When the peak rut is over, meaning the chasing and breeding phase that is so exciting, that doesn’t have to signal the end of your hunting season.
Hunting seasons are closed or are coming to a close in many states. Winter, of course, has settled into the Midwest like a double-socked foot into a tight boot. Bucks already are dropping antlers and pretty soon some shed hunters will be out scouring fields and woods looking for the castoffs.
But that doesn’t mean all hunting has ended. Some folks still are looking for post-rut bucks and, in the Southeast, the peak rut still hasn’t happened yet. Here are a few tips for pursuing post-rut whitetails, though, if you’re still after them:
Zero in on the Grub
By now, depending on where you hunt, you should know the lay of the land. Mast trees likely are done and their fruits — acorns, persimmons, locust pods, whatever — are long gone. Ag fields have been picked and pretty much depleted. That doesn’t mean it’s a barren wasteland, though. Deer will find use the best available food sources. Locate those and hang a stand or put in a ground blind.
Bedding areas? Bazinga!
Post-rut bucks will have lost weight and energy after roaming and chasing does. That’s one benefit to packing on the weight during the early autumn pre-rut. The thick layer of fat you see between a buck’s (or doe’s) hide and muscles isn’t because they’re just chowhounds. They’re getting ready for breeding and winter; does are packing it on to ensure good health after they’re impregnated.
But bucks and does also have to have their rest. Bedding areas usually will be close to food sources, just like in early autumn. They’ll also be where deer can get out of the bitter wind (bonus for you, possibly). Locate these bedding areas and plan accordingly.
Tune Into Those Travel Zones
No brainer, eh? Deer have to move between bedding and dining areas. If your kids want to play a trick on you, they’ll probably do it when you’re coming from your bedroom into the hallway to get to the den or kitchen. Travel routes! If you’re in the Midwest or Northeast and have snow, look for the tracks. These giveaways will help you in spring for scouting and camera survey locations, too.
Adapt and Stay With It
Waaah, all the bucks are gone! I didn’t fill a tag! My season’s horrible!
C’mon now, don’t be that way. Unless you’re just ready to end the season, this is a time to put your hunting and woodsmanship skills to use. Think about what you learned last summer, during autumn scouting, from your camera surveys, previous hunting seasons and what you’ve seen so far this season. Put all that to good use.
Some folks keep good ledgers and season reports; I haven’t been one of those but am doing so this year. Photo sightings, rubs, scrapes, personal thoughts, Interwebz reports about buck sightings and where they’re killed to have an idea of chasing-breeding … I think it’ll pay off.
The bottom line is to have fun, keep hunting and learn.
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