Enjoy The 2nd, 3rd Rut
Opening Day 2022 has come and gone for local hunters. It was crazy, different and cold, to say the least. The state often says, historically, that 60-70% of the total deer harvest is taken during the first weekend and Thanksgiving. With that being said, the harvest numbers will be a little off this season.
The good news is warmer weather is in the forecast, which means no snow for much of the remainder of the regular deer season. This, for many can be a blessing and some a curse.
I prefer it cold, but have found as the years go by, not a bunch of snow on the ground. With that being said, the remainder of the season should be nothing like the first few days and we all need to change things up if we are going to be successful.
Like any time we are deer hunting, it’s important to know and understand the food sources that deer are using. Once we have done that, we can put together a game plan to fill our freezer.
The wild card thrown into the mid-to-late deer season in our part of Whitetail Country is the rut. Yes, the second, third and fourth rut is as real as the first one. While the remaining ruts are not as intense as the primary rut, it does happen. To ignore the phase in the world of the whitetail would be a mistake.
The rutting seasons are the period between the end of October to late in December when deer mate. Deer behavior changes and hunters must adapt to those changes if they want to score a successful kill.
For the hunter, this period represents the best time to harvest a buck, as deer become more active during the daylight hours, making them easier to spot and kill. During some phases of this season, some deer might even wander off into open areas in broad daylight.
Unlike other seasons, spotting a doe during the rut often means there’s a buck nearby. However, the constant activity of bucks like chasing estrus does, checking scrapes and making rubs means that hunters need to set up properly to maximize the chance of catching a buck when it is most vulnerable to line up a good shot. Peak breeding season, also known as rut hunting season, occurs between the last week of October and the first two weeks of November. However, hunting the other phases of the rut can also yield good results if you employ the right tactics and practice a little patience and perseverance.
Bucks will rut over the course of several weeks, slowly changing their behavior until they come into full rut by the start of November. Their behavior changes in a series of phases starting in the pre-rut which occurs around the second week of October and culminating in either the post-rut at the end of November or a second rut during the first part of December. With the pre-rut occurring from mid-to-late October, the seeking stage directly falling from late October to the first few days of November, chasing or the peak rutting phase occurs from early to mid-November.
The next couple stages are often confused, but they are classified as the tending or “lockdown” stage which is followed by the post-rut. Second rut begins 28 days after the first rut and first doe comes in estrus in the area, doe that have not been breed will come into “heat” every 28 days until they breed.
The ruttie/unique behaviors that deer display during these six phases means that hunters need to use different tactics for each phase of the rut.
One of the key ways that many of us don’t take advantage of the rut is setting up between food sources and bedding areas gives the best results. During this period, evening sits are the most productive. Morning hunts don’t typically yield good results due to the uneven patterns bucks follow as they transition to their fall ranges and behavior patterns during this period. Since deer are often in the field in the early morning, hunters often spook them on their way to the stand. Using calls and decoys during this phase is also a bad idea since most deer won’t respond to them just yet, and a call would most likely just scare them away.
At the very tail end of the deer rutting season, a second rut might occur, which is when females who were not bred during the first rut go into a second estrus cycle. Doe fawns can also become sexually active for the first time during this phase and enter estrus. If food is abundant, the latter can happen as a larger event. During this phase, deer hunting primarily takes place around food sources and bed to feeding trails. Doe fawns might also go out in the open, which has the potential to attract males out of cover for a clean shot. However, because only a few does go into estrus during this phase, it generally yields slim pickings unless food is unusually abundant during and after the peak rut. Hunting during deer rutting season can be an extremely rewarding experience. Understanding the different phases of the rut and what deer are doing during that time can mean the difference between antlers walking toward you during daylight hours or sitting in the stand watching the snow fall. With so few precious moments to deer hunt each deer season, information like we mentioned above can help you maximize the few hours you have to hunt each year. With good technique and well-thought-out concealment and camouflage, bagging a buck during the season is possible.