Rut's Over in Most of Southeast, But Full Bore in Places

With the fun winding down in the Mid-South, it's time for reflection on one awesome deer season

Reporting on the rut can be a tricky thing in the Southeast, since something is happening pretty much all fall, starting as early as late July and August down in South Florida. Hunters in the southern Mississippi Delta region are in the thick of things right now, but the action likely won’t last much longer. Farther south, many Alabama hunters are still anticipating the year’s best rut action, which doesn’t crank up until January. 

But for most of the region including the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the 2022 rut has come and gone, and the whitetails that survived November are settling into predictable late-season patterns. I’m writing this year’s final report during the heart of Kentucky’s late muzzleloader season, and currently have a client watching a feeder from a box blind. It’s rainy and warm today, but a cold front is bearing down on us, and the rest of the season (which ends Sunday) is looking pretty good. I’ve got trail cameras set over multiple bait sites, food plots, and several mock scrapes. For the past two weeks, the best action has undoubtedly been on the food sources, and particularly so during cold, high-pressure days. 

I always enjoy some reflection at the end of hunting season, and this year’s rut was definitely one to remember. Typically, the first week of November is prime in this part of the world, with a lot of bucks on their feet, seeking and chasing. This year, the action seemed a little delayed. We guided a bow hunt in early November, and daytime highs hit 80 degrees a couple times. Deer sightings in general were slim, and mature bucks seemed to be non-existent. 

That changed in a big way later in the month. A rare snow storm blew in on Nov. 12, opening day of Kentucky’s modern gun season, and ideal hunting conditions set in for the following week. My 8-year-old son shot a great 8-pointer at 2 o’clock that afternoon, and I followed up with a big 10-pointer of my own the next morning. I then shifted my attention to Tennessee, where I filled both of my buck tags in two sits—one with a bow and one with a muzzleloader. For a few magical days, it seemed like big deer were just running everywhere, and I saw pretty good chasing clear through the first few days of December. 

There was a flurry of scraping activity to follow, but even that seems to be trickling to a halt now. Many of the bucks I’m seeing on my cameras are broken up, with a couple mature deer missing full main beams. As if to put an exclamation point on the time of year, I found an antler near a corn pile the other day that had been cast off clean. 

Bait piles will be productive for the rest of the season, and in the South, cereal grains and even clover plots can stay green until well after Christmas. There's limited browse on the landscape right now, so anything green will attract deer. 

As always, thanks for following along with this year’s Rut Report, and good luck to everyone out there who’s still packing a tag. 

(Don't Miss: Reasons Why Late-Season Deer Hunting Sucks ... and Why It's Great Too)

Day Activity

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Rubbing

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Scraping

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Fighting

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Seeking

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Chasing

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Breeding

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