Late Season Rut Hunting
Every deer hunter looks forward to hunting the rut. This is a time of increased daytime deer activity and bucks are focused on receptive does and not as alert to predators (hunters). Planning hunting strategies for the rut may often mean hunting areas of thick cover as that’s where receptive does will attempt to escape the constant harassment by bucks. However, hunting the pre-rut and late rut require a good bit more of strategizing.
Considering the biology of the whitetail is a good place to begin when evaluating strategies. The gestation period for white-tailed deer is 200 days. November 30th is the 334th day of the year. 200 days from November 30 is June 18th. Nearly all fawns will have been born by June 18th throughout most of the whitetail’s range. Which means that most does have been bred by November 30th each year. That doesn’t mean the rut is over. It does mean hunters should anticipate a change in buck and doe behavior by this time of year.
When does (especially mature ones) are receptive they often change their behavior, portion of their range they use, and activity patterns. An obvious sign that does are receptive is that they separate from their fawns. During the peak of the rut (when the most does are receptive at the same time) it will be common to see multiple fawns at feeding areas without does or enough does to account for all the fawns.
By December 1st it’s common to see most fawns with does again. There aren’t as many receptive does this late during the season and bucks often will begin working scrapes that have been left unattended during the peak of the breeding cycle.
Seeing most fawns accompanied by does and scrapes being re-opened are great indicators that it’s time to switch back to hunting travel corridors and other stand locations that were productive during the pre-rut.
There’s much more to scouting and reading sign than simply looking for a stand location. Using knowledge of deer biology, sign and deer observations are great ways to predict what stands to hunt during the days ahead.
Growing and hunting deer together,
Dr. Grant Woods, GrowingDeer.tv
Dr. Grant Woods was raised and began his love of white-tailed deer as a bow hunter in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.