NorthCountry Whitetails Rut Report #9 11-27-12
The biological rut is winding down in most places and over in some. By now, roughly 90-95 % of the adult does in whitetail country have been bred and things are getting back to “normal”. There will be another breeding activity “blip” in about a week as some does recycle through estrus. And some continued breeding into January as some doe fawns physically mature to the point where they come into estrus.
We are seeing most of our doe/fawn groups reunited, are not seeing “lost’ fawns (unless momma has been harvested) wandering about like a lost child at the fair and young bucks are still acting stupid, pushing and shoving, nose to the ground following does, and acting like young bucks in love. Older aged bucks have become a bit scarce as gun hunting is open in most parts of whitetail country and that kind of pressure combined with fewer does in heat has made them more cautious. Make no mistake, they are still looking for receptive does but they are more cautious and less driven by testosterone buildup.
This is often a very quiet period in the hunting cycle especially in high pressure hunting areas. As behavior patterns return to normal, deer are able to once again concentrate on “staying alive”. As hunting season is well upon us, they are extremely cautious and reluctant to visit areas that have been hunted with any degree of frequency. High pressure areas are devoid of deer and they are doing what they can to avoid humans. Their tolerance for humans has decreased and they are now spooking at the hint of a human where two months ago they wanted to see you, hear you and smell you before bolting into cover.
We have kept many of our hunting areas “low impact’ all season and they are highly productive now. These areas are holding deer from all over the surrounding areas and have plenty of standing corn and soybeans. Neil’s wife Marie seems to be the designated shooter this year and is doing more than her part to fill the freezer and has for the second year in a row (since starting to hunt) has taken a buck worthy of the cabin wall. Craig is turning into one heck of a babysitter so Neil and Marie can hunt together. Craig and Neil are hunting does on fringe areas so as to keep the pressure off the deer using our core areas.
For those of you managing herd dynamics, this is a good time to finish taking does out of the herd. By now you should have set your harvest goals and bad weather at season’s end can turn your attention back to mature bucks or keep you out of the woods and prevent you from hitting your doe harvest goal this year.
In low pressure areas deer are returning to “food driven” behavior patterns. Does and fawns are feeding heavily and with regularity while bucks are catching a few bites here and a few there. Our camera numbers on feeding areas are steadily climbing and we are recording more mid-day photos than earlier in the season.
Nasty weather will bring them out to feed and colder than normal temperatures will result in increased movement until it gets so cold as they don’t move at all. Before long extremely cold temperatures will make mid-day feeding attractive to deer in low pressure areas as they take advantage of moving during the warmest part of the day.
This is the time of the cycle that clearly separates the serious mature deer hunters from the wanna-bees. Sits can still be great as mature bucks are still very much in breeding mode and are moving about looking for does. Most however are well aware that they are being hunted and well aware that this is not a good time to be out and about.
Hunting strategies for late season bucks pay huge dividends here. This is a good time to hunt areas that have not been hunted all season. These “pollution free areas” are well known to mature bucks by now and you can often catch them hanging out in there areas.
If you have sanctuaries on your property and have left them alone they are more than likely holding deer this time of year. Hunt the edges and keep hunting fresh areas.
Go easy on the calling and rattling if your bucks have been heavily hunted. They probably have heard plenty of grunt calls by now and like a call shy mallard, head the other way when they hear the call.
Post rut bad weather and food sources are a great formula for taking a nice buck this time of year. Bad weather drives them to food as does recover from the rut. Standing corn or soybeans in the snow is a wonderful formula for success. Especially when temps are in the teens and 20 degrees warmer at noon.
Most of all, you need to still be putting in your time. Good bucks are still out and about doing their thing. The need to breed never really leaves them and there are still some second cycle estrus does and first time fawns out there to keep them active.
There is still some very good mature buck hunting ahead as the need to feed becomes overwhelming but right now we are busy filling the freezer with the management does we need to take from our property here in NY.