Despite what you’ve heard, post rut deer hunting is a productive time to be in the woods.
Many deer hunters by now have stored their gear and called it a season. After all, the rut – the most sought after few weeks of the whitetail season – has come and gone in a majority of the country. However, post rut deer hunting can produce trophy bucks for those willing to brave the winter weather.
The excitement of the rut has dwindled and the deer are recuperating after weeks of constant frenzy. That’s good news to hunters. While a rut-crazed buck can let his guard down as he searches for a suitor, it’s almost impossible to predict where he’ll be next. During the post rut, bucks will settle back into a smaller home range to conserve energy, giving you an easier opportunity to locate him. Here’s a few post rut deer hunting tips to get you a step closer to downing that late season buck.
Target Food Sources and Travel Corridors
The most successful deer hunters never stop scouting throughout the year, especially late season. If you haven’t done any serious recon since October, you’ll need to re-identify the pattern of the herd – where they feed, bed and how they get back and forth. Start with food sources. Bucks are in a weakened state, having lost up to a quarter of their body weight during the rut. Now they’re looking to consume as much food as possible as winter really sets in. Hunt over late-producing natural browse and row crops, or a Feed Bank 300 gravity feeder if the vegetation is non-existent.
Since conserving energy is a buck’s top priority throughout winter, he’ll often only travel from a bedding area to feed, then back again. The game trails and transition areas you hunted earlier in the season may have gone cold by now. Find fresh tracks to feeding areas and hang a stand near these travel corridors.
Set up a few trail cameras near the buck’s travel corridor, but take care when entering the woods, especially near bedding areas. Months of hunting pressure have the deer on high alert and any presence of humans will spook them. Be sure to adhere to proper scent control.
Pay Attention to the Weather
If weather forecasts show a cold front with snow approaching, hit the woods before it arrives in your area. The drop in barometric pressure gets the deer on their feet and consuming calories to prepare. On cold days deer need to feed heavily, so even on those frigid mornings, get in the stand.
If the weather warms, deer movement may subside, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay put. A buck’s need to regain weight is his primary driver during the post rut and sooner or later he’ll leave the bedding site. The key to downing a late-season buck is persistence, so stay in the stand even when the weather isn’t ideal.
Watch for Late Breeding Does
While the majority of does have been bred, it’s possible a few on your property haven’t. Yearling does may also go into a late heat. In that case, they’ll continue to until they’re bred. These late-estrous does will attract every buck in close proximity. Keep an eye out for any signs of breeding behavior while in the stand. If you suspect you’ve got a hot doe nearby, rattle, grunt, use estrous scents and any other rut tactics.
Despite all of the attention the breeding season gets, you can just as easily come face to face with a giant this time of year. If you can brave the cold, it’s worth toughing it out until the end. You’ll likely have the woods to yourself and any time put in on a stand is time well spent.