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3 Reasons the Late Rut is the Best Time to Hunt

The late rut offers some unique deer hunting opportunities if you're still looking to fill a tag.

We all love harvesting those big, mature bucks during the rut. Seeing rutting activity can make the hair stand up on the back of even the most seasoned hunter's neck. But we don't always close the deal on a good whitetail buck in those early parts the breeding season in November.

Hunting season is much more than just the whitetail rut and sometimes late season is the only time of year to bag some wary big bucks. 

If you're still hanging on to a tag, don't lose hope just yet. Here are three reasons that the late rut, or post rut, could be your ideal time to harvest a mature buck.

Desperation

That's desperation of the deer, not of the deer hunter. With the last remaining signs of the rut, wise bucks know that it may be their last chance for some action. It's not uncommon for bucks to still be cruising bedding areas and feeding areas, looking for that last hot doe. Also, not all does go through the exact same estrus cycles. It could be that there are a few late bloomers in the so-called "second rut" that offer enough incentive to keep the boys cruising later in the month, and even into early December.

Still, even if you know you've still got rutting bucks around, we don't recommend being as aggressive with the grunting and rattling antler calls this time of year. There may still be rut bucks and estrous does around, but this later rut is never going to be as intense as the main event that is the peak of the rut in November. Being too aggressive this time of year could push already stressed deer out of your area. 

Remember to focus on food when late season rut hunting. When cold temperatures are arriving and snow is on the ground, the does are going to start keying on food plots or other sources. Bucks who are still cruising will check these food sources to see if there's a doe all the other bucks missed. 

Mature Bucks are Smart

Of course they are. We all know that. So, why does that help you? Mature bucks get to be that way for one reason: they avoid situations in which their lives might be in danger. Old bucks have spent their entire lives trying to avoid detection. They've used those instincts every day of their lives and have a big body and massive rack to show for it.

A Whitetail deer buck close-up head shot.
A Whitetail deer buck close-up head shot.

Chances are high, then, that they've been able to avoid detection through the brunt of this deer season as well. Why would it be any different than previous years? As the rut winds down, patience and diligence can be the difference between that deer making it through another season and you having new wall art for your man cave. Stick to the basics and be the hardest-working person in the woods, and you just might be the lucky one to get within bow range of that bruiser.

Hunting Pressure is Reduced

While it may be a bit more unconventional, this is a tried-and-true method for some good late rut deer hunting action. Often times, bow hunting enthusiasts get first rights to the woods because of the disadvantages of the short-range weapons. A short while later, the woods get flooded with gun season hunters wielding shotgun slugs, rifles, and muzzleloaders. All of that extra traffic through the woods can have an astounding effect on deer activity. Many will remove themselves to the most secluded, hard-to-reach areas of the woods or return to their safer nocturnal habits, especially on public land where the pressure is high.

For that reason, waiting until later in the season, after the woods have quieted back down, can be an unbelievably effective tactic. It's at this point that the deer begin to feel more comfortable and believe it is safe for them to again be out cruising. Being aware of this and capitalizing on the calm that comes after the storm can produce great results for the patient late rut hunter. This technique has been known to work well for everything from midwest whitetails to elk in the Rockies.

Like what you see here? If so, click here to read more great hunting, outdoor, and shooting articles by Reid Vander Veen. Also, check him out on Twitter @ReidVanderVeen and on Instagram.

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3 Reasons the Late Rut is the Best Time to Hunt