Do Not Overlook Late Season Bucks
Kevin Felts 12.21.16
Most hunters are gung-ho and want to be in the woods as soon as season opens. There is nothing wrong with early season hunting. We get out of the house and get to enjoy nature. We see summer give way to fall first hand. Weather turns cooler and days grow shorter.
Hunters look so forward to hunting season, they usually get burned out by the middle of the season or so. Christmas and New Years consumes a lot of our time. Deer hunting becomes less important as Christmas and New Years arrive.
There are some good things that happen as the season draws to an end. Hunting pressure is reduced, there are fewer people in the woods, and the rut draws to an end.
In the months leading up to hunting season, there is noticeable increased activity on hunting lands. Hunters are setting up stands and feeders. Some people are clearing ATV trails. Some hunters bring tractors to plant food plots, such as turnips, oats, and rye grass.
On opening weekend, there are all kinds of trucks, trailers, ATVs, smells, and movements in hunting areas that deer are not used to. Combine that with with bucks looking for does (female deer) to mate with, deer are stressed.
As the season progresses and holidays take up more of our time, there are less hunters in the woods. This means less noise and fewer smells.
On public hunting lands this can make a big difference. For the first two months of deer season there may be people in camping sites that access public hunting lands every day.
There is a place on the Angelina River in Jasper Texas where I like to go camping. The camping sites are on public hunting land. From October to December, the camping sties are booked full. This means people are going into the woods from those sites just about everyday for almost two months.
After Thanksgiving things start to ease up and deer are less stressed.
Rut Draws to End
Whitetail does have a cycle when they are fertile, this is called estrus. The cycle for whitetail deer usually starts in October, runs for 28 days, then repeats until the doe is bred. While the doe is in estrus, the buck is in rut. When the buck is in rut, all he wants to do is mate.
While bucks are chasing does that are in estrus, neither the doe or the buck get much rest or take time to eat.
By the time rut is over, bucks have lost weight and are tired. They are drawn to food, acorns, feeders, food plots, whatever is available in late December and early January.
Do Not Underestimate Late Season
With the rut over, bucks are not fighting and are buddies again. Several bucks will gather around food plots to feast and hopefully regain the weight lost in the rut.
Deer return to their normal trails and feeding areas. If you spotted a deer on a trail camera before rut but did not see him during hunting season, that is because he was off chasing a doe. Now that rut is over, there is a good chance you may see that buck again.