The rut, the prime time to catch a big, mature buck making a mistake, is just beginning in the mountains and southwest Georgia. Meanwhile, rutting activity started early and fast in the Piedmont, then activity disappeared in mid November, attributed primarily to a full moon and an incredible amount of white-oak acorns and other foods, which caused does to move less during daylight hours. In south Georgia, the same factors may have played a role in delaying the peak of rutting activity, or at least in affecting deer movement so that big bucks weren’t seen chasing during daylight hours.
What does all this mean for December in the Georgia deer woods? It depends on which part of the state you’re hunting, but many of GON’s Hunt Advisors predict more late-season action and a better-than-average chance at a mature buck. Food sources will play an important role this month. Plenty of acorns means food plots have hardly been used by deer — or by hunters. Unpressured food plots could be hotspots this month.
Here are the reports from across the state.
DeKalb/Gwinnett Co.: Eric Bruce of Snellville reports: “Hunting has been slow or red hot depending on the day. So much is dependent on the weather, with cold still days producing lots of deer sightings. On Nov. 15, I watched the weather report and waited for the rain to blow through. I almost didn’t go, but since it was the rut, and I know that bucks always move after a rain, I went to the DeKalb woods later in the morning. I spotted a nice buck across a dead kudzu field when I got there, and he moved into some thick privet bushes. The wind was strong in my face, the leaves were wet and quiet, so I tried to sneak up on him. I saw him raking his antlers on a bush and sneaked up to that location, but he was gone by the time I closed the distance. I moved along the edge of the privet and spotted him again. The buck moved toward me in an opening, and when he turned at 15 yards, I was already drawn back and let it fly. He is a 9-pointer with a broken left G3, 18-inch spread and 22-inch beams.”
Gilmer Co.: Terry Fowler of Ellijay reports: “Acorns are still plentiful, persimmons are still hanging on trees and fox grapes are still hanging. Signs of the rut are beginning to show. Smaller bucks are chasing. Some big bucks are cruising, and still no shortage of bears. Overall the season has been good for most, but deer are hard to pattern due to ample food supply. For December I have high hopes — big buck sighted on Blue Ridge WMA and high hopes for Cohutta.”
Madison/Oglethorpe Co.: John Seginak of Comer reports: “We still have a bunch of acorns, and deer are hitting them very well. There’s been little food-plot use because of the amount of acorns remaining. The rut is in full swing. A friend killed a nice 11-pointer following a doe Nov. 15. December should bring on a lot of food-plot use and use of native browse such as privet in the bottoms.”
Oconee Co.: Brandon Colquitt of Athens reports: “I have hunted my property six times and haven’t even jumped a deer, much less seen one from the tree. Hardly any rutting sign on the property. I planted a great food plot of rye, wheat, clover and chicory, and it’s hardly been touched. I’m hoping it will be a good spot in December after the bucks have rutted down and are looking for some food to get them through the winter. There are still tons of acorns on the ground on my Oconee County land but no deer to eat them. I have been running four cameras on the property and have been getting about the same three or four small bucks on them pretty much all over the land. This property is famous for being a staging area for ‘strange’ bucks in December, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can still sling an arrow at one over there.”
Oglethorpe Co: Brandon Colquitt of Athens reports: “This has been the worst deer season of my life. I bet I haven’t seen 15 deer from the stand all year long. There has been zero sign of a rut on my hunting club. Very few rubs and scrapes ever showed up. We have only had five or six deer taken on 325 acres. Most of the members are reporting the same kind of season that I am. Almost every deer seen has been eating in our food plots. I still have only taken one deer and have only had about four in bow range all season long. There are still some acorns around, but they are very scattered. Seems that most of the sign now is showing along the thicker planted pines. I think the DNR really needs to look into lowering the doe limit and going back to a few doe days during the firearms season. I grew up in Oglethorpe County and can see the major drop in the deer population. It’s getting hard to even justify the cost of deer hunting with the depleted population. December is looking bleak right now, but maybe things will turn around for the better. The food plots will be the place to be in December with the acorns drying up. Maybe I can catch up with a couple of them.”
Walton Co.: Dwayne Britt of Grayson reports: “There are lots of white-oak acorns this year, but most have now fallen. The deer are starting to get active on the food plots, but most activity is believed to be at night. Our persimmon trees are loaded and still dropping persimmons. The first week of November, my 7-year-old daughter Grace Britt and I watched a nice 8-point buck walk within about 2 yards of our stand. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or her — probably me. That had to rate as one of my best hunts ever. The beginning of November started great with bucks chasing does, but all were 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 year olds. Once the warm weather hit, all the activity stopped. The rut has been very difficult to say the least this year. Scrapes and rubs were abundant in early November and then stopped. However, on the 15th of November, I saw more fresh scrapes. I saw seven does on the 11th and 12th of November with no bucks following the does. A friend hunting a few miles away had someone hunting with him shoot a nice 9-pointer bedded with a doe on the 15th of November. I’m wondering if the rut is over or stretched out and not as short and intense this year. I believe the warm weather and the full moon played a major role in the lack of activity this year. I still have hope for late November and early December. I had a friend a few years back kill an 11-pointer in Monroe on Thanksgiving day, and it was in full rut. I’ve shot a few bucks in December, and thick planted pines and cut timber seem to be great places to hunt.”
Baldwin/Wilkinson Co.: MacKay Bloodworth of Washington reports: “The local deer reports have been a little slower than normal early in the season, possibly due to the warm weather. I don’t think weather is the ultimate factor in determining deer movement, but I believe it does play a significant role. However, there have been a few very good bucks killed. In Baldwin, the woods are loaded with scrapes and deer activity, but I haven’t seen any bucks running does. The deer seem to have been moving primarily at night, or either I have been in the woods at the wrong time. The acorns are falling in abundance now, and they seem to be plentiful in both counties. I let some smaller bucks go in early November, but they were alone and not chasing. On Nov. 8, I managed to shoot a good 180-lb. 9-pointer (see page 21) in Wilkinson. He was alone but seemed to be cruising and looking for a companion. His hocks were dark and smelled strong. I always have felt that the first two weeks of November were the best around here. But the weather is now finally turning colder, and the best hunting in middle Georgia may be just now happening, especially with colder weather on the way and plenty of food on the ground. The only advice I can offer is to not to give up yet!”
Coweta Co.: Dennis Smith of Newnan reports: “The deer are hammering the white-oak acorns. I killed a 118-inch 8-point buck hunting a transition area from pine to hardwoods on Oct. 26 with my bow. I saw 27 deer from Oct. 24-26 (nine bucks and 18 does). The bucks were in pre-rut stage grunting and following does. I hunted nine days straight from Nov. 6-14. I saw 102 deer. On Nov. 8 I saw a 10-pointer trailing a doe then stop and rub a tree, then a 7-pointer came behind him and rubbed the same tree. Our rut seemed to peak a few days early on the 10th and 11th. The bucks were chasing does hard and right on their tails for two days. On Nov. 11 I had a 130-inch 8-point run three does in my area and then bed down about 25 yards away for about 20 minutes. Then two small bucks ran does close to him, and he jumped up and ran them off, then a small 7-point came in with a doe, and he ran him off and left with the doe. I think where we hunt it came a few days early and is winding down. Deer are still in the oaks cleaning up the acorns. They have not been hitting our food plot hard yet due to the acorn crop. Overall, it’s been a great season so far, just have not seen the big boy yet, but I will keep after him.”
Hancock Co: Matthew Gilbert of Monroe reports: “There have been plenty of deer seen this season. Most deer are being seen in hardwoods or cutovers, with a few being seen in food plots. So far this season, the worst place to hunt has been in the food plots. With the white-oak availability, the deer have been sticking to cover and are hitting the food plots after dark. Signs of the rut are out there, but limited. Scrapes and rubs seem to be below normal for our property this fall. So far, the scrapes have continued to be used by the bucks, which causes us to believe the concentrated rutting activity has not occurred. Chasing has been sparse, with most rutting activity coming from young bucks. Some of the young bucks are running does pretty hard while the older bucks haven’t seemed to be moving during daylight yet. We have heard that the neighboring hunters are seeing similar signs of the rut, which makes us think that it has not hit full swing. When the white oaks are gone, our food plots should be an easy place to kill a December deer. Recent rains have helped the food plots to stay in good shape, and it is easy to see that the deer are using them to feed during the nights. The shooter bucks may have become nocturnal by then, but it should be simple to kill some does. As we go into December, those of us who have not killed any bucks will need to move to thicker cover while trying to catch a buck slipping back and forth to their feeding areas.”
Harris Co.: Jimmy Harper of Hamilton reports: “The deer are really hitting this year’s large white-oak-acorn crop hard and heavy. The red-oak acorns have about played out, but the white-oak acorns have been falling on their own, without the help of the squirrels, for a couple of weeks now, and they’re everywhere. Water-oak acorns are very plentiful as well, but the deer aren’t feeding on them very heavily since they much prefer the white-oak acorns. Food plots are looking nice and green since we’ve had plenty of rain this year, but the deer are concentrating more on the acorns right now and will be for another couple of weeks. Believe it or not, we still have a few persimmons hanging on scattered trees, but those should all be gone in the next week or so. We’ve been hammering the does on our lease, trying to reduce the population slightly while also improving the buck-to-doe ratio, and almost all of these does have been shot while feeding on acorns. The only deer we’re seeing in our food plots right now are on trail-camera pictures taken at night, but that’ll change soon.
“The GON Rut Map was right on again this year. We hunt three different properties in Harris County — two in the eastern part and one in the western part. Just like the map shows, we’re again seeing two peaks to our rut — mid November for the eastern portion of the county and later in November for the western portion. In the eastern half of Harris County, my sons Jimbo, Joe and Jake and I saw mature bucks chasing does as early as the first week of rifle season and as late as Nov. 11, but they’re locked down tight with hot does right now. In the western half, we didn’t see mature bucks chasing until the first week of November, and they’re still going at it strong. The fly in the ointment is that the mid-November warm spell we experienced pushed a large majority of the rut activity to the nighttime hours when it’s a good bit cooler.
“The overall rating of the season thus far has been about average, both in the number of deer killed and in the quality of the bucks taken. The same can be said for the number of deer seen, meaning we’ve got a pretty stable population in our county. The outlook for December is that after Thanksgiving weekend, look for the deer to shift food sources, moving from acorns, which will have pretty much played out by then, to food plots. Also, don’t discount deer browsing on smilax and honeysuckle vines in pine plantations, especially if there aren’t any food plots close by.”
Baker Co.: The folks at Mossy Pond Hunting Preserve filed the following report for properties in Baker, Decatur, Early and Miller counties. “We have had a good week. We had one of our customers kill a nice 8-pointer that scored 127 3/8, and he was starting to show signs of the rut. We are having some cooler weather now, and we are seeing more horns than before. Our food plots are having a lot of action in them. We are seeing more bucks early and late, and we’re seeing an abundance of does. The fawns have lost their spots now and are looking healthy. Our fall plots have had some good rain here the last couple of days. The Sweet Blu Lupine is coming up strong mixed with our oats, and our Buck Brunch is grazeable now with a lot of deer sign in it. We have scrapes all over the place and rub lines on all our farms. This is turning out to be a great year for us.”
Dooly Co.: Tim Rutherford of Pitts reports: “There are still a lot of acorns in the woods, which makes it hard to focus on just one area. The deer are hitting the food plots, but mostly at night. And it has been dry. The rain Nov. 13-14 should help boost the plots and make for a good place to hunt in December. The rut has been weird to say the least here in Dooly. I killed a big 9-pointer during Week 8, that is entered in the Truck-Buck contest, as he was trailing two does. I took off work the next week and hunted hard all day most days only to see some small bucks early in the morning and no chasing at all. The biggest buck I saw was a big 8-pointer that would score in the low 130s, but he is only a 2 1/2-year-old and has really great potential. The full moon along with some warm temperatures late in the week had the deer up and moving all night. I knew the peak of the rut would fall in line with the full moon, but I thought I would see more movement in the middle of the day, which I didn’t. If the temperature cools off like it should, I believe that the last two weeks of November will be the best hunting since most of the does will have been bred and the big bucks will be wandering from their home territories to seek out un-bred does. During December, I would focus on food sources, especially food plots in the afternoons. A lot of times a buck recovering from the rigors of the rut will lock in on one food source and try to recover close by.”
Dougherty Co.: Garrett Jones reports: “So far the acorns have started to play out, and now all of our fall food plots are coming up and the deer are starting to really use them. A lot of does are being seen in the food plots, and also in the past two weeks we are starting to see more of the big bucks that we have not seen since summer. For a while I have seen numerous small bucks starting to mess with the does, but it wasn’t until Nov. 15 when I saw a mature buck with a doe. It’s on the verge of the rut turning wide open, and I believe the cold front that we had on Nov. 15 has the bucks in the mood. Overall the season has been very productive, and I have heard of a few good deer being shot in the area. I am excited to see what December has in store for us, and what the cold weather brings.”
Early Co.: Sam Klement of Spectrum Outdoors reports: “This cold weather may be just what the deer doctor ordered. It has been slow on our land and surrounding properties in terms of big-deer movement during daylight hours. Most members on our club have reported seeing small bucks. We are getting plenty of big-deer photos with our scouting cameras; it’s just a matter of time before some big deer start hitting the dirt. Typically, the first real cool snap in December is what trips our deer triggers. We’re seeing plenty of rubs, and more and more scrapes are showing up daily. Our food plots are looking good and getting hit fairly hard. Our white oaks have also started to really drop good. If I was going to plan a vacation for a southwest Georgia hunting trip, I would definitely consider doing so the first two weeks of December.”
Emanuel Co.: Benjie Fennell reports: “The peanuts and soybeans are being harvested, and the rut is in full swing. Several nice bucks have already been harvested in Emanuel County. Nunez in southern Emanuel County has been a hotspot for big bucks this season. Four bucks killed since the opening of gun season were all killed within a couple of miles of Nunez. The bucks include the one killed by Todd Hooks, a wide 5×5 with a drop-tine and about 19 1/2 inches wide. Paul Terwilliger killed a buck that was a main-framed 5×5 that had a second main beam growing from the left side of the rack. My brother Jeffrey killed a nice 8-pointer after working the nightshift last week. Jeffrey said he grunted a couple of times, and ‘he just came charging in.’ Bill Carmichael killed a nice 8-pointer last weekend with a 17-inch spread. This weekend was nothing but exceptional as there were more nice bucks killed. All in all this is an excellent season for those hunting in Emanuel County, and the season should still hold several more shooter bucks before it ends.”
Evans Co.: Craig Davis of Davis Archery reports: “The acorn crop is winding down, and they’re scattered now. Find a dropping tree, and you can get a deer. The rut is wide open here. The bucks are out and chasing. The morning hunt still seems to be stronger than the evening hunt. December will be the time to key back on the food plots for your deer as the mast crops are wearing down. Overall it’s been a good season for our county.”
Telfair Co.: Glen Solomon has this report from the Horse Creek WMA hunts Nov. 5-8 and Nov. 13-15: “On the WMA hunts I attended this November, the rut has been more awesome and noticeable than in past years. I’ve heard several people state this same comment the last couple of weeks, ‘He had his nose right up her rear!’ All phases of the rut have been observed such as chasing, scent-trailing, pairing up in small areas of thick cover and even breeding. On the last hunt Nov. 13-15, some parts of the WMA had scrapes staying fresh and cleaned out, while on other portions of the WMA they were collecting leaves. Thank God they have another hunt in December; this thing I believe is gonna string on out — not just a trickle rut either. There were several nice 8-pointers with 16-inch spreads and better, including a 19-incher. Some were reported even bigger than that on the prior hunt the week before, which had a success rate in the 30 percent ranges. This week was in the 20s even though it was a back-to-back hunt. They’ll kick tail in the GON rankings next year. I had two chances at a real good ’un after he exited his bedding area, and I blew it both times. I will have him surrounded on the December hunt. It was a check-in hunt and the start of freezer-filling time, so the meat hunter in me bagged a spike OTG and the heaviest doe of the hunt.”
Treutlen Co.: Delton Lord of Soperton reports: “There are lots of acorns still on the ground, but the food plots are seeing more use than a month ago. With the colder weather killing most green stuff in the woods, it seems the deer are hitting the food plots a bit more. As for rut activity, it’s hit-and-miss. The bigger bucks have gone underground it seems. A member of the family saw a decent 8-pointer try to mount a doe for more than an hour, but she wouldn’t stand for him. Other than that, it’s been mostly smaller bucks over the past week or so just half-heartedly pushing does. We’re thinking the bigger bucks are locked down with the hot does or just aren’t in the game yet. The scrapes have grown cold, and we’re seeing more yearlings by themselves than with a mother. Still no major chasing being seen though.”
Turner Co.: Michael Lee of Southern Backwood Adventures TV and Backwoods Radio reports: “Acorns are falling all over the creek bottoms, water oaks and a few red oaks mainly, and the food plots for winter have grown in great — rape, clover, oats and winter peas. The deer are on both right now. The bucks are looking for does. Scrapes are everywhere — and some big ones. From now through early December things should be wide open. So far I’d give the season a seven out of 10 rating, with 10 being the best. We have seen a good amount of deer and a lot of bucks. Several nice bucks have been passed on so far. Overall, we’re very pleased with our population and buck activity. December will probably be the beginning of the tough times. Usually after Thanksgiving the deer are focused on feeding as the rut slows. They get more nocturnal and still hit the food sources hard. We hunt through the end of the season, though, and just enjoy being in the woods.”