The rut is a bell curve that climaxes in mid-November. Every day you get closer to that date, daylight buck movement increases. Every day you get further away, daylight buck movement decreases. This is an important concept to grasp as we approach what hunters consider the lockdown phase of the rut.
Lockdown is when a buck finds a willing doe that’s in estrus. Many hunters imagine a two to three-day window where buck movement shuts down and that bell curve takes a steep drop from its peak. GPS collared deer studies show that this isn’t the case, though.
“I think some hunters put a human spin on their explanations for deer behaviors, and in their story a buck finds a doe and goes into the honeymoon suite for a few days,” said Andy Olson, researcher at the University of Georgia, in an interview with QDMA. “During peak rut, these deer were just crazy. They were all over the place.”
The reality is that movement by a specific buck might halt for a few hours this time of year, but it’s not on a scale that should be noticeable by hunters. So, get out there and hunt. This is still the rut, and anything can happen.
Here’s how each region breaks down for the coming week.
Cold weather moved in over the weekend and could be here to stay. Snow also showed up in parts of the East, which hunters should use to their advantage. With no snow in the forecast, now is the time to get out in the woods and find fresh sign. If you’re still trying to kill a rutting buck, look for funnels where multiple trails converge near bedding. If does were using these areas over the weekend, then they’ll still be there this week.
Although bucks are losing interest sign making, the snow will make it easy to find any active scrapes. Ignore any scrapes that are on field edges, but pay attention to the ones in cover. These will help you key in on midday cruisers.
My contacts in the South say that buck movement spiked over the weekend, crediting the cold front and high pressure. With much of the region in pre-rut, cold fronts come at a premium and shouldn’t be ignored. Like I talked about in the last Rut Fresh Report, if your part of the South is in pre-rut, then make calculated strikes. Cold fronts are a good excuse to do so.
If you’re hunting a new area during this phase of the rut, then you’ll want to look for fresh rubs and scrapes near acorns. If you’re in parts of the South that are further along in the rut, focus on getting close to buck bedding areas when the wind is favorable.
This has been one of the tougher ruts for Midwestern bowhunters. There’s a ton of standing corn across the region right now, which conceals deer movement and makes most other food sources irrelevant. While I don’t care for hunting field edges this time of year, those areas might offer the best encounters.
If you have standing corn in your area, then use this fresh snow to walk the perimeter of fields and figure out where they’re entering/exiting. My guess is you’ll find heavy trails where draws and saddles lead into fields. If standing corn isn’t an issue, then stick with the rut hunting basics: doe bedding and funnels.
Like the Midwest, some parts of the West are battling standing corn. If that’s the case, then refer to Midwest report. If not, then keep on with the same tactics that have been working for the last 10 days. Find the does, and let them lead you to the bucks.
Don’t overlook any bit of cover on the landscape this time of year. If a doe is hot and a buck finds her, they might bed down in overgrown fence rows, small islands of trees, farmyard shelterbelts, trashy cut-corn fields, or sloughs. If you’re gun hunting, then be out there at midday glassing. You never know where you’ll turn up a bedded mature buck in mid-November.
Want more rut reports like this? Make sure you subscribe to the Wired to Hunt Podcast, where each Wednesday in the fall we release a Rut Fresh episode breaking down buck movement across the country.