The “biological rut” has been on now for the past few weeks. Bucks are actively breeding does and hunters are experiencing some great action. They are also experiencing some pretty boring sits. That’s the way it is with the biological rut, it can be the best of times one day and the worst of times the next. The trick is to gut it out and stay with the hunt. A quiet day or two does not mean the rut is over. Your chances for a good buck are good, during this time but not if you are sitting in camp.
This past week while in the field, we witnessed dozens of breeding related behaviors including: a marked decrease in mature does visiting food plots; numerous fawns hanging out together or alone; young bucks working food plots hard and alternating their behavior from feeding to chasing (testosterone driven); older bucks showing up occasionally on social gathering areas intent on finding receptive does; and serious, “estrus driven” chases.
These are the rut markers we typically associate with the “biological rut.”
Cameras are showing plenty of markers as well. They include a good deal of tending behavior by older aged bucks and also plenty of chases on film (open mouths and blurred running shots). Unquestionably, there is plenty of breeding going on as you read this. By the end of next weekend, roughly 80 percent of mature does across most of whitetail country will be bred, so there is plenty of rut related hunting left. Dominant bucks breed only 3 does or so per season, so they spend a good deal of time looking. Plenty of breeding will be occurring over the next few days including Thanksgiving weekend. Get out there and put in your time!
Most states either have opened gun season or are very close to doing so. This will increase pressure on the deer in your area tremendously and result in some pretty unproductive sits. Here in New York, gun season opened last weekend and predictably, there were plenty of shots heard the morning of the opener. By midday, all was quiet short of a few evening shots. Day two of the weekend opener was much quieter. We won’t get back to normal for a week or two and that’s if the deer are left alone and not harassed. It’s not just the shooting that shuts down the movement. It the cumulative effect of humans and their pickups, and ATVs and campers and full cabins that keeps the deer on edge and daytime sightings scarce.
If you are in an area where hunting pressure is peaking (or has peaked) you may experience some pretty quiet sits. On the other hand, this is a great time to be out there as the best bucks in the area are busy breeding does and are out and about. Hunt hard and hunt long. The less impact you make on your property the better.
Don’t be afraid to sit all day. Hunt anywhere you are likely to find does. Don’t be afraid to relocate a few times each day to find a hot spot holding a “hot” doe that will draw a crowd. Grunts and rattling can be effective with love-crazed bucks, so you might give it a try.
Now that our opener is over, we will be resting our property and letting it fill up with the deer from our area. The camps surrounding us are still active and we hear ATVs every morning and evening. Soon (if not already) the deer using their woods will relocate, and if we hunt smart keep our impact low, we will have more deer on our property than ever. Yes, we will hunt, yes we will kill some more deer, but we will pick our spots carefully and always with an eye toward low-impact hunting.
If you are fortunate enough to have your own property, hunting low impact will pay huge dividends if you are in a high-pressure area. Don’t hammer your property every day, rest it, let deer accumulate on it, and then slip in and enjoy a hunt with plenty of deer sightings.
See trail camera photos of the deer activity mentioned in this post from Craig’s property and his contacts across the country.
About the Author: Craig and Neil Dougherty run NorthCountry Whitetails, a deer hunting and managment consulting business, out of upstate New York. They have two highly-managed properties that they monitor all year long. Throughout the season, they take hundreds of thousands of trail camera photos and log data on each of their hunts. They are also in contact with hunters across the country who relay deer activity information.