Safe to say that this bow season started red hot for every single deer hunter who ventured to a stand—if not for seeing deer, certainly for the temperatures and humidity. It was brutal!
Yet, despite the heat, we had possibly the best start to a Georgia archery season ever. There have been record-class bow-bucks hanging in deer coolers across the state. The Truck-Buck contest saw the most Week 1 entries in 30 years of the contest, shattering the previous record by 33 percent.
GON has a great team of deer-hunting experts across the state, and here are their reports.
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “I normally do not complain about things out of my control, BUT DANG IT’S HOT! And the no-see-ums are hungry, plus the blood sucking mosquitoes are also plentiful!
“Now we can move on to the hunt report. We are seeing good numbers of deer, mostly in the evenings. Bucks are beginning to move into more of a non-daylight pattern. Acorns are beginning to fall, and we have observed the deer looking around under old faithful white and red oak trees to pick up every one they find. Food plots are being hit hard, but they are in need of rain.
“I’m not sure if cooler fall weather will increase deer movement, but it sure will help with ‘Tim Dangar’ movement. I have not seen much buck sign being made yet, but I also have not looked for it either. One thing I have learned, when hunting over supplemental feed with a bow, don’t place the stand too close. It’s hard to be stealthy with the movement required for drawing a bow. Learned that the hard way, if you know what I mean!
“Hey, early bow season is what it is. I still love it, but I am praying for an early frost!”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “It would be a lie to say that I have enjoyed the few times I’ve been in the woods. I just can’t get pumped about hunting deer with these temps like they are. I have been deer hunting for almost a half of a century, and I miss the hunting when the season started about three weeks later than it does now.
“As of the time of this report, my son Zack and I had been in the woods a handful of times, and seeing deer has been sporadic. You don’t see a single deer one hunt, and then the next time out you see several. I have feeders and supplements out, and the deer are wearing them out. The acorns have not started hitting the ground as of the middle of September, so we are sitting on the baits. I do think the acorns are plentiful but just holding on. It was Tropical Storm Irma that took them down so early last year.
“Buck sign has been very limited—finding a few small rubs, but no scrapes whatsoever. By this time last year there was a ton of buck sign, but there was also a ton of acorns on the ground, too. I keep hoping these temps will come down where I can go enjoy time in a tree.
“I had already seen a lot more deer by this time last year and a few pretty decent bucks. I don’t think it’s a numbers problem because I saw plenty of deer through the summer, and I’m still seeing a bunch at night in my yard. It will get better when the testosterone starts rising and the temperatures start dropping.”
North Fulton County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Well, my 12-year-old son made it happen on opening day. We pressed our luck with the worst possible wind and thermals going right to where we had the cameras showed him coming from. We were using our new no-scent product, and the buck knew something wasn’t right, but it calmed him enough he exited slowly. Wyatt reacted quickly to make a great 40-yard shot right through the shoulder. He has hunted for five years looking for his first buck, and he managed to get a nice velvet-clad, mature 8-pointer. It was one of the greatest moments in my hunting career.
“The weather has remained unbelievably hot with bad wind directions for the first two weeks of the season. Deer movement, judging by my cameras, remains fairly low. The bucks are now in hard horn, and they have shifted travel patterns a bit. Some of our bucks disappeared, while a couple new bucks have shown up, and they are now more nocturnal than earlier this summer.
“The hurricane winds caused some green white oak acorns to start falling. It’s critical to find a good dropping oak tree, since it’s the preferred food source for most bucks. My go-to pattern early season remains to hunt the closest dropping white oak tree to thick cover where I suspect the mature buck beds.
“I’m now shifting gears to help my 7-year-old get his first deer, so we will be mostly doe hunting in the next few weeks. We use Purina Quick Draw blocks on the edges. This allows us to hunt a doe while not putting pressure on mature bucks, and we minimize our scent in his core area. Save those best buck spots for when you can think a mature buck will be on his feet. That is when he is either looking for nice acorns in the right wind or later in the pre-rut. Years of running cameras in north Fulton shows the last week of October to be a great time to see bigger bucks out looking for the early estrous does.
“Enjoy this awesome opportunity in the metro county this month. Either strategically chase your target buck an hour before dark after leaving work, or consider grabbing a kid after school or practice to get them that first doe. Either way, it’s a great place for experiencing nature right by the city.”
Columbia County: Dylan Hankal, of Appling, reports, “So far here in Columbia County the deer activity has been somewhat increasing. I have noticed the bucks are starting to split up, and depending on moon phase, they have been more daylight active than nighttime. Scrapes and rubs are starting to appear in known buck areas, and I have seen about five to six different bucks locking antlers together already in front of my Browning Trail Cams. The acorn crop looks fairly decent this year compared to last year. Squirrels and heavy winds from Hurricane Florence seem to have knocked enough down to keep the deer busy feeding on them. My family and I look forward to hunting over the white oak acorns in the coming weeks along with the persimmons that are slowly starting to drop.”
Fayette County: Shane McMonigle, aka “rutnbuk” on the GON Forum, reports, “At press time we are stuck in a weather pattern that is simply humid and hot. However, deer movement is still pretty good in the late evenings. As usual some nice bucks have been entered in the Truck-Buck contest, and most were on an evening pattern.
“Despite the hot opening weekend, Johnny Black, of Black’s Deer Processing in Fayette County, reports he was very pleased with the number of deer he had opening week. Johnny also took in a few nice bucks, and although corn was key to some success, Johnny said several deer had been feeding heavy on what is left of the abundant muscadine crop. I have done a little more scouting, and in my areas the water oaks are super heavy this year, but I can only rate white and red oaks as fair to spotty at this time. This actually can benefit the bowhunter. If you can find the one or two white oaks dropping, then you have found a hotspot. As we move into October, I will be watching the weather for that first cool/cold snap that usually comes around mid-month each year. That always seems to get the deer moving and me more excited to be in the woods. But, to be honest, for me the best thing about October is it means November is almost here! Get ready as deer movement is only going to improve as we move through October. Good luck, and God Bless.”
Putnam County: Dwayne Britt, of Grayson, reports, “I’m hearing a lot of good bucks are already showing up at the processors in Putnam County. We have several really nice bucks on camera feeding on corn. Some of the white oak acorns are just about ready, and if you find any already hitting the ground, I would find a way to hunt near or around the trails going to them from the bedding area. We just planted oats, wheat, turnips and radish at our club and now are hoping for rain. If it continues to remain dry and hot, I’m staying close to small water sources that provide cover and food. As long as the hunting pressure is light and it remains hot, the deer will work the early mornings and late evenings. Once hunting pressure increases and the temps begin to drop, start trying to hang in the stand as late into the morning as you can, and if the moon is full, hunt the middle of the day. My
strategy is to leave the does alone, and let them stay comfortable on the plots, acorns and any other food source. I’ll try to pick off a mature buck early if I can find the time to pattern and get the right wind; otherwise, I’ll try and find those isolated areas or non-pressured areas that the does frequent once the pre-rut kicks in. I’ve seen a lot of chasing over the last few years in the middle of October, including mature bucks, so don’t discount some early rut activity.”
Walton County: Darrell Dickens, of Loganville, reports, “The hunting overall so far has been great. I’ve seen a total of 18 different bucks the first week of the season. As the first week went on, they were moving later and later in the afternoons though. The bucks are still in bachelor groups for the most part but will be busting up soon. I have been hunting around corn and persimmons, and they have been hitting them hard, but I anticipate that to change once the white oaks start dropping and the food plots finally get the rain they need to green-up in the next couple of weeks.
“I have already found a couple of scrapes and numerous rubs. I watched a mature buck work two scrapes one afternoon showing his dominance over the other bucks that were with him.
“The deer numbers in the areas I hunt seem to be on par with the past few years. The overall health of the deer herd is in very good condition. I’m looking forward to some cooler weather and excited to see what all this season will bring to make more memories with family and friends.”
Colquitt County: Adam Childers, of Norman Park, reports, “Despite the hot temperatures we’ve experienced thus far, the deer activity seems to have been fairly good. There have been quite a few nice bucks taken in my neck of the woods since opening day. My dad Kim and brother Ben both connected on P&Y-class bucks opening week from the same stand three days apart. The bucks had been regular visitors all summer to a corn pile on the edge of a weed field and were bedding in some planted pines not too far away. My brother actually had both of these bucks at 30 yards on the evening he took his deer. He took the shot on the first one that gave him the opportunity. It doesn’t always work out that nicely, but it sure is sweet when it does!
“Hopefully we will see a break in the heat as October approaches. At the very least, this should make for more comfortable hunts in the evenings, and with any luck, deer movement will increase.
“I’m beginning to see a few persimmons getting ripe, so in a couple of weeks when they begin drop, these trees will become a hotspot for deer activity. There have been quite a few acres of peanuts dug in this area, so for the next month these fields will be attracting lots of deer, as well.
“As late October and the rut approaches, I’ll begin to focus less on food sources and more on rub and scrape lines near bedding areas to try to pinpoint buck activity. I’ll be careful not to put too much pressure on my best areas until the trail cameras start to show more daylight activity. When that first cool snap comes, I’ll have stands in place to play the wind and will try to make a move. It seems that every year deer tend to frequent the same areas, but a slight adjustment to stand location may be necessary to get them in range.
“Use the next few weeks to prepare for the rut by getting stands in place and hunting only with a good wind for any particular stand. I’ll be hunting as often as I can to try to learn as much as possible about doe activity. As we all know, where there are does, there will be bucks in just a few short weeks. Good luck to all in the month of October!”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports, “We are a few weeks into bow season, and it still feels like summer! The few times we have hunted have not been productive. There has not been very much deer movement at all, maybe they are too hot, too. The trail cameras are not showing much movement either, and what we are seeing is of course in the middle of the night. Hopefully we will see some cooler temperatures in the weeks ahead.
“The hot food sources right now are still the persimmons, our green plots, and the few acorns we have. We have seen a few buck scrapes and rubbed trees. Hopefully we will get some rain and cooler weather. Hope you all have a successful hunting season! God Bless!”
Early County: Sam Klement, founder of Good Outdoor Technologies and member of PSE and Realtree pro hunting teams, reports, “Our properties consist of irrigated agriculture fields, and we and all our neighbors practice some sort of strict QDMA guidelines. With all the heavy and consistent rain we have had this year, we are seeing on our camera surveys some great looking targets for this year. It could be the ‘Year of Big Racks’ for southwest Georgia. The soft mast looks as good as I have seen in years—plenty of persimmon trees and grapes starting to drop. Our pin oaks are also starting to drop, and the other oaks look like they will be heavy as well, so our deer will not have to move far to get a belly full. Labor Day weekend we finished planting our food plots and have since received plenty of rain, so these should be in good shape as well for late season draws.
“I hunted opening weekend and saw two small bucks on my early a.m. hunts. Did not hunt in the afternoons due to the heat and wrapping up our plot planting. My strategy is pretty simple, I like to take a doe or two early to re-fill my freezer, and then focus on hunting a mature deer. I like to hunt timber-change pinch points in very thick areas, and I hunt primarily out of lock-on type stands that I put up or tweaked in June or July. I put very little pressure on my farms and try keep traffic to a minimum during hunting season.
“I do like to call some as the season progresses, and when the deer go into hard antlers, I will tickle some antlers on a string occasionally in hopes of getting a mature buck headed out of his bed in my direction. Regarding scents and lures, I have had great success with VooDoo curiosity lure and cover scent. These tough Georgia deer seem to not spook or blow on this product, and I like to mist during my hunts and spray a few bushes near my stand for each hunt..
“Good Luck to all my fellow Georgia hunters. Reminder to my Alabama hunters who hunt in Georgia, with the new CWD rules Alabama has implemented, don’t make the mistake of taking a deer across the Chattahoochee to an Alabama processor or to process yourself. It has to be deboned or processed in Georgia. I don’t agree with this new rule, since I have personally seen countless deer swim across the river, and I hunt both states. We can discuss this subject later. Have fun this year. Be safe, and remember Huntin is Good!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “Bow season in Harris County started off unusually hot and muggy this year. OK, I know what you’re thinking—it’s always hot and muggy in west-central Georgia this time of year! But at least it usually cools down a little bit in the evenings by mid-September. This year, even the nights have been unseasonably warm, but that seems to be impacting us bowhunters more than the deer we’re hunting. Some very nice bucks have already hit the red-hot dirt in Harris County, and my wife, Christina, and I have been seeing deer moving on our property and along roadsides at all hours of the day and even in very hot temperatures, especially during the afternoons. So, if you can put up with the 90-degree temps and airplane-size mosquitoes to get in the woods, you’ll likely have a decent chance of putting an arrow in a deer, especially if you have located a food source the deer are hitting regularly.
“Speaking of food sources… we’re planting our food plots a little differently on our 800-acre Harris County hunting lease this year, so I’ll let y’all know how that goes in case you’d like to try it for yourself next year. To save time, effort, and money—and it really does, so hopefully it’ll work—we split our food plots in half and drilled seed into half of them about two weeks ago. The other half we’re going to till up and plant the ‘conventional’ way as soon as we have a couple of waves of rain in the forecast, which will hopefully be about the time you’re reading this.
“The muscadines on the properties I hunt are still falling good, and the deer have definitely found them. Persimmons are also looking good, but they’re not yet falling. As far as acorns go, I’m still not finding anything dependable in the way of white oaks, and the red oaks aren’t much better. Water oak acorns are everywhere, but that’s to be expected almost every year in this area. I usually don’t even bother with hunting under water oak trees, simply because those acorns are very low on a deer’s preference list as far as food goes. But, with the white oak and red oak acorn situation not looking very good this season, at least on the properties I hunt, water oaks will definitely be a huntable option for me this year. That said, I want to stress that all I can report is what I’m seeing, and everyone should definitely do their own scouting. That’s especially true in lean years for white and red oak acorns, because production can vary from property to property, and even over a large property, sometimes significantly. And, if you can find those few trees that are producing sweet, low-tannin acorns, you’ll have likely hit the equivalent of a deer hunting jackpot, at least for that season!
“On the hunting club where my sons and I spend the majority of our time hanging on the sides of trees, we have more bucks on our Hit List, by far, than we’ve ever had—and I’m talking mature bucks under a long-term QDM program with a 120-inch minimum. Based on that, as well as reports and trail-cam pics I’m getting from fellow hunters, I’m expecting an outstanding deer season in both Harris County specifically and Georgia overall.
“While this season has definitely started out good, it will only get better as we move though the month of October and into that magical month of November. I would encourage everyone to hunt smart and carefully this month, because this definitely is a transition period for the deer, and hunting can be tough. The last thing you want to do is mess things up for the rest of your season by spooking and educating the deer you’re hunting. That said,
“I would also suggest that you treat the last week of October—the week of Halloween—like you would any full week early in November, especially if a cold front moves through and temperatures drop that week. In many cases, bucks will get the itch and start a little early pre-rut cruising that you can take advantage of. Believe me, there is more than one way to go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, even if we are all grown up now!”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Well, the season started off hot, and I’m not talking action. This is one of the hottest opening weeks I can remember, and it’s not getting any better two weeks into it. That didn’t stop Kevin Shepherd from killing another great buck again this year. (Kevin is entered in Week 1 of Truck-Buck, and his picture is on page 59). Seems like one of the Shepherd boys kill a good one every year, but they do put in the time to grow them big.
“I shot a big doe on the 10th coming to a persimmon tree in the evening, but no bucks have been seen by any of us. We do have some coming in at night, so they are there.
“The water oaks are loaded like I said last month, but the white oaks are starting to fall, too—from the stress of the heat, I think. Food plots need rain bad, and fruits are hitting the ground fast. Corn is being eaten in some spots and not the others, so just hunt the sign.
“Haven’t seen any rubs or scraping going on anywhere yet, but that’s coming if we can get this heat out of here. The deer herd around here seems to be up from years past, or either I’m seeing the same deer out and about every week.
“The best is still to come, and I think this year will top the last for more mature bucks being taken. Bucks should start reacting to some light grunting pretty soon, and before long the good times will be here, if you know what I mean. Good luck everybody.”