Late Rut Tactics

The rut isn’t over until the fat lady sings, but she is walking out on the stage and doing a few mic checks. If you haven’t punched your tag yet, don’t worry, the last stages of the rut can still be an exciting time in the woods. Many years I only have a few daylight pics of really old mature bucks and that occurs from about Nov 19th thru the 25th. The reason is because there are only a few does that have yet to be bred, which raises the competition factor. During the peak of the rut which is around Nov 12-16th here in Minnesota, many more does are in estrus, so bucks spend their time courting those does. After the courtship process is complete, the bucks move in search of the next hot doe.

When the next hot doe is not found right away the buck begins to widen his search area, and that is why you see big bucks on their feet on the tail end of the rut. If you happen to catch a big buck alone at this time of year, calling can be a great way to bring him in. If he happens to already be locked up with a doe, there is little chance of pulling him away. Your best bet is to wait until he is upwind and try rattling. If that doesn’t work, attempt a snort wheeze. If the buck doesn’t respond that means his full attention is on the doe, and your only hope is that the doe brings him past your stand. Depending on the terrain, you may have a chance to stalk him, but make sure you know where the doe is before you attempt a stalk.

You may not see as much chasing action as you did the first week of November prior to the peak of the rut, but this late rut hunting is more about quality than quantity. It seems like the first stages of the rut all ages of bucks run around frantically, but in late November the younger bucks yield to the older bucks, probably as a result of getting their tail kicked over the last 3 weeks. You can take advantage of an older buck’s aggression and use that against him by calling. Try using contact grunts when you have the buck upwind of you. If he commits, he will likely try to get downwind of your location to scent check the buck that he heard, so be prepared for that type of movement. If possible, try setting up next to a steep bank, river, or some barrier that prevents deer from sneaking down wind of you. If you can’t find such a spot then you have to be religious in your scent control regime to lower the chances of a buck smelling you before he gets into range.

As for where to hunt, some of your typical rut hot spots such as downwind of bedding areas as well as downwind of food plots/scrapes will work great. In areas where bucks have been pressured, thicker areas will hold more deer than woods with an open understory. Scrapes that haven’t been hit in several weeks will open back up during this time period. The testosterone is still high in bucks so they still have the urge to exhibit rutting behavior even though they are starting to get warn down from the marathon of the rut.

– Tim Neuman, Wildlife Biologist 

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