Photo by Donald M. Jones
The late pre-rut always coughs up some great bucks. For a shot at a real tank, though, the days following peak rut are better. Sure, there probably won’t be as many bucks afoot as you’d see three weeks earlier. But the ones that have the stamina to keep going when the main event has passed are well worth the wait.
There are other reasons to be in the woods today. In many states, firearms season will open, and the pressure can actually work in your favor, provided you strategize accordingly. Even better, cool (or downright cold) late-November temperatures will combine with a moon that will be visible for much of the day to make this a standout experience.
Default plan: Get Aggressive
If hunting pressure is a factor in your area, it’s time to take a more active approach to find and kill a good buck. You’ll need a partner or two, because you’ll be making gentle pushes through discrete covers. Forget the classic hardwood ridges dotted with blaze orange; you want spots that are (a) ignored by others and/or (b) difficult to access. Some of the best examples are islands in a river system, isolated patches of brush and timber, cattail marshes on the prairie, and abandoned farmsteads. Look at the surroundings on an overhead image and determine where a buck will run if pushed. Place your standers there (they may be as much as a half mile away) and let one walker nudge the pocket. Keep this up all day until that giant (and probably his doe) bombs from his hidey-hole.
Optional Plan: Be Passive
Lacking drivers and suitable cover, stick to the basics. Locate the gnarliest, hardest-to-reach areas on your land—swamp, cattail marsh, young clear-cut—and sit as long as you can. Deer are going to shift breeding activity to locations where they don’t have an audience. That’s where you need to wait for them, for as many hours as you’re capable.
Snow dumping from the sky in sheets accompanied by high winds will definitely affect how and where deer move. Expect whitetails to seek cover on the lee side of hills, in low-lying conifer swamps, and in dense patches of brush. Still-hunting the downwind side of these protective covers is an excellent tactic. But it’s critical to move slowly and pause often. And take a knee now and then, because the deer you’re looking for are likely going to be bedded.