By Scott Bestul
Tomorrow's not only the ninth of December—it’s also the bottom of the rut’s ninth inning. It's also a day you could hit hunting’s equivalent of a walk-off home run by tagging a giant in the last phase of breeding. One month ago, we were approaching the breeding peak, and any does that were not bred during that first cycle will come into heat again.
In addition, a percentage of fawns (up to 40 percent in some areas) will enter their first estrous cycle now. More than once I’ve seen a huge December buck getting towed around by a doe that was half his size.
Many hunters dismiss this secondary rut, which is as big a mistake as forgetting your long johns now. You won’t witness widespread chasing like you did in November, but you don’t need to if your stand is close to a major food source.
We’re in the early stages of winter, and whitetails are seeking the most protein- and fat-rich foods they can find: fields of waste or standing grain, food plots, clear-cuts, or hard-mast crops. They’re all good, but I’d take an oak ridge full of acorns over everything else now.