Today’s blog comes from Mike Hanback of Big Deer TV airing Wednesdays at 10PM EP. Mike has been writing about whitetails since the 1990′s and is considered by many as an expert on the subject. For more information about Mike, you can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook or visit his website at www.mikehanback.com
No matter when you take off this month, here’s how to get your buck.
You’ve been waiting all year for this, and finally it’s November. You’re ready to charge forth into the woods with bow or gun, pumped to put the smack-down on a rut-crazed 10-pointer. Whoa, slow down. Take a deep breath and a few minutes to consider the deer behavior, weather and moon phase during the week you’ll take off work. The stages of the rut vary a bit throughout the month. But whichever week you choose, we’ve got you covered with this master rut plan.
Deer behavior: While some big bucks that you have scouted for weeks will stay on your property late in this pre-breeding period, others will start to expand their range. Be on the lookout for “new” bucks you’ve never seen before moving onto your spot, searching for the first hot does. All bucks rub and scrape heavily to vent sexual frustration and to leave their calling card now, but they do it mostly at night. Most does are days or a week from estrus; they continue on a bed-to-feed pattern.
Key sign: Big rubs, large, fresh scrapes.
Moon: Full November 6, so expect some intense if spotty midday buck movement. Hang tight in your stand all day if you can hack it.
Science fact: Dr. Karl Miller and cohorts conducted a trail-camera study in Georgia and found that bucks build scrapes in high-traffic spots where other does and bucks will see and smell them. One of the most common places was at the junction of two deer trails.
Top stand: A killer morning stand is on the edge of a CRP field, an overgrown pasture, an old clear-cut–you get the picture–200 to 400 yards off a feed field or mast ridge where you have been hunting in the evenings. Many does will gravitate there to bed. Big bucks will cruise in the chest-high cover after them. It is a perfect spot to rattle; bang the horns until 11:00 a.m. or so.
Hot tactics: Look for scrapes dug 100 yards or so below a brushy ridge top and hunt nearby; bucks like to bed on a ridge or bench and scent-check the scrapes below…. If you use trail cameras, keep them rolling; at scrapes this week you’ll get images of most of the bucks on your land, both the locals and the passers-through…. Try setting a tarsal scent bomb near your stand; a brawler buck might come to your stinky challenge…. Grunt at every buck you see wandering through the woods or dogging a doe, and do some blind calling every 30 minutes or so on stand; you can’t grunt too much this week.
Deer behavior: Last days of pre-breeding and into the breeding stage. You’re apt to see a buck prowling with his nose to the ground (with or without a doe in sight), chasing a gal flat-out, standing over a doe and guarding her, or even mounting one. Studies show that most mature does come into heat around November 7 or 8, and 80 percent of them will be bred over the next two weeks. If you suddenly stop seeing bucks on the move, the “lockdown” has begun; mature 8- and 10-pointers have moved receptive does away from competing lesser bucks and carted them off to thickets where they’ll shack up for a couple of days. This might occur later in this week.
Key sign: Well-trampled doe trails, buck tracks (3 to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide).
Moon: Good midday deer movement continues right on until the full moon wanes. During last-quarter November 14, early mornings should be best.
Science fact: Studies show that most mature bucks leave their home ranges during the peak rut and go on doe excursions; some of those trips last one to three days and cover one to five miles. So the big buck you’re hunting might leave for a bit—but a bigger one you’ve never seen might show up. Hang tight and hunt.
Top stands: Try a timbered ridge flanked by row crops on two sides, or, better, grain on one side and CRP, a swamp or other heavy cover on the opposite border.
A great all-day stand for gun hunting is a point-to-point crossing. Hang a lock-on or ladder just inside a strip of trees that juts out into a weed field and creates a pinch with the timber on the far side of the field. Bucks trolling for or chasing does will move all day in this type of cover.
Hot tactics: Lay a hot-doe trail into your stand, remove boot pads or drag line, hang it 4 feet off the ground, and juice it some more; you can’t put too much “eau de doe” in the air now…. Keep rattling; you might call in nearly as many bucks this week as last…. Blow urrrp, urrrp, urrrp or urrrg, urrrg, urrrg for 10 to 20 seconds or longer on your grunt call; sound throaty and gurgling, like a horny buck tending a doe…
Best Tactic: Sit in a good stand all day, you might shoot your buck anytime…. Even if you don’t see a shooter one day, come back tomorrow and the next day; a big buck on a doe excursion might not be on your land every day, but he’ll swing through eventually—be there when he shows.
Deer behavior: Breeding is still going strong in most areas, but beginning to fade in other places. Depending on whether your rut is a few days early or late, you might see bucks wandering alone or chasing does; some will be locked down with gals. This is the week when every gun hunter and his brother hit the woods; the pressure moves rutting deer deeper into cover, and they move a lot at night.
Key sign: Primary doe trails, buck tracks, scrapes with fresh pawings.
Moon: Some recent moon studies show that deer movement is best and most extreme during the last-quarter moon, and that hunting the last hour of the day during this phase is especially good.
Science fact: A University of Georgia study found that toward the end of this week bucks go back to checking old scrapes and even re-working some of them as they hunt for fewer and fewer receptive does.
Top Stands: Set up where 2 or 3 ridges and adjacent thick-cover draws converge and peter out in a creek or river bottom. All the terrains create a dumping ground for does and the bucks after them. You might spot a gal coming down a ridge with a giant 8-pointer lapping her heels. A shooter might pop over a ridge…Glass thickets for a bedded doe with a big-racked deer standing and ogling her. You never know what you’ll see, but it might be something big and good.
You also need at least one post to play off the hunting pressure. A few years ago in Kentucky my friend David leased 200 acres that bordered a public area. He didn’t hunt it in October, but went there on opening morning of rifle season in November. Dave sat at the top of a hollow where he could watch brushy draws and finger ridges below, very similar to the setup we talked about above. The sun rose and rifles cracked on the public ground. Dave spotted five bucks escaping in the cover, and he shot the biggest, a 150-incher. Look for a similar opportunity near a public tract or heavily hunted farm or lease.
Hot Tactics: If the deer activity is still good, sit in a stand all day because some breeding is still going on; you probably won’t see as many bucks at midday as last week, but it only takes one with a big rack to come by and make your season.
This week I generally back off “blind rattling” because skittish deer have heard clashing antlers (both real and fake) for weeks. But keep grunting. Go back and scout the biggest, best scrapes you found around Halloween; if some of them are freshly pawed and reek of tarsal, go back and hunt the area for a few days.
Deer behavior: Post-rut begins, but there is still more breeding going on than you think. If you get lucky and see one of the last receptive gals, you’re apt to see three to five bucks hassling her. The does that have been bred move back to food plots, fields, browse, and other food sources. Big bucks are tired, spooky and largely nocturnal; the colder it is this week, the more likely you’ll catch one in daylight hours.
Key sign: Primary trails, buck tracks, reactivated scrapes
Moon: During the dark moon, expect deer to move best the first and last hour of light. But since bucks are rut-tired, spooky and skittish now, sightings and movement will be erratic.
Science fact: Research of collared bucks from Maryland to Texas shows that 20 to 40 percent of mature bucks continue to make long trips out of their core areas in the post rut in search of the last hot does.
Top Stands: Most crop fields have been picked clean and some are frozen, but it doesn’t take a lot of feed to attract rut-weary deer. A few years ago in Iowa I scouted a 500-acre soybean field that looked like a concrete parking lot. In one corner I found a quarter-acre strip of beans the machines had missed. I slipped in that afternoon, saw 13 deer and shot a 160-inch 10-point that came to the beans just before dark. I was mobile, slipped in, and surprised those deer near the last good feed for miles.
For a late-rut morning hunt, try an overgrown cedar field, tamarack flat, etc. with good, broken cover that sits a half-mile or so off a grain field. A creek or river bottom makes it better. Hunt high from a lock-on or tower stand so you can watch down into the cover. A spot like that has it all–feed, water, funneling terrain, and good security where weary, pressured bucks can hide, but also cruise for a last hot doe that comes off the feed.
Hot tactics: Keep re-checking scrapes and hunt in the vicinity of any with new activity… Lay an estrus-doe trail into your stand; a buck on a last hook-up mission might cut it and come in… Don’t miss a day if the temperature dips into 20s or teens because some bucks will hit the feed in daylight; when it warms back up, they’ll go nocturnal again.
Good luck, whichever week you hunt!