Tips and Tricks for Hunting Post Rut Bucks
For deer hunters, we have a calendar all our own, a calendar that non deer hunting folks don’t understand. Other folks live and work and play with their traditional calendar, and they celebrate normal holidays and plan vacations around things like beaches and summertime. But deer hunters, well, deer hunters live a life around a calendar that has more to do with deer than anything else. We divide our weekends, our vacations, and our free time into our passion. Deer hunters think of days and weeks in their relationship to the rut, to moon cycles, and days in the stand.
A serious deer hunters calendar looks something like this:
April to July – Early preseason, it’s time to make a plan for next year’s hunting season. Take stock of the deer herd and wait. There is an excitement around the planning and things to come during the preseason.
August to October – Preseason and pre-rut, this season is all about getting ready for the next. Game cameras, food plots, mineral sites, treestands and ground blinds; preseason is the time to put in the work and make it count. Any time on the hunt during this season is a bonus, and can be super hit or miss. September and October bucks can be patterned, but it’s nothing compared to what is to come.
November – November is its own, it’s special and it’s when the peak-rut occurs. Deer hunters long to spend time in the woods in November. Big mature bucks are at their most vulnerable during the pre and peak rut, establishing territories and finding does that are ready to breed. If there is any one time to be in the woods, November is that time.
December and January – Late season and post-rut, big bucks can still be hunted successfully during this time of the calendar, but it takes some switching things up from pre and peak-rut tactics. Deer have changed their priorities and food and survival have moved to the top of the list, and you have to hunt like it.
Finally February to March – Postseason, the honeymoon is over. It’s time to recover from the grind and make notes from everything the season was and what it wasn’t. Hunt for shed antlers, figure out what deer made it through the season, and dream about what next season has to offer.
Don’t Get the Post-Rut Blues
So here it is, post-rut and there you are with a buck tag still in your pocket. The pre and peak-rut have come and gone, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t come together for you yet this season. Does are starting to get back together, and those crazy days of deer on their feet in the middle of the day are winding down. Don’t let post-rut hunts get you down. The truth is, post-rut can be every bit as productive as the pre and peak-rut season. It is, however, important to consider your tactics when you are looking to hang your tag on a post-rut whitetail. Here are some important tips, tricks, and bits of information to keep in mind during your post-rut hunts.
With the breeding season over, bucks have changed their priorities. After weeks of fighting, chasing, and breeding; whitetail bucks are in need of important nutrition and calories.
Finding the feed that deer are using is critical during the post-rut season. Odds are the acorn mass of the fall is either long gone, or rotten. High calorie feeds are critical during this season, look to soybean fields, corn stubble, or late season food plots with mature turnips.
This time of the year, patterning deer and hunting the wind are as critical as ever. Keep tabs on where deer enter and exit the feeding area. The majority of the activity tends to be at dawn and dusk. Keep the wind in mind, both when entering your stand, during the hunt, and when exiting the hunt. Get there early and stay till last legal shooting light, the odds are good that a bruiser buck will show himself in waning light.
Post-rut is about recovery and survival. Mature bucks don’t get old by luck alone. The truth is, a mature whitetail that made it through the rut is both smart and lucky. Now that the breeding season is over, bucks will be looking for hidden and secluded areas to lay low and recover.
Only a few weeks, or even days ago, your strategy to tag a monarch whitetail probably involved does, bedding areas, and travel corridors. Those areas can still be productive, but as the rut winds down and bucks become solitary some of the best locations will be little out and of the way, hard to reach pieces of cover. Look for deer activity, tracks, or beds in little hidden thickets, cuts, and creeks. Secluded areas within close relative distance to a food source can be perfect. Running a few trail cameras in these spots can be productive, just be careful moving in and out.
The Second Rut
November has come and gone, and the whitetail breeding season along with it, but maybe not. Absolutely, the peak estrus cycle of most whitetail does occurs sometime in November, but here’s the deal; in areas with large doe populations and young does from this spring, a second rut may be in the cards.
Many factors will affect the primary rut including buck to doe ratios and weather. If your hunting area has a large number of does there is a chance that some of them were not bred during the November heat cycle. Those deer, along with the young does born this spring will potentially have an estrus cycle sometime in December. If that happens, and you are ready, the action can be just as good, maybe better than November.
Maybe November was hot with a full moon, and the rut happened primarily during nighttime hours. The second rut can be your chance at redemption. Pay attention to deer behavior, and don’t be surprised if tactics like grunts and antler rattling are productive. When you have an encounter, it’s critical to take that bucks temperature by reading his body language to figure out how aggressive and effective your tactics can be.
Make it Happen
The truth is, no amount of planning and tactics will guarantee you a deer. Get out there and put in your time. During your late season, post-rut hunts consider hunting reliable food sources that the deer are keying on. Look for mature bucks recovering from the rut in secluded pockets of cover, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hunt the second rut. Don’t let a long season wear you down, this is a great time of year to be a deer hunter.