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Post Rut Whitetail Tactics

By Pat Lefemine

Discuss Article Here

It’s Thanksgiving in November and those of us with tags are outside hunting during what’s left of the rut. Pre Rut should be over, chasing is turning into lock-down and if you haven’t yet tagged your buck you may be getting a little nervous.

Fear not.  I believe the best is yet to come.

Last year we had two shooter bucks on one of my hunting properties. We saw one during the pre-rut and would occasionally catch a night photo on our Moultrie M100 trail cameras.  When the peak rut rolled around, they all but vanished.  Between the chasing period and the dreaded ‘lock-down’ there was no consistent pattern and they were nearly impossible to kill.  The only thing you could hope for was being “lucky.”

NY Deer 2011This was the buck we were after in 2011. A dandy 8 point that was 4.5 years old and would rarely show itself in daylight. He followed a group of does on 11/26 giving my son Matt a perfect 30 yard shot. The Moultrie camera is between us and the buck and captured the scene as we saw it that day.

That stayed true until the last week of November when things started to settle down.  It was November 26, 2011 and the only morning I decided to leave my bow behind so I could concentrate on filming my son Matt (who was 13 at the time).  The buck we’d waited for all year followed a group of does into our stand. He presented Matt with a 30 yard shot (which is at the far end of Matt’s practice range).   As the buck walked by our trail camera I whispered to Matt “shoot” but he still had not drawn his bow!  The buck presented both of us with several incredible shot opportunities then eventually moved on . Matt was upset at himself. He was too nervous to shoot this great buck at the far end of his range so he passed.  I was proud of him, but that’s the last time I’ll ever leave my bow behind!

That was an important lesson for him, and a great reminder for me. The rut is not always the best time to kill that trophy buck.  

Bowhunting the post rut is far different than the hunting the peak.   When I look back at some of the many DIY trophy bucks I’ve shot, the vast majority have been killed during the post rut.  It is my favorite time to hunt, by far!

I believe the post rut can be broken down in phases and I’ve found different techniques work better than others depending on which post-rut phase it's in.  Here’s what I like to do during these specific post-rut periods:

Peak + 5

During this period the rut is not quite over yet. Some bucks may still be chasing while others are in lock down.  Generally things are starting to settle down a bit. During this period I like to focus on the buck’s core area.  Unless they’ve been heavily pressured, the buck will generally gravitate toward his familiar haunts.  Especially those areas close to food sources. 

This Connecticut buck was killed on Thanksgiving day during an early snow storm. I knew he was around but had never seen him during the rut. He came back to a an oak ridge littered with acorns just five days after the peak.

He still has sex on the mind, no doubt, but he’s beginning to focus again on his other needs of security, water, and food so that’s where I like to be positioned. 

Peak +15

By now the majority of does have been bred and mature bucks are nearly wore out. But instead of reverting back to bachelors they act more like companions. Like the buck that passed my son at 30 yards, he was simply following does around during the last weekend of November.  He gave us no indication that he was wound up. He appeared tired and simply liked being with other deer.  Prior to the rut this buck was never seen in daylight - but here he was walking around at 9:00 AM.  During this period I generally like to hunt the core area on trails frequented by does.  There’s a good chance he will follow them right past your stand just as it happened last year.

Peak +30

Depending on your area this is when the 2nd rut starts up. The does not impregnated during November come back into heat and the buck gets wound up all over again – although far less intense than during the November period.  He will seek out does, will begin to work scrapes again, and will start moving beyond his range once more.  During this period I stay in his core area however I like to use mock scrapes again like I would during the pre-rut period. 

I hunted this 7.5 year old Connecticut buck for 3 years. He was incredibly difficult to kill and evaded hunters for years. But he made a mistake during mid December as he followed does to a food source.

Peak +45 on

By this period, the November and December rut is over and the buck’s entire focus is on nourishment.  For the late season after the 2nd rut and beyond I focus entirely on food and cover.  Late season food plots like brassicas, standing cornfields, and preferred food sources like ridges that still have mast on the ground would be my top choices.  Where bait is legal, this can also be the most effective time for a mature buck to visit bait stations however natural food sources are far more effective for mature animals.

This 216" buck was killed on New Years' Eve in Illinois. Despite significant hunting pressure and an abundance of trail cameras nobody had ever seen this buck until he walked in front of Matt Rehor. The buck was focused entirely on nourishment and was following does to a late season food plot.

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