What is the Whitetail Lockdown?

What is the Whitetail Lockdown?

If the whitetail rut is the deer hunter’s Super Bowl, then lockdown is the closest thing there is to a halftime show. Some really exciting things have just happened and you know there’s a lot of action to come, but at this very moment you’re stuck in your seat wishing for something more.

Lockdown is one of those widely used labels within the whitetail hunting community that’s only halfway understood. It’s a perfect example of the kind of insider lingo that often intimidates or confuses those new to the pursuit. It’s a term that has been sort of lost in translation.

At the highest level, lockdown describes a time period in the whitetail breeding season during which actual breeding has peaked. This is when the most does in the area are in estrous and receptive to bucks. Breeding occurs on a bell curve in any given deer population, with some does being bred early and some late, but the vast majority falling sometime in the middle. The tallest part of the bell curve, which is referred to as lockdown, typically falls in mid-November for most parts of the country.

Although does are the most important factor for lockdown, it’s really buck behavior that leads to the label. This is because when the highest number of does are ready breed, it leads to the highest number of bucks being with those does and attempting to breed them. When a buck is with a receptive doe, he’s often described as being locked on her. In this scenario, a buck will stay tight to this receptive doe for 24-48 hours, sometimes even longer, breeding her regularly and fending off other suitors. During this time, bucks will frequently try to corral their doe into off-the-wall or extra-thick locations to minimize intrusions and competition, and many times will reduce their overall travel.

When the majority of does are ready to breed, local bucks have the highest chances of the year of finding a receptive doe and locking her down. When this time period arrives, it leads to a noticeable reduction in buck activity. Sometimes it’s a day long window of lackluster movement smack dab in the middle of what should be the very best time of the year for deer hunting. All is not lost, though.

An important aspect to remember about the whitetail lockdown is that it is not all encompassing. Even at the time of peak breeding, there will still be some bucks at any given moment that don’t have a doe. In a moment’s notice a buck might come off one doe and be back on the search for the next. The key to hunting success at this time is to simply be in the tree and ready when those moments occur.

Typical rut hunting locations, such as pinch points or doe bedding areas, are still the spots to be. It’s also worth noting that if you find a buck locked onto a doe in some obscure pocket of cover, they likely will be back in that spot again sometime soon. If you’re able to slip in undetected, there’s a great chance they’ll cycle back through again.

The whitetail lockdown, while sometimes a painfully slow time to be in a tree, is ultimately just a blip on the calendar that can pass as quickly as it takes a buck to run from one doe to the next. The savvy rut hunter understands both the realities and randomness of the whitetail lockdown, and ultimately knows that nothing matters more at this time of year than being in the woods.

A football fan wouldn’t leave the Super Bowl just because of a boring halftime show, and the same should be true for deer hunters during the lockdown phase of the rut.

Feature image by Matt Hansen.

Shop
Origin Hoody
Save this product
First Lite

A lightweight, quiet mid-layer designed to be utilized as both an outerwear piece as well as a layering option as temperatures drop.

Aerowool Touch Liner Glove
Save this product
First Lite

With a touch screen sensitive thumb and index finger, this is the perfect addition to your kit for warm early season hunts.

Furnace Long John
Save this product
First Lite

The new standard for stationary hunts or late season stalks when staying warm is critical to success.

Aerowool Neck Gaiter
Save this product
First Lite

Keeps you both concealed and cool in the field.

Get the latest in your inbox
Subscribe to our newsletters to receive regular emails with hand-picked content, gear recommendations, and special deals.
Our picks for the week's best content and gear
For the whitetail obsessed, with Mark Kenyon
Redefining our connection to food, with Danielle Prewett
Your one-stop for everything waterfowl, with Sean Weaver
Get out on the water with the MeatEater Fishing crew
Technical hunting apparel
Purpose-built accessories for hunting and fishing
Quality elk, turkey, waterfowl, and deer calls
Save this article