How to Hunt a Post Rut Buck
When the calendar flips over to December, you can be sure that the excitement and thrill of the whitetail rut across most of the country is over. And while all deer hunters will miss those sweet November days, you don’t have to throw in the towel just yet. Successfully hunting a post rut buck can be tough at times, but it’s definitely doable. Here are some late season hunting strategies you can use this year to still get on a mature post rut buck with a bow or muzzleloader.
Hunting Feeding Areas
After the stress and physical activity of the rut, bucks are usually pretty worn out by the late season. Hunting the post rut is usually best by focusing on feeding areas like earlier in the season. A post rut buck will be focused on high calorie food (e.g., corn, turnips, etc.) to build their body weight back up, so you often see an uptick of daytime buck activity in food plots or any remaining crop fields, especially where the hunting pressure drops off again. But that doesn’t mean they’re naïve – you still need to hunt smart if you’re going to take a buck near or in a feeding area or bait site.
If you’re muzzleloader hunting and can make some longer shots, try setting up about 10 yards off an ag field edge to watch the dominant deer trails entering the field. And if you’re bow hunting, you likely will need to be in a hunting blind closer to the action or within thick cover downwind of the entry trails. Arrive at your stand in the mid-morning hours (after the deer have exited the field) so you don’t spook any. Depending on where you hunt, expect some mid-afternoon deer feeding, but be prepared to sit til dark for a wary buck to make an appearance. When you’re this close to the action in the evening, make sure you have a silent exit trail as well.
Hunting Skills and Good Choices
A skill that you need to use to your advantage over a post rut buck is being as silent and stealthy as possible. Whitetails of all kinds, but especially mature bucks, have been disturbed and hunted for a couple months in most locations by the time December comes. Any survivors are either really lucky or very skilled at escaping human attention – probably a combination of the two. That means you don’t have much margin for error.
- Hunt the Right Conditions – the post rut is not the time to just hunt a single stand location every day. While that approach can sometimes work in the early season, deer are just too educated by the late season. Save a tree stand or ground blind location until the weather conditions are just right for it. Combine this strategy with using trail cameras, especially cell cameras, and pattern a buck on a food plot, feeding area, or bait site before pressuring it too much. If you have a patterned buck all you need to do is wait until the wind is blowing your scent away from where you expect deer to travel.
- Be a Predator – it’s amazing how many hunters will drive an ATV right to their tree stand, crunch loudly through the leaves, or noisily open candy wrappers in the tree. After just one hunting trip doing these hunting mistakes, the deer are likely going to have you patterned. Instead, be as quiet and stealthy as you can be. Try walking to your tree stand – better yet, sneaking quietly. Take your time. Don’t break branches as you walk in. Utilize scent control products, and wear rubber boots to remove your scent as much as possible.
While it’s no match compared to the primary or peak rut, there are a lot of advantages to hunting the second rut. If you have a dominant post rut buck left on your hunting property, he will still be very interested in breeding any receptive does. The second rut usually occurs about 30 days after the peak rut in your area, so you should be able to pinpoint it better after hunting the rut. Try using some doe estrous scent to entice a buck to come within shooting distance. If you have some dominant bucks in your area, you might also apply some buck urine scent to trigger his competitive side.
If you can use these hunting strategies – and with a little luck too – you have a good chance of still filling your tag this deer hunting season on a post rut buck.