Southeastern Whitetail Odocoileus virginianus virginianus
The Traditions of deer hunting run deep throughout the Southeastern US where the whitetail hunt has always been a way of life. In many ways, as hunters, these traditions are as permanently carved into our spirits as are the hauntingly beautiful Appalachian Mountain Valleys and dense oak bottomlands and swamps themselves.
The subspecies of whitetail known as commonly called “the Virginia deer” was indigenous to the states of mid-Atlantic and southeastern US, down to southern Georgia and west to the Mississippi River. These lands were some of the earliest settled areas of the US, and unregulated subsistence and market hunting depleted populations to devastatingly low levels. In efforts to restock populations in early to mid-1900’s, restocking programs introduced deer from many parts of the Midwest and northern states, and in the case of Mississippi, even from Mexico.
That some introduced genetics might be present in these animals does not diminish the unique aspects of the Southeastern whitetail hunting. In fact, hunting Southeastern whitetails is an experience that is as captivating and memorable as any, and opportunity for hunting is vast through over the counter tags, liberal bag limits and public lands.
Generally, the Southeastern whitetail is medium size deer, with an average buck standing 40” high at the shoulder and weighing 120 to more than 200 pounds. Size can vary greatly, and deer get smaller as habitat moves away from the agricultural areas or more productive and fertile river bottom forests and deer are reliant more on native forge in upland or mountain habitats. Though body size may be smaller, on good climate found in river-bottoms of Kentucky and agricultural areas throughout the south, these bucks are capable of producing trophy class racks with the best of them.
Any hunter who ever sat along the steeps of the Blue Ridge, Smokey Mountains or any of North Carolina or Georgia mountainsides is forever haunted by not only their timeless beauty, but also by the striking images of whitetails moving through their midst. The piedmont foothill areas offer pine and oak forests with abundant game that provide outstanding hunter opportunities from Maryland to the gentle rolling hills of middle Georgia. Coastal Plains commonly known as “low country” to the east are equally impressive with healthy herds in all states, well fed by the agricultural plantations and fertile soils that foot them. The high density deer populations in the mixed pine-hardwood forests of the upper and lower coastal plains of Alabama and Mississippi, along with the incredible hardwood forests of the brown loam hills and bottomlands of the Mississippi Delta and the other major river systems create yet another totally different hunting experience.
There are numerous high quality outfitters who are well established and successful at both achieving hunters’ goals and sharing their southern charm and history, but also many tracts of public lands in all states. In some states, there are specific antler regulations protecting younger bucks on specific public and private lands. In Mississippi, the entire state has had regulations in effect since 1995, and harvest of three-year and an older buck is the average rather than the exception.
Such regulations have created opportunity for the average hunter to harvest a mature buck with an unrivaled hunting experience. Throw in southern hospitality and cuisine, and simply put, hunting the territory of the Southeastern whitetail has a traditional and mystical appeal that is part of the essential experience for any deer hunter, and one you will not soon forget.
The average breeding dates begin in the second and third weeks of November. West Virginia begins as early as November 8th and Georgia as late as December 15th, with rut activity kicking into gear around Thanksgiving. In Alabama and Mississippi, breeding varies depending on specific geographic regions. Depending on the area, breeding peaks anywhere from late November through mid-January, enabling northern hunters the chance to hunt the full season and then travel to these late rut states to enjoy a second rut, and a well extended season. Before scheduling your hunt check the state agency web site for information on specific rut times for the area you will be hunting.