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Q: Just got on a lease in Hamilton Co FL and was curious how the deer hunting would be in Dec and Jan. I have been told Nov is the best time to be in the woods, but I want to get another trip or two in. Thanks, Donavon

A: #1

The FWC has taken some collection samples from pregnant does to learn “when” the deer were breeding around certain parts of the state, and the mean (average) conception date for female deer in Hamilton County was October 23. This marks that area’s historical beginning of the rutting period, which normally lasts a month or so.

But besides hunting the rut, hunting the pre-rut can also be effective, where bucks can be caught making and tending to scrapes. Even before the pre-rut and gun season has come in, are good times to be in the woods because bucks are still hanging around in bachelor groups and a whole lot of gun fire has broken out yet, making some of them mostly nocturnal. After the rut is over, bucks will go back to hanging out together, although it has been my experience that I don’t see as many deer in the woods after the rut has ended.

If I was you, I would get in another trip or 2 earlier in the season, instead of later.

Hope this helps,

Tony Young

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A: #2

Hi Donovan:

Any time spent in the woods is good. And just because the rut in your particular area may be peaking at the time, doesn't mean it's not a good time to be hunting.

Incidentally, Hamilton County experiences the peak of their rut around the middle to last week of October, with a mean date of around October 20. However, you may encounter rutting activity at any time that the deer in your area have hard horns on their heads.

I would maximize my time afield, learn the travel corridors, bedding areas and food sources on your lease and find a place out of the way that offers close proximity to both food and cover where a buck may feel safe moving in day light hours. The more time you spend on your lease hunting, the more likely you will become successful in learning the deer's behavior. If you can pattern their movements and keep their comfort areas undisturbed, you should be able to experience success this deer season.

Make sure to keep wind direction in mind when entering and exiting these locations and try to have several ways in and out. This way, if your wind shifts you can always have opions as to how yu want to approach and hunt. Remeber that leaving your stand as quietly and with attention to the wind is as important as how you came in to the area; your scent can linger for days. Bump a mature deer from his comfort zone and he's likely to abandon it for the remainder of the season.

Get out there while you have plenty of time and hang stands, trim shooting lanes and prepare for the upcoming season so the animals have time to go back to using those safety zones. And one more thing, make sure to use your safety harness at all times. Send us pics when you bag some deer. Best of luck and hunt safely.

Chuck Echenique

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A: #3

I've never hunted in Hamilton County, but just looking at the data on the FWC site looks like there should be quite a bit of activity in mid October. There should also be some activity in November for those does that did not get bred the first time around.

Looking at the phone number the hunter supplied, I would assume that he lives in South Florida and can't come up that often. If it were me, I'd tell him to ask some of the existing club members for some advice.

I'd also tell him that there's just about no bad time to be in the woods. I've seen lots of deer when the feed chart said there would be little activity, and certainly spent a lot of time seeing nothing when the feed chart said to be there. There are so many factors that are involved in deer movement that I doubt we'll ever really figure out all of the details.

I have more of a tendency to follow the moon phases which Charles Alsheimer has done extensive studies on. I have found his information to be the most accurate for rut timing.. I am not smart enought to stay home when the hunting is predicted to be poor, but I did keep a good log of my hunts this past year. I was hunting just as hard when the charts said little activity as I was when it said it should be great.

It was very interesting keeping a log, and I found the buck activity to peak around the full moon. In fact, all bucks that my son and I killed were killed within a few days of the full moon.

Our rut here in Gadsden county seems like it spans much more than just a few days, more of a drawn out process that makes it hard to determine a real "peak". Our rut typically is late December to early February, but this last year my son shot a buck chasing three does on the 13th of December (full moon on the 12th), and I shot a buck that was searching for does (hit the food plot but just kept going once he saw no does present) on the 10th of January, and I shot another buck that was chasing on the 14th of January (full moon on the 10th). that was chasing. Based on my data and experiences, I'd tell him to key in on time either on the full moon or the week afterwards.

We even scheduled our Texas hunting trip just after the full moon in November, and we had excellent activity at the beginning of the trip. My son shot a nice ten point that was in full rut, chasing a doe. The next day, one week after the full moon, the weather changed a little and buck activity slowed (probably a combination of weather change and moon phase to blame). I eventually got my buck on the trip, but hunted five days before shooting a buck that was smaller than my son's. There was another group of hunters that arrived roughly one week after we did, and they had poor results.

Based on the chart I found, there is a full moon on the 2nd of October, which is possibly a little early for the rut in that area. There is also a full moon on the 2nd of November, and again on the 1st of December. If I could only hunt one week on that property in Hamilton County, I would schedule my hunt starting on the 2nd of November. I might come home empty handed, but that would be my best guess. Hope this helps.

Frank Richardson

Contributing Writer/North Florida Representative

Woods N Water

frank.woodsnwater@yahoo.com

850-766-5687 days

850-539-5289 evenings