4 Keys to Hunting the Secondary Rut for Big Bucks

If you miss a buck opportunity during the heavy November whitetail rut and have a tag burning a hole in your pocket, don't forget about the second wave of breeding activity in December

4 Keys to Hunting the Secondary Rut for Big Bucks
When looking to punch your buck tag during last-call in December, a good strategy is to hunt near food sources. (Terry Owens photo)

If guarding red-hot food sources is a primary key to late-season big buck hunting success during the month of December – especially where second-chance bucks are concerned – then another key can certainly be the reappearance of the whitetail breeding cycle.

As in the secondary rut, something that occurs when does weren't bred in November cycle around again approximately 28 days later.

Or when a young-of-the-year doe cycles into estrous for the very first time, even if most of the herd is already done with the yearly breeding frenzy.

While the topic of a secondary rut is often debated by hunters – sometimes quite vigorously around a late-night deer-camp campfire – there can be little doubt that big bucks do still fall, even in the month of December, thanks to the whiff of an estrous doe.


Dallas-based deer hunter Sherman Wyman is one such hunter who benefitted from the secondary rut back on Christmas Eve 2005 as he sat in a hunting blind set up on his moderate-size low-fence ranch in northwestern Texas near the Red River.


Before Santa had even warmed his sleigh up good for the trip south later on that evening, Wyman had already tagged a late afternoon Christmas present for himself..

And that was a Boone and Crockett non-typical buck sporting a gross score of more than 240 inches and a net score of 226 4/8 inches.

As impressive as the buck was – it was one of the top bucks reported in all of Texas that particular year – it isn't the only bruiser buck Wyman has seen looking for love so late in the season.

"I've shot a lot of big deer around Christmas time," Wyman has told me about his December hunting efforts. "(Up in North Texas), everyone thinks once Thanksgiving or the first of December has come and gone, you're done."


Certainly with rutting behavior, at least.

But that's obviously not always true, even for second chance bucks that have survived several weeks of intense hunting pressure and near misses during the Texas archery and gun hunting seasons.

Why has Wyman been so successful in mid to late December when others have called it quits, licking their wounds until next fall?


First, because he routinely looks for reopened scrapes like the one he was actually hunting over in December 2005 when "Big Daddy" came rolling through.

Second, the Texan identifies and hunts near the region's preferred late-season food sources as mature bucks and does try to fatten back up again after the November rut's various rigors.

Because where there is food in December, there will be does. And where there are does in mid-December, there may one or two ready to breed.

Third, Wyman relies on the fact there are often a few late-born fawns coming into their first estrous cycle at this time, something a mature buck will certainly take notice of. First with his nose as he smells love on the wind, next with his feet as he gets up and seeks to breed that final doe of the year.

While some hunters argue about this idea of a visible secondary rut, Wyman isn't one of them. And mind you, he's got 226 inches of antler on the wall to prove that sentiment.

A final reason for Wyman's success in the year's final month is that the diligent Texas hunter punches the late season clock, all the way to the point where the annual deer hunting campaign's final bell has rung.

"How many guys do you know that were out on a deer stand on Christmas Eve?" Wyman queried me as we discussed all of this.

And my answer to that question was not very many, not very many at all.

In fact, it's only those hunters whose inner primal hunting fires burn brightly and hot enough to drive them out of the easy chair and into the late season woods in hopes of tagging a buck looking for a second chance at love.

Even if that second chance comes right at the season's final buzzer.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Trending Articles

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the cooler.

By Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them. Reels

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them.

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

Putting in the work can make all the difference when it comes to filling a turkey tag. Turkey

Top 10 Wild Turkey Hunting Tips

Scott Haugen

Putting in the work can make all the difference when it comes to filling a turkey tag.

The challenges of the late season can also yield ruffed grouse success. Waterfowl

Late-Season Ruffs When It's Tough

Matt Soberg - December 18, 2019

The challenges of the late season can also yield ruffed grouse success.

Take advantage of the second rut and arrow a great buck to close your season. Whitetail

Bowhunting: Second Rut, Last Chance

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn - December 23, 2019

Take advantage of the second rut and arrow a great buck to close your season.

Said the hunter: ‘We knew he was big, but not world-record big.' Big Game

World Record Rocky Mountain Goat Approved by Pope & Young

Game & Fish Digital Staff - February 20, 2020

Said the hunter: ‘We knew he was big, but not world-record big.'

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.