|Photo by Anthony Roberts
by Eric Hall
Sweet November! A magical time when all of the deer are up and moving and all of the bucks are simply dumb. Love is in the air, the need to breed trumps the need to survive and anyone can kill a mature deer. Or maybe not!
I disagree with the notion that all bucks throw caution to the wind during the rut. Mature whitetail bucks are cautious and calculate their activity even during the rut, especially in a pressured, unmanaged area. How else would they reach four and five plus years old? It is not by chance! They have survived through multiple ruts and without adapting your tactics, they will survive the current one, too.
Mature bucks are often labeled as “lovesick” and they are deemed by hunters as dumbed down during the rut. Yes, the pre-rut and rut will have mature deer on their feet, but consider how they are behaving. Count the number of times you have witnessed a mature buck move during daylight even during the rut when they are pressured. Of those sightings, how many were in the wide open vs. using cover? How many bucks were not using the wind to their advantage? How many mature bucks ignored the scent of a hunter? How many times has a buck resorted to nocturnal rutting behavior when pressured? Yet, they are considered dumb, lovesick fools during the rut. Really?
It is possible that a buck locked down with a doe can be pulled into the open by her, thus the “lovesick” label. But how do you use that alone as a strategy for your rut hunt? Maybe you see a buck with a doe move into cover and you set up hoping she brings him by. It has worked before, but it is totally random and almost impossible to plan. There are too many unknowns and moving parts in the equation.
Mark Drury killed his giant 211-inch Bucktober because the doe he was tending pulled him by the stand. Mark Drury knew from the previous day that they were bedded in the area and made the right stand choice on the right day. It can happen, but even Mark said he was lucky that the doe came by. Watch Drury’s THIRTEEN and DOD TV’s The Cutting Room Floor episode to see this unfold. What you will notice is that even though this buck was with a doe during the rut, the hunter and the cameraman both took every precaution to prevent tipping their hand. They knew that one big mistake and it would be game over. This fair chase hunt was on managed, low-pressure ground. Imagine the difference in an area receiving more hunting pressure.
So what is a hunter to do?
Key things for hunting Mature Whitetails during “Sweet November”:
- Security, Security, Security
- Mature whitetail bucks will ALMOST ALWAYS seek security cover even in the rut.
- Stay on stand longer
- The way to take advantage of a mature buck’s ONLY real flaw (he is moving more during daylight) is to sit on stand longer.
- Buck and doe bedrooms are excellent stand sets for the rut (again, security cover is key).
- Classic, time-tested, deadly tactic…but think SECURITY for mature deer.
- Take time to bulletproof your entry and exit routes so the deer do not know they are being hunted.
- Scent Control
- No matter what methods you use, they smell you and you are done.
I agree that mature bucks do move more during the rut, but they are far from the dumb, love-sick fools that they are often portrayed as being. Stop and consider the behavior that got them to their upper age class and adapt accordingly. This will greatly increase your odds of wrapping a tag around a mature bruiser this fall.
Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD
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