Hunting > Whitetails

Whitetail Rut: November 22-30

No matter when you take your vacation this month, here's how to get your buck.

Deer behavior: Post-rut begins everywhere, but there is still more breeding going on than I used to think. If you get lucky and find one of the last receptive gals, you’re apt to see three to five bucks hassling her. The does that have been bred move immediately back to food plots, fields, browse and other food sources. Big bucks are tired, spooky and largely nocturnal; the colder it is this week, the more likely you are to catch one in daylight hours.

Key sign: Primary trails, buck tracks, reactivated scrapes

Moon: First quarter on the 24th (theoretically deer should move best around food sources in the evenings because the early part of the night will have the best illumination; but since deer are rut-tired and skittish, movement will be erratic)

Science fact: Research of collared bucks from Maryland to Texas shows that 20 to 40 percent of mature bucks continue to make long trips out of their core areas in the post-rut in search of the last hot does.

Top stands: By now most crop fields have been picked clean and some are frozen, but it doesn’t take a lot of feed to attract rut-weary deer. A few years ago I scouted a 500-acre soybean field that looked like a concrete parking lot. In one corner I found a quarter-acre strip of beans the machines had missed. I slipped in that afternoon and sat against a tree on the edge. I saw 13 deer, including a 170-class drop-tine monster! He was too far for my slug gun, so I shot the 160-inch 10-point that came to the beans just before dark. It was 20 degrees that night; like I said, make the most of those cold days! Also, I was mobile, slipped in, and surprised those deer. Try to hunt like that in the post.

On the last day of November last year in Oklahoma, outfitter Ken Perry put me in the perfect post-rut setup, though I didn’t know it at the time. I climbed into a tower stand in the dark, and when the sun came up I saw a huge, green wheat field a half-mile away. Between my stand and the field ran a stream corridor surrounded by a tamarack flat. For two hours I watched does drift off the field. At 9:30 I peeked behind my stand and saw a little doe—with a 150-class buck guarding her! She tried to get away, but the stud would have none of it—he moved like a cutting horse and hemmed her in. Like I said, there is more breeding going on in late November than you might think.

I swiveled around, not caring about the buck, but careful not to spook the doe. He was in full-blown rut and wasn’t going anywhere so long as she didn’t. I grunted, stopped him and fired a 150-grain bullet into his boiler room.

A spot like that has it all—feed, water, funneling terrain and good cover where weary, pressured bucks can hide, but also opportunistically hook up with a last hot doe that comes off the feed. It’s a killer spot to wind up November with a bang.

Hot tactics: Keep re-checking scrapes and hunt in the vicinity of any with heavy new activity. Lay an estrus-doe trail into your stand; a buck on a last hook-up mission might cut it and come in. Dig a mock scrape or overtake a real one and doctor it with a brew of tarsal and doe urine; the last whiff of strong breeding odor might attract a 10-pointer. If you hunt private ground where the pressure has been relatively light all month, try rattling in the mornings; studies show the post-rut is one of the best times to lure a 4½-year-old buck. Don’t miss a day if the temperature dips into the 20s or teens because some bucks will hit the feed in daylight; when it warms back up, they’ll go nocturnal again.

Go back.

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