saw several small bucks chasing before he shot a tall-tined 8-pointer.
• Walton Co.: Dwayne Britt said the next week or two will be dead-on for the rut. Already 2 1/2-year-old bucks are chasing does, a sign that the rut should be closing in.
“The deer are killing our food plots right now,” said Dwayne. “The white oaks are really scattered, so we’re seeing a bunch of deer going to those food plots.”
Water oaks are the best food source in his neck of the woods.
• Washington Co.: GON Editor Brad Gill was at South Riddle Deer Processing, and hunters brought in several nice bucks opening morning. The general report from hunters is that they are seeing good amounts of deer activity. Rubs and scrapes are abundant, and the rut seems like it should hit about normal — the first week of November.
Harry Lindsey, owner of South Riddle, said he took in about 55 deer opening day, which is well above average for the gun opener.
“I think everybody is seeing a lot of deer,” said Harry. “The quality is good, too, but they also took a lot of nice ones last year.”
The best time to be in the woods is still a few weeks away. The rut should fall inside the first 10 days of November.
“That’s the way it’s looking right now,” said David Lewis, a Washington County deer hunter. “A guy killed an 8-pointer here yesterday, and he was just starting to smell and his hocks were just starting to turn.”
David added that a few of the younger bucks are starting to show up with does, but the mature bucks are still laying low. Quite a few deer were shot on food plots opening weekend. White oaks are pretty sparse, but the red oaks are in good shape.
“It was raining here at daylight,” said David. “Not too much went on here, but we needed that one inch of rain.”
• Emanuel Co.: Benjie Fennell went to Tim’s Deer Processing morning and evening and said most of the better bucks were killed on afternoon hunts; however, several hunters reported mature bucks starting to stir about 11 a.m.
“General consensus from Emanuel and all the surrounding counties is that we’re in the heavy pre-rut,” said Benjie. “The smaller bucks are chasing and some are seeing good bucks showing up behind them but not showing an incredible amount of interest yet. Look for the rut to fall just right. Be in the woods at the end of October, first part of November.”
Deer numbers seem to be very impressive this season.
“Nobody has complained about not seeing deer here,” said Benjie. “The quality is up, too.”
White and water oaks are pulling deer.
• Macon Co.: The Deer Day Classic and Fall Festival in Oglethorpe was a fantastic time as most of the town showed up to greet opening-day deer hunters. The event included good food, gospel music, pony rides and inflatable jumpers for the kids, arts and crafts booths — and of course several prizes for deer hunters. GON Editor Daryl Kirby was there all morning and saw some excellent bucks. A 10-pointer from Dooly County killed by Bruce West won the biggest deer prize, and it is entered in Week 7 of Truck-Buck. A Taylor County 8-pointer killed by Brandon Cox, 15, won a prize for the youngest hunter. Hunters said they heard plenty of shots, and most saw plenty of deer. Acorns were the hot food source, although a couple of hunters saw deer on food plots. There wasn’t any early rutting activity reported, so it looks like Macon and surrounding counties are on schedule for a mid November peak of the rut.
• Turner Co.: Buck Davis with Little River Plantation said it’s been slow, dry and hot.
“We’ve been seeing some does and little bucks,” said Buck. “We were seeing scrapes back in August, but they backed off. The last few weeks we’ve been seeing rubs and no scrapes. We got a little shower here yesterday afternoon, and I saw where one came through and freshened a scrape.”
Buck said the deer are on peanuts. There are still some folks digging and picking and until that stops, the deer will be in those fields. Also, Buck has a few cut corn fields that the deer are hammering.
“They’re also hitting the few acorns they can find, and we’re hunting a few water holes, but it’s just yearlings and does,” said Buck. “With that shower our green fields are just starting to perk up.”