A spike and several other young bucks – four to six points - ventured out into the food plot and began feeding leisurely as a group. Several does (mama deer) did the same, while their yearlings chased each other around in a game of tag, like little ones often do. According to trail cameras, though, not a single mature buck has stepped hoof into the same food plot to this day, at least not during daylight hours.
But, that’s all about to change drastically, and for a couple of reasons. One is that available foods have been nipped by frosts and are by now far less palatable to the deer. Staple foods, like acorns, have mostly have been devoured or have soured. So, naturally, when food is scarce, the deer will be forced to move about more during daylight hours and even visit food plots to fill their bellies. This goes for the wise old bucks too. Makes sense. After all, when they get hungry, they must eat.
A second, and more important reason, that normally secretive bucks move about more freely during daylight is the onset of the rut, or breeding season. Every deer hunter worth his or her salt knows the rut means that boy deer will often move about 24/7 while chasing girl deer in hopes of making baby deer. It’s a good thing they do, too, or we hunters possibly would never collect a decent buck, not to mention there would be a shortage of deer for future hunters.
That having been said, it is my pleasure to announce that the rut has finally arrived in south Mississippi. It’s not in full swing yet, as is evidenced by the lack of scrapes in most areas because, in previous years, I have found scrapes as early as October. I have yet to find a hot scrape at all this year, but the rut has finally begun, and hunting will only get better as the does come into estrus. Just remember this: After years and years of hunting the rut, you can count it to reach its peak around Jan. 18 in south Mississippi, always around Martin Luther King Day. Being “somewhat” senile myself, even I can remember that.
Therefore, it’s time for all you diehard deer hunters to get out and scout. Look for scrapes and tell-tale hookings on saplings. Try to determine bedding areas and trails leading to scrapes. Set up somewhere between the bedding areas and scrapes. And pay more attention to the wind and your scent. Set up downwind, and try to be as scent-free as possible. Remember, those big boy bucks will be trying to sniff out girl deer in estrus, and they don’t take too kindly to some stinky deer hunter getting in their way. They’ll simply alter their route.
Take a chance
If all else fails, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying something new, like using a doe bleat call, a grunt call and even rattling horns. Admittedly, I haven’t met with the best of success calling in deer myself, but I have done it. The few times I have called in bucks, I started with loud rattling to get far-ranging bucks’ attention. Then I switched to grunts and bleats intermittently, lowering the volume little by little. Like I said, it won’t always work, but what have you got to lose if nothing else has produced horns for the wall or meat for the freezer thus far this season?
The best is yet to come, no doubt, as far as deer hunting is concerned. It’s time to get out and hunt. Have fun, be careful, obey game laws, and when you go, and take a kid with you … every time you can. Good luck, and good riddance to 2020.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Hattiesburg native Phil DiFatta is a lifelong outdoorsman who has written a newspaper column since 1982. Email him at email@example.com.