By Charles J. Alsheimer, Deer & Deer Hunting contributor
A whitetail buck in the post-rut is typically 20 to 25 percent lighter in weight than when he entered November. It’s not uncommon to see mature bucks at this time of the year on the verge of physical meltdown. By the time the post-rut’s full moon hangs in the sky, a buck’s priorities have changed from sex to survival, even though 10 to 15 percent of the does are yet to be bred.
There is no doubt that many hunters question a buck’s decreased desire to breed in the post-rut, especially when magazines tout the virtues of the so-called second rut. A buck’s ability to keep up the rutting chase in the post-rut is possible but in most cases highly unlikely. Why? Research (Lambase 1972) shows that a buck’s sperm count in December is about half what it was in November. So physically, the drive isn’t there. As a result, bucks are calmer, more collected animals when the post-rut arrives.
Because survival is the main objective, a buck becomes a different creature in December and early January. Oh, he will still breed, and often does, but generally he isn’t looking for does the way he was in October and November. Rather, his life is driven by food and rest. Unlike the rut, when bucks are constantly on the move, the post-rut finds them in recovery mode. As a result, it’s common for them to bed more than 80 percent of the time from December through winter (more on this later).
When December arrives in the North, the entire deer family group gravitates toward food sources, such as food plots, cornfields in farm country or cedar swamps in yarding areas in wilderness regions. The main objective during this time is food, food, food. But before delving into the role food plays in determining a hunting strategy, there is one other important factor to address — man’s effect on post-rut deer activity.
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