Glory Days, Part II; Nov. 16--Dec. 1

Call in sick. Vote late. Get engaged next spring. Whatever you do, just make sure you're in the deer woods on these seven dates, because there won't be a better time to tag a buck all year. PLUS: The Myths of the Rut, from Dr. Karl Miller.

Field & Stream Online Editors

NOVEMBER 16
It's the mating season, bucks are tending does, and this part of the breeding period usually has little activity. Today's full moon counters that, however, and you can expect heavy deer movement during midday. Dawn and dusk will be strangely quiet for mid-November in the deer woods.

1. The Situation:
It's All Quiet on the Deer Front
It's a shock to novices who look forward to the peak of the rut to see how abruptly things change when the breeding phase arrives. Since the majority of does are now in estrus, all mature bucks have partners and are mostly staying put. But things don't totally throttle down. Bucks still move when they have finished breeding one doe and are looking for another. And when they're not traveling, you can make them get up and go with a drive.

2. Primary Tactic:
Time to Drive
Put on morning and late-afternoon drives. These are normally supposed to be conducted during midday, when deer are sticking to dense bedding cover. With the moon full and the rut in the lull of the peak breeding phase, however, dawn and dusk are the times on this day when deer will be holed up.

The key to pushing a rack buck is to drive small, precisely defined thickets near areas where does concentrate, and the bedding locations themselves. Unlike most of the year, when they'll sneak out before a drive is even set up, or move through a break in the line of drivers without being seen, bucks will now remain with the doe they are tending. When you see a doe break out of cover during a drive, get ready, as the buck is likely just a few steps behind. Drive with a crosswind or the wind blowing toward the blockers, and make sure everyone knows the safe shooting lanes and is wearing blaze orange.

3. Backup Plan:
Still-Hunt The Edges
Since bucks move less during the peak breeding phase, this is a good time for still-hunting. It's especially effective when there's a drizzle or light snow falling and the ground is damp and quiet.

Step slowly and pause often. Sneak along the downwind edges of bedding areas and the buck routes connecting them. Check out clear-cuts, old logging roads, and semiopen fields with cedars, plum thickets, sumac, and greenbrier. Stay above where you expect to see deer and work into or across the wind.

4. Don't Do This:
Hunt the Home Front
It's a waste of time to hunt in bucks' core home ranges. Mature bucks have largely abandoned these spots and will not return to them while peak breeding continues. They are camped out in doe territory in lower, gentler terrain or moving between the areas where females hang out.

5. Do This:
Crow About It
If the cover is too thick to keep in contact with your partners on a drive, periodically use a wildlife call such as a crow, owl, hawk, or pileated woodpecker. This is less likely to spook bucks than whistling or calling to one another. When you're still-hunting, give a contact grunt every once in a while in case there's a buck hidden nearby.
Be Inhuman
Since you will be driving or still-hunting, use cover scents such as fox, raccoon, skunk, evergreen, or earth to mask your human odor in case there's a wind change or a deer appears from a direction you didn't expect. Be sure to wear scent-absorbing clothing, and spray your gear and boots with an odor neutralizer. [NEXT "The Situation: Weekend Warriors in the Woods"]

NOVEMBER 19
Hunt this date if you have to work during the week. It's a Saturday, so you'll need to adjust your tactics a bit from noal rut hunting strategy. Not only are bucks moving less because they are hooked up with does, but they are likely feeling more pressure on this day than at any other time of year except the opener. That can work in your favor if you plan wisely.

1. The Situation:
Weekend Warriors are in the Woods
Where there is heavy hunting pressure on weekends, there's a good chance that deer will be forced back to thick, remote escape cover. This could be at higher elevations in hilly country or in swampy thickets in low, flat terrain. Take this day to hunt for a wary buck in the backcountry, far from the road.

2. Primary Tactic:
Find the Escape Routes
Look for the sanctuaries and escape cover that bucks head to when hunting pressure is intense. You can hunt the hideouts or the routes leading to them. To find the latter, take out a topographic map or aerial photograph and look for funnels created by terrain and vegetation, such as brushy hollows, overgrown ditches, or sheltered saddles.

Pressured bucks will seek safety more than half a mile from vehicle access spots, in rough terrain and dense thickets of conifers, greenbrier, laurel, plum, honeysuckle, and grapevines. Swamps and overgrown clear-cuts are also worth checking. In general, look for cover so dense that you have to fight your way through it. Circle wide, get on the entrance points to these spots on the downwind edge before daylight, and wait quietly. You may have a buck show up that's more concerned about survival than breeding-at least on this Saturday.

3. Backup Plan:
Hunt Rut Rubs
Find a secluded or overlooked spot and search for fresh rubs made during the rut. Hunters associate rubs with the early season, but bucks also scrape the bark off trees and thrash them with their antlers when they are hooking up with does. They do so to vent energy and to declare their presence to other bucks in the vicinity.

Find rubs that are super fresh-ones that weren't there earlier in the season-and you've found a mother lode. Stake out a spot downwind of the newly blazed trees, and wait.

4. Don't Do This:
Hunt Easy Cover
There's no point in hunting accessible prime cover because so many hunters will be out now. Deer will be fleeing these spots or, in some cases, staying in thick brush until after dark.

5. Do This:
Turn Them On
When you're hunting fresh rut rubs, place doe-in-estrus scent near them in hopes of attracting their maker. You can also use buck urine and tarsal gland scent to rile up a buck's competitive instincts. For hunting sanctuaries, use cover scents.
Shhhhh
Use no calls at all for your primary tactic. You are trying to be invisible and ambush deer that are fleeing from other hunters. For your secondary approach, hunting rut rubs, use a doe bleat or make an aggressive, drawn-out series of buck tending grunts.

Rut Myth No 3: Does are Receptive for Less than 24 Hours.
The length of time that a doe will remain receptive is highly dependent on whether or not she is bred, according to recent studies. In one study conducted at the University of Georgia, biologist Lisa Muller found that unbred does remained in heat for an average of about 55 hours, but does that were allowed to breed stayed in heat for about 31 hours. Unbred does will undergo regular estrous cycles every 21 to 30 days and may continue to cycle up to seven times. This means that a doe could continue to come into heat until late winter or early spring, but this rarely happens in the wild. -K.V.M. [NEXT "The Situation: Big Bucks on the Move"]

NOVEMBER 25
This is the perfect hunting day. Thanksgiving is over, you're off work, and you can hit the woods early and remain until dark. The moon is in its last quarter and fading fast, encouraging whitetails to move during the day. Hunting is challenging, because there aren't as many deer left now, but some of the biggest bucks in the woods are on the hoof.

1. The Situation:
Big Bucks Are on the Move
Most does have been bred and have gone back to their core areas to rest and feed. A few females are coming into estrus, however, and the competition for them is intense, with mature bucks traveling hard and far, searching for the few remaining potential mates. You won't see as many as during the seek-and-chase phase, but there's a noticeable increase in action from the mating phase.

2. Primary Tactic:
Look for Fresh Sign
Now is the time to find newly activated scrapes near the edges of brushy, overgrown fields, doe bedding areas, and transition zones leading to major evening feeding spots. Bucks largely abandoned these signposts when the first does began to enter estrus, but as the number of ready mates dwindles, they start rechecking and freshening those pawed-out oval patches of earth.

As you examine scrapes, make sure there is a branch overhead where bucks can deposit scent. Also check that the area is not too close to a road. Bucks have become extremely wary by now and won't visit any in territory that hunters have been pounding. A promising one should be large and clear of leaves, indicating that a buck is tending it regularly. If possible, locate several in a cluster and set up downwind.

3. Backup Plan:
Glass and Stalk
With fewer bucks in the woods but activity beginning to pick up, this is a prime time for moving through semiopen areas with a combination of still-hunting and glassing and stalking. Use hills or ridges to glass fields overgrown with tall grass or sprinkled with cedars, low bushes, and plum thickets. Bucks like to travel in these areas, searching for late-cycling does, so scan them slowly.

Sneak along the edge of doe bedding spots and still-hunt near funnels, keeping your eyes peeled for traveling bucks. It can also pay off to scan brushy draws, stream bottoms, and overgrown swales in open fields. Late in the day, still-hunt through transition areas between doe bedding spots and feeding areas. Finish the day by glassing fields before dark.

4. Don't Do This:
Watch Rut Rubs
Bucks made those markers in the throes of the breeding game between mating sessions to release excess energy andove"]

NOVEMBER 25
This is the perfect hunting day. Thanksgiving is over, you're off work, and you can hit the woods early and remain until dark. The moon is in its last quarter and fading fast, encouraging whitetails to move during the day. Hunting is challenging, because there aren't as many deer left now, but some of the biggest bucks in the woods are on the hoof.

1. The Situation:
Big Bucks Are on the Move
Most does have been bred and have gone back to their core areas to rest and feed. A few females are coming into estrus, however, and the competition for them is intense, with mature bucks traveling hard and far, searching for the few remaining potential mates. You won't see as many as during the seek-and-chase phase, but there's a noticeable increase in action from the mating phase.

2. Primary Tactic:
Look for Fresh Sign
Now is the time to find newly activated scrapes near the edges of brushy, overgrown fields, doe bedding areas, and transition zones leading to major evening feeding spots. Bucks largely abandoned these signposts when the first does began to enter estrus, but as the number of ready mates dwindles, they start rechecking and freshening those pawed-out oval patches of earth.

As you examine scrapes, make sure there is a branch overhead where bucks can deposit scent. Also check that the area is not too close to a road. Bucks have become extremely wary by now and won't visit any in territory that hunters have been pounding. A promising one should be large and clear of leaves, indicating that a buck is tending it regularly. If possible, locate several in a cluster and set up downwind.

3. Backup Plan:
Glass and Stalk
With fewer bucks in the woods but activity beginning to pick up, this is a prime time for moving through semiopen areas with a combination of still-hunting and glassing and stalking. Use hills or ridges to glass fields overgrown with tall grass or sprinkled with cedars, low bushes, and plum thickets. Bucks like to travel in these areas, searching for late-cycling does, so scan them slowly.

Sneak along the edge of doe bedding spots and still-hunt near funnels, keeping your eyes peeled for traveling bucks. It can also pay off to scan brushy draws, stream bottoms, and overgrown swales in open fields. Late in the day, still-hunt through transition areas between doe bedding spots and feeding areas. Finish the day by glassing fields before dark.

4. Don't Do This:
Watch Rut Rubs
Bucks made those markers in the throes of the breeding game between mating sessions to release excess energy and