Sure, the rut has peaked across much of whitetail range, but if you've given up on tagging a bruiser, you're missing out on a good opportunity. You need to be out there every day that you can until your state agency pulls the plug. Why?
Well, take West reporter Jeff Holmes latest report, in which area guides concede that the rut pretty much over, having peaked around November 20th in the region, and yet they're confident about the current hunting prospects, saying now is prime time for killing a true giant. The reason—as we've discussed before in this space—is that mature bucks never give up until the last doe is bred, and their superior stamina allows them to keep plugging long after younger deer have run out of gas.
On a recent Idaho whitetail hunt Holmes found nice bucks in odd places, a common breeding behavior, in which normally-shy (or simply lazy) bucks join does in open country and areas where mature bucks are rarely seen. This requires an adjustment in tactics, of course, but proves that some bruisers are still moving—good reason to keep hunting even when things seem slow in your usual areas spots.
South reporter Eric Bruce tells the story of a great Georgia buck killed by Matt Barskdale, who stuck it out in a late-season stand until he finally pulled the trigger late in the morning. Barskdale's hunt is as a perfect example of how shooting a giant often comes down to sheer willingness to stay in the woods.
Finally, Mid-South reporter Will Brantley notes that states in his region—Kentucky and Virginia, specifically—are on pace to set record deer kills, and much of the harvest occurred fairly late last month. Spurred by cold weather, whitetails kept moving well, and hunters kept up the pressure. As long as the weather stays cold, there should continue to be good hunting.
Of particular interest to me was Virginia deer program leader Matt Knox's comment that he hopes to examine fetal data (biologists can measure a fawn fetus and determine conception date) to judge when peak breeding occurred this past fall. Knox notes that hunters were observing rutting behavior for virtually the entire month of November. Was that caused solely by the weather? Or was some other factor responsible for a rut that hunters perceived to be late or extended?
The rut is a complex and fascinating ritual. Every year seems just a bit different than the one before. But two truths strike me when I read the latest reports: First, observing (and remembering) deer behavior allows a savvy hunter to adjust tactics for success as the rut progresses. Second, there's no substitute for simple, dogged, determination and effort. You make your own luck. So stay out there.