Tips for Hunting the Rut Lockdown Phase
To suggest that there are phases of rut is ridiculous. The pre-rut, rut, rut lockdown, post rut, and second rut. To think you can delineate each one of the phases of the rut apart from each other into a particular set of days or weeks is hopeful at best. In theory, it is a great way for so-called experts of the industry to describe deer activity to your everyday hunter. The biggest problem in this delineation is that it does not describe deer activity 100% like it seems it should do. Rather a complex algorithm is at play, fluctuating deer activity a different way for every property. Sex ratios, weather, hunting pressure, property layout, acorn production, and crop status all have drastic effects on deer activity during all “phases” of the rut. While each phase paints a clear picture, it is never 100% accurate due to these reasons. However, If one phase above all was particularly spot on it would be during this week. This week the Midwest, in general, is experiencing peak breeding. Hunting the rut just got tough due to the rut lockdown!
November So Far…And In The Future?
Up to this point, November hunting has been what is expected during November. Chasing, seeking, cruising, and a steady stream of bucks and does coming by the stand. The onset of warm temperatures during much of the first half of November slowed things down, but just recently the floodgates opened. Cooler temps and the first frosts have hit, bucks were on their feet, the rut is in full swing.
As you can see in this week’s episode of Trophy Pursuit, the chasing, cruising, and daylight movement by mature bucks was easy to take advantage of. This opportunity was easily exploited by hunting with strategies and tactics unique to rut hunting. These rut hunting strategies and tactics were clearly outlined in our last blog Rut Hunting 101.
To summarize some of the best takeaways from the blog we have provided some of its information.
When To Hunt
- Bucks will seek out does around bedding areas
- Focus on where does will be bedding after they return from feeding
- Pick a stand location on the downwind side of the bedding area
- Access the stand from the opposite side of the food source
- Does are still feeding in open area, for the most part, bringing the bucks with them
- Both the morning and the evening is based on does and where they are feeding or where they go after they feed.
- Hunt a funnel or an edge of a feeding source
- Do not walk on, or across the main run or section deer will access the area with, keep your scent away from the trail
Trail Camera Tips for the Rut
Remember these settings and tips when you are setting up trail cameras for the rut!
- Location: where the does will be (food sources, doe bedding areas, transition areas between food and bedding)
- Setup: At a 45-degree angle from the run, trail, or funnel. High to avoid spooking bucks.
- Settings: long video ( 1 minute +) or series of multiple photo bursts (6-8 ) with a short delay ( < 10 seconds)
So why is this important? If you have ever looked at a bell curve you would understand. The action was hot during the first part of November, but as we approach the middle of November we approach the lockdown. After the lockdown phase of the rut passes, we start descending on the bell curve meaning the action heats up again. Bucks start looking for does again, start desperately seeking, and again opportunities are present for the taking.
What Is the Lockdown?
The lockdown phase of the rut occurs when the majority of does come into estrus. Why? The gestation period of a whitetail is right around 198 days, meaning timing the conception perfectly, times the fawn’s birth perfectly. This aligns fawn drop right when spring arrives where an explosion of growth means quality food, quality cover, and nutritious milk. The arrival of peak breeding is determined and brought on by photoperiod. This is why the rut, or peak breeding happens on the same dates each year regardless of weather and moon phase.
This can be a dramatic event for hunters. When the majority of does suddenly come in bucks go on lockdown! Bucks will lay up with does for usually 24-48 hours. To some, this is not enough time for a hunter to realize the buck is laid up, but then again it is. Put yourself in the scenario. It’s November 15th, high pressure, hard frost, a slight 3 mph wind….a day that should result in a lot of deer movement. Instead, the day results in a yearling and button buck…not at all what you expected. Why? So many does are available, that literally every 3.5, 4.5, and 5.5 years old + is lockdown with a doe that day and perhaps the next.
Hunting The Rut Lockdown Phase
It’s a blessing and a curse. The lockdown phase comes in dramatically but exits the same. Hunting the rut lockdown isn’t necessarily hard. You have to concentrate in the right areas for hunting and simply wait it out. On any day, and at any time during the lockdown phase, a buck can come off of a doe. Here are two videos that help supply information on hunting the rut lockdown.
The overall advice in this week’s Whitetail 101 is to stay away from the feeding areas and start working your hunts towards doe bedding areas. Does that are out feeding have most likely already been breed and are simply staying away from bedding areas as they are avoiding being pushed around by bucks. Touching on this further with the concept of the “hot doe or bust” is this week’s trail cameras weekly episode.
Again, this episode not only touches the concept that hunting the rut lockdown means that on any day and at any time a buck can come off a doe. This means all day sits could prove successful. This also means bucks will desperately seek does once they come off a doe, and after peak breeding slows. Also know that during this time a doe can pull a buck anywhere at any time, meaning your rut hunting strategies and tactics like hunting funnels and bedding areas are still creating opportunities. This episode proves the concept as Jeremy Flinn encounters a hot doe with a buck locked in.
Hunting the rut lockdown will only last a short period. It is important to not only keep hunting during this time, but to hunt the right areas. Hunting does, as far as funnels and doe bedding areas go is a more successful tactic for hunting bucks during any other time during the rut.