Skip to main content

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

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.12 Great Catfish Baits Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

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

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river.How to Catch Catfish Day and Night Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe Wild Game

Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

Increase your odds of putting meat on the ground this season by forgetting about trophy bucks and focusing on their little brothers.Blacktail Deer: Hunting for Freezer-Fillers Big Game

Blacktail Deer: Hunting for Freezer-Fillers

Scott Haugen - October 23, 2020

Increase your odds of putting meat on the ground this season by forgetting about trophy bucks...

Finding and hunting soft-mast food sources can be the key to tagging your next trophy buck.Going 'Soft' on Whitetails Whitetail

Going 'Soft' on Whitetails

Bruce Ingram - October 19, 2020

Finding and hunting soft-mast food sources can be the key to tagging your next trophy buck.

Some pre-hunt planning and a little additional effort can yield more public-land ruffed grouse.Grouse Hunting Off the Grid Upland

Grouse Hunting Off the Grid

Tony Peterson - October 30, 2020

Some pre-hunt planning and a little additional effort can yield more public-land ruffed grouse.

There's never not a good time of day this time of year to hunt elk.Western Elk Hunting from Dawn to Dusk Big Game

Western Elk Hunting from Dawn to Dusk

Scott Haugen - October 27, 2020

There's never not a good time of day this time of year to hunt elk.

See More Hunting How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now