The past couple of days leading up to Veteran’s Day have been an eye-opening experience for this North-Country lad. I joined a group of deserving service members along with their sons for a Hope For The Warriors hunt in Mississippi. Hosted by the Grief Company and many other fine donors, the hunt included a day of squirrel hunting behind dogs, deer hunting and incidental hog hunting for as many of the porkers your freezer could hold. If you’ve never hunted squirrels from behind dogs, put it on your buck list—it’s that fun!
Food, fun and camp camaraderie also ranked high on the itinerary. All three boys who attended with their fathers tagged deer including youngster Hunter Brown, who bagged a true Mississippi giant. His dad Matt couldn’t have been prouder and I was glad to be there to capture the deer hunting memory.
As I jet back to the North for rutting action, I can’t help but offer some advice to my Southern hunting neighbors. Based on my experience hunting deer south of the Mason Dixon Line on this trip and others, I’d have to say food and funnels are the top locations to focus on before signs of rut activity start appearing. If you’re lucky enough, as these hunters were, to have access to controlled ground, hunt around the food. Like northern, October bucks, these whitetails were still on the move for food to fatten up before the rut. Ambushes along field edges and the trails leading to and from the good stuff were definitely top producers. My son, Cole, joined me, but he had to hunt with his Mathews Heli-M because he didn’t fit the age requirement for youth firearm hunting in Mississippi (he’s 16 years old).
Nevertheless, what Cole and I discovered was that close shots were available in timber funnels. Hunt coordinator Mathew Bonham placed us in a stand situated on a slight ridge, but the elevation was ideal to funnel deer right past in bow range. Deer were within range both times we sat on that stand. Unfortunately, foliage and immature bucks dictated passing on shots. If we would’ve had more than a 2-day hunt, I have no doubt it would have been a tag-out location. That said, I’d suggest looking for interior funnels between feed and cover in the coming weeks if you experience hunting pressure.
Lastly, look for interior food sources. Acorns and persimmon locations were receiving regular visitation from interior deer. I suspect the deer were also munching on the wild pecans. Food plots are great, but natural nutrition can also be a huge draw in the fall.
So, what about the rut? It occurs in December and January in the southern states. If you’re a northern hunter seeking an additional rut-hunting opportunity after the rut in your area is long gone, head south.