As fast as the rut action ramps up, it can cool down just as fast. Almost like a switch, the chasing and cruising can shut down. Not only that, but it can almost seem like ALL the deer on the property disappear.
If this happens to you, do not panic; you have entered the lockdown phase of the rut. A time when bucks are paired up with does and peak breeding is occurring. This can be a great time to hunt, if you have the patience.
Often people associate the peak of rut with peak breeding, which is incorrect. When we talk about the rut, we think about cruising giants that have been nocturnal all year long, and crash-chasing through the woods.
Peak breeding is the complete opposite, locking deer down for 48-96 hours. However, that’s the good news. At some point the bonds will break and the bucks will be back on their feet. This is where patience comes into play.
Though you may not see the fast-paced, consistent action you would during the seeking or chasing phases of the rut, you can see a mature buck on his feet at any point during the day. The moment a buck is done tending a doe, he will be on to search for another.
This could be at dawn, dusk or middle of the day. Again, patience is the key. You may not see much activity during the lockdown phase, but the one deer you may see, could be the one that you are after.
Set up near bedding areas; these will be the hot places bucks will be cruising. Often times if you sit near food sources, does will avoid the area because, in estrous or not, they will be harassed by bucks. If you stick closer to bedding areas you are more likely to see bucks cruising the edges for the scent of a hot doe.
Do not rely on calls to be very effective – especially rattling and grunting. Although it could pull a great buck in close, the soft bleats of doe call or the use of doe-in-estrous lure – where legal – can be much more effective.
This season, warmerweather loomed over what should have been peak chasing, and suppressed activity during the day in many areas.
Randy Birdsong of Headhunters TV noted: “It’s one of the slowest bow seasons I have ever experienced.” This has been true for many hunters.
Over the next few weeks (Nov. 20 – Dec. 4), hang close to thick bedding areas for a better chance of encountering cruising bucks.