Every week this fall, I’ll be providing updates on whitetail buck movement for the entire country. These reports are based on intel from whitetailers in each region and my own observations as a traveling deer hunter. For more info like this, subscribe to the Rut Fresh Radio Podcast and Whitetail Weekly Newsletter. Rut Fresh Reports are powered by onX.
Much of the country will be on the other side of the rut by this weekend, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally over. Although the first couple weeks of November offer the best chance at a rutting buck, the second half of the month is still a great stretch to tag a mature whitetail. In fact, for some big buck killers, this is the preferred time to strike.
At this phase in the rut, most does have been bred and will yet again be distancing themselves from bucks. This can inspire a burst of midday movement, sign-making, and chasing that resembles what you’d see during pre-rut. But there will still be some willing does in the woods, and mature bucks know that. Now maybe more than ever, they’ll throw caution to the wind and seek out those last remaining estrus females.
If you’re still bowhunting, hunt travel corridors and pinch points near doe bedding. If you’re toting a gun, consider sitting on food sources where does will congregate in the evening. Think of does as live decoys this time of year.
Here’s how each region breaks down for the coming week.
East Nearly all gun seasons have opened or will open by this weekend. This is an exciting yet challenging time to be in the woods. I think the absolute greatest outside factor affecting deer movement in late November is hunting pressure. If you can find a place where the orange armies haven’t marched, that’s where you’ll find deer. This is a motto to hunt by for the rest of the season.
That means you’ll need to get away from the parking lots and avoid the field edges that everyone else is attracted to. When you get past the crowds, look for deer to be more nocturnal than they have been all month. To kill one of these deer, you’ll want to get as close to bedding as possible.
South Part of the South is approaching peak rut right now, but the region is a patchwork of deer herds with different internal clocks. If your region is in peak rut, keep it simple and look for does. And, like I talked about last week, don’t fret over a potential lockdown phase.
If you’re hunting a December or January rut, like in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, then expect to start seeing some pre-rut activity. Sign making will be increasing with each day, and bucks will soon start taking extended (but predictable) walkabouts. Combine that with the small cold front that’s moving across much of the region and you’ll see quality deer movement this weekend.
Midwest Like the East, gun season openers have or will alter buck patterns soon. If you’re hunting a pressured area, refer to the report above. If not, let does lead you to those wise, mature bucks that are still out cruising.
Agricultural harvest has been in the works for a good month now, but some combines are just finishing up. If you’re in an area where standing corn is being cut right now, expect new deer to show up on trail cams this weekend. Take advantage of combines hitting the rows and hunt the fresh-picked fields that deer love. Harvest creates a bit of chaos with so much machinery moving around, so don’t be afraid to throw up a new ground blind in the open. Unlike other parts of the season, deer won’t pay much attention to a ground blind that shows up in a spot that was just overrun with farm implements.
West This is the time of year to put the screws to your optics. Glass fields that offer obvious food sources and don’t leave any bit of cover unturned where there might be a buck locked down with a doe. I’d say this is one of the harder times to kill a big buck in the West.
A week ago, mature bucks would be moving all day. A week from now, deer will herd up and congregate on obvious food. During this awkward time of year where bucks can be rutting their tails off or traveling in bachelor groups, let your glass kill the deer for you. Allow yourself to see as much country as possible in the morning, even if that means you won’t be in position for a shot. Once you’ve figured out where the deer are moving, get situated for an evening kill and plan on bucks showing up at sunset.
Feature image via Matt Hansen.