Second Time's the Charm

How to adjust your hunting tactics when bucks go on the prowl again.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Some hunters dismiss the second rut as a myth. Others overestimate it as a cold-weather extension of peak breeding. Naturally, the truth lies in between. Here are the facts about the second rut, and how they should shape your hunting strategies:

Fact #1: Any does that don't conceive during the primary rut will enter a second estrous cycle 28 days later-a process they'll repeat until they've bred. In addition, some fawns will go into estrus each year, usually late in the season. This flush of available does creates breeding opportunities for bucks that may last beyond the close of deer season.

**Conclusion: **Not only is secondary breeding real-it occurs across whitetail range. To ignore it is to miss an opportunity to exploit one of a buck's few weaknesses.

Fact #2: Late-season bucks will make rubs and scrapes, respond to the sounds of other deer, and react to odors left by another buck or an estrous doe.

Conclusion: A buck's urge to breed doesn't end after the primary rut, which means the same techniques that worked then-including calling, rattling, decoying, and using scents-can work well into the late season.

Fact #3: The number of does coming into estrus after peak breeding is small (less than 20 percent in most areas). Moreover, after the primary rut, bucks are exhausted, hungry, and wary. Though it will occur, breeding activity will be short-lived and localized.

**Conclusion: **Don't expect whitetails to range widely and carelessly searching for does. Concentrate your efforts within a buck's home area.

Fact #4: Secondary rut action usually occurs close to feeding areas. Both bucks and does congregate near food now, to recuperate from the rut and prepare for winter. When a late-cycling doe comes into estrus, this is where she-and the bucks-will be.

Conclusion: Hunt where they eat, but don't just set up and wait. Instead, take the opportunity to use the rut tactics described above in combination with basic food-source hunting (see "Game Plan: The Perfect Ambush," page WH23).

Fact #5: Mature bucks are the primary breeders during the secondary rut, assuming that they exist in a herd.

Conclusion: This is a very good time to take a very big buck. In my home area, some of the best trophies of the season are routinely taken from December 10 through Christmas. The second rut may not be whitetail breeding's main event, but it will be yours when a monster buck follows your scent trail, or the sound of your rattling antlers, right to your stand.