Switching Gears As The Rut Ends

The rut is winding down, so it’s time to re-think your whitetail hunting strategies.

Bucks are still rutting, and you’ll see plenty of chasing, but you’ll also begin to see deer activity switching gears from all-day movement to the typical dawn and dusk activity. As these changes slowly take place, consider changing your tactics.

First, if you use a decoy, then it might be time to take off the gloves, actually the antlers. Bucks will still engage in a fight from time to time, but most are more interested in getting in one more breeding opportunity. This means they might saunter over to dominate your buck decoy, but take off the decoy’s antlers and a buck will likely sneak in for a scent check, giving you a shot. Of course, be sure to use a decoy safely, especially during a firearm season.

Next, consider checking new food sources. As the rut winds down and temperatures drop, whitetails switch to different food sources. Frost and freezing changes the taste of vegetation and crops, making some undesirable to deer and others great tasting.

Corn and soybeans become a fan favorite as deer seek out energizing foods to keep the internal fires burning to beat back the cold. If you’ve planted turnips, radishes or brassicas, now would be a great time to take up a watch on a food plot edge. If deer aren’t visiting your go-to spot, be proactive and find their preferred food source.

Lastly, don’t forsake the does. Hunting areas holding large numbers of does and fawns will attract bucks early and late in the rut, as well as during the peak of breeding. Bucks will still visit these areas to check for does that haven’t been bred. Plus, the does are likely targeting the top food sources as well, and the bucks won’t be far behind to recharge their batteries in the waning days of the rut.

As an avid hunter I’m always surprised at how many new bucks I see showing up during the final days of the rut. I believe bucks take more risks late as they stray from home territories looking for one last hot doe. I suggest you stay in the field and take advantage of the last days of the rut. It could pay off big.


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