You knew this was coming…the week you dreaded. Are you ready for this? Take a deep breath for this next statement. Here it goes…the rut is OVER! As much as you hate hearing that sentence it is true. Defining the rut as peak breeding means that it is most definitely over, but defining the rut as the intense deer hunting action in November results in a different story completely. In that case, the rut hunting action is just starting to get good! That might sound completely opposite of what you have heard before, but it is the truth. Hunting the post rut might be your best opportunity at a mature buck!
Thanksgiving week is here, meaning you just scored plenty of hours if not days worth of hunting in your favorite stands. Use every bit of time you have because every bit is well worth it during the post rut! Now before you blow a gasket on social media on this blog posting or in the comments below, hear us out. In case you need to touch up on the phases of the rut, take a look below to read up on the information presented in a past blog.
You most likely have hunted your way through the pre-rut, through the rut, and the lockdown phase of the rut, and are now looking for solutions as you have thus far came up empty handed. Hunting the post rut does not sound all that aesthetically pleasing. Why? Post anything doesn’t sound too appealing, especially the rut crazed action of the beginning of November! In fact, it might actually be one of the best times to harvest a mature buck.
Mature Bucks Fall in the Post Rut
What is going on in the post rut?
Most does have been bred at this point, but there are likely a few that weren’t. Bucks will still be on the lookout for estrus does during this timeframe, but the action will be much more subdued than the peak rut. Young bucks and the majority of does that have been bred will start transitioning towards winter habits, focusing on thermal cover and feeding areas to build their bodies back up from the stressful rut period. However, mature bucks that have experience know that there are still some does that are still needing to be bred. This means mature bucks, instead of more young bucks like you most likely witnessed during the pre rut, will be on their feet. This means sticking to your rut hunting tactics and strategies during the post rut can still unexpectedly result in success! The following tips and tactics will give you a good opportunity at putting a set of antler in the back of your Chevy!
Stand Locations for the Post Rut
Being in the right place at the right time is a big part of success, and there are certainly some key areas that you should keep an eye out for when looking for stand location to hunt during the post rut.
Pinch Points and Draws
It is often underestimated just how nomadic mature bucks can be during the post rut. To say that mature bucks cover a lot of ground is an understatement. This is never more obvious than when you pull the card on your trail camera only to have one to two new bucks show up, each time you check the camera. Point being, bucks travel and sometimes that best way to put an arrow in a big whitetail buck into getting in their path of travel.
Woody draws, fingers, and associated pinch points are areas that are highly traveled by deer in general but are actively used by mature bucks during the rut and post-rut. These areas often offer an entire network of corridors and travel lanes, traversing the countryside like a network of veins in your body. During the rut, draws that may see very little deer use can sometimes become key travel lanes for rutting bucks. As a result, these areas can be some of the best places to catch a mature buck out looking for does. Elevation and wind direction can be very critical during the post rut. Bucks that are actively looking for does will use the wind to their advantage; to help to locate does in estrus.
If you locate a draw or pinch point that connects two large tracts of timber or that offers a transition from two different types of cover (CRP to Crop Field, etc.) you just might be in business. Post rut mature bucks will slip through these areas looking for hot does, feeling secure and concealed the entire way but they are not dumb, they have been through the ringer in years past. They also have experienced gun season, meaning they are on alert a lot more than they were just a week or two back.
Now, here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you just go hang a stand in the first draw you find. Keep the prevailing wind direction in mind, as it relates to the direction you anticipate the bucks to be traveling from. Also, since bucks will be using their nose non-stop during the post rut, they will key in on areas where they can easily catch the wind. So, this means that a draw that is low or out of the wind may not be utilized as much as a draw or finger that is more open or higher in elevation.
Ridges above Bedding Areas
Like we just mentioned, during the post rut mature bucks like to let their nose do all the work when it comes to locating does. They are getting low on energy, meaning any shortcuts they can take they will most certainly use. The wind is their friend, as a mature buck can smell a doe in estrus from a long distance away. You may have heard the term “buck trail” or “secondary trail” used in articles that discuss how to hunt bucks during the rut. What these terms are often referring to are the trials that bucks will use during the rut and post-rut in an attempt to use the wind to their advantage, in locating does.
While there are certainly other areas that can be excellent places to ambush a big buck during the post rut, hunting ridge tops above or upslope from known bedding areas are often unbeatable. While the title says “ridges”, this can be somewhat of an exaggeration.
What you are really looking for areas where a buck might be able to get “above” the does and use the topography to funnel the wind to their nose. These areas may not truly be ridges and could be areas such as creek banks, hillsides or hilltops, anywhere that bucks might be able to use the terrain and wind to maximize his ole’ sniffer. These trials are typically characterized by multiple scrapes and rubs, and will generally be just off from any major trail. These sets can be absolute dynamite during the post rut!
Cover is King
Woody draws, and thickets or CRP grass can be excellent areas for mature bucks trying to escape hunting pressure, or trying to find does. If you locate these areas within close proximity to a food source, then you are in business.
Use Deer Calls!
This tip may seem odd to you. Most hunters think that by the time the post rut arrives, deer have heard just about any and all calls that a hunter could possibly make. They have heard the longest grunts, the loudest bleats, and the all to familiar sound of antlers smashing together over and over again ( all calls that should never be heard). While every bit of this is true, and bucks are weary of calls, actual natural sounding well-executed deer calls can and will work during the post rut.
When discussing hunting the post rut, you cannot go without touching on the importance of food. As the rut wanes into the post-rut, and the post-rut gives way to the late season, food becomes more and more of a focus for deer. Does that have already been bred, and young bucks exhausted from the rut begin slamming food during the later stages of the post rut. Sure enough mature bucks follow suite as the last does come out of estrus. During the post rut, always keep a close eye on late season food sources.
Get out there!
While you might hate hearing the rut is over, you can’t help but be pleased to hear that chances to put a mature buck on the ground still exist. Get out and hunt the post rut, it could be your last, best chance at a mature buck!