Still have a tag burning in your pocket? The best rut hunting of the year might be ahead of you yet.
If you’ve been hunting the rut hard and still haven’t filled your tag, it can be easy to think it’s all but over. But in actuality, the last week of November might be the best time to harvest a truly mature buck.
Thanksgiving seems to signal the end of the rut every year. And though there is no doubt the rut is indeed close to being over, there is still time to get it done. “Close” doesn’t mean over. The time frame right around Thanksgiving might not produce the rut action you see in the first week or two of November, but it can produce some of the best chances of an encounter with a mature buck.
The first week or so of November, although you see more rut action, most of the daylight action is still mainly young bucks. Mature bucks don’t waste their time running to every doe to see if she’s ready to breed like the young bucks do. They are still, for the most part, tracking the progress of the rut under the cover of darkness, waiting for the does to be ready to breed. Then, around the end of the first week of November, usually the 7th-8th in the Midwest, you see a spike in mature buck movement as they seek a doe to get with. This spike in movement is sometimes short lived, because then the dreaded “lock down” hits. This is when a majority of the does in an area come into heat, and bucks are locked with does for a few days. Hunting during the lock down phase can still produce good results, but it will be spotty, as most of the movement you will see is when bucks are getting off one doe and heading to the next one.
Then, you come into the phase of the year we’re in right now. That last week of November, when the rut is coming to an end. Right around Thanksgiving, the number of does that are in estrus falls to a very small number. This coupled with the fact that those mature bucks still want to breed, lead to them having to actually work to find and get with those last available does. The combined sharp decline of does coming into estrus and consistent number of mature bucks still wanting to breed plays to our advantage as hunters. It creates more daylight movement from mature bucks. They can feel that their window of time to breed is coming to an end, and they will pursue during all times of the day.
Now, let me clarify one thing. This will not be the time of the rut you see the most deer activity. It is simply quite possibly your best time to see a mature buck. If you want to succeed during this time of the year shooting a mature buck, your tactics don’t have to change drastically. Hunt like you have most of the rut. Focus on bedding areas, and funnels between them. Sitting all day can produce as well. It definitely can be slow as most young bucks will be run ragged now, and won’t be moving as much. But if you put in the time, and wait out those slow periods, a mature buck could be coming by at any second and you need to be mentally prepared for that encounter, and to make it happen.
If you’ve still got a tag you’re trying to fill, don’t call it quits on the rut quite yet. During this last week of November, get out there and spend some time in the treestand, it only takes one second for your season to turn for the better.