The time is now to get serious and land that deer you've set out for.

By PHIL DIFATTA,

If you've hunted hard this season, yet haven't gotten your deer, now is NOT the time to throw in the towel. Instead, it's time to get serious. REAL serious.

That's true. You see, this old geezer of a pretend outdoors writer has been hunting the nooks and crannies of south Mississippi for more than 55 years.

And if I learned anything, it's that the rut is the best time to get your buck, and it doesn't normally bloom into full swing in deep south Mississippi until mid January. That's now, so if you haven't tagged your buck, now is your last best chance.

   I actually feel silly writing this because any deer hunter worth his or her salt can tell you that the rut, without a doubt, is the best time to outwit an otherwise crafty, old buck.

Oh, it probably still won't be easy, but if you do a little leg work, it'll certainly be a lot easier.

   The main reason your odds are upped during the rut is because the old bucks, and young ones, are thinking with something other than their brain. Their urge to make baby deer causes the bucks to move about more during daylight hours looking for does, female deer, in estrus. More deer moving about, if for no other reason, should make getting a shot more likely.

   On top of being more active, bucks will actually “tell” you where they are, or at least the areas they frequent by pawing out scrapes. They're generally not hard to find this time of year.

You'll find 'em most anywhere, but most likely along ridge tops, old roads or well-used trails. In areas that are mostly flat, check bottoms near creeks or drains, but not so close that overflowing drainage would wash out the scrapes and the mating scents the deer leave behind.

   If there are food plots where you hunt, look for scrapes on the edge of the plot. Branches overhanging the plot often serve as “licking” branches, and you'll most likely find scrapes there.

Just remember, the bucks may be lovesick during the rut, but they're not totally brain dead, so they'll likely not check food plot scrapes during daylight hours. But all you have to do here is follow trails away from scrapes into the woods and set up an ambush site.

   In the rare case you don't find any or many scrapes, don't give up. Try a little reverse psychology. If the bucks don't “tell” you where they are by making scrapes, you can “tell” them where you are. Perhaps they'll come to visit you.

Sound crazy? Not really. Just ask those who have called in rutting bucks using antlers, a grunt tube or a bleat call. If you're not seeing bucks, what have you got to lose? If you haven't already, try calling or rattling.

  There are many variables in hunting the whitetail rut. Some things you do will help, some will hurt and some I don't know.

It's for certain, though, that you won't get him … if you don't go. And when you do, try to take a kid with you … every time you can. The last day of deer season in the Southeast Zone is Feb. 15.

PineBeltNEWS outdoor scribe Phil DiFatta may be reached by text at (601) 596-4475 or send him an email at pdifatta@hotmail.com. Be sure to leave contact info with all correspondence.