The rut is tailing off and you’ve been hunting hard all season. The temptation to sleep in can be strong.
Don’t give in. This is a critical day on the rut calendar for two reasons.
First, many does might already have been through estrus, but certainly not all of them. And only mature bucks have the stamina necessary to search for the last of these late-cycling does.
Second, the activity of other hunters is your ally today. With gun seasons in full swing across much of the country and a long holiday weekend in store, you’ll have company in the woods. If you can adapt to that impact, this is a prime day to wrap your tag on a trophy.
If your area receives light hunting pressure, focus on ambushing a buck that’s searching for a doe. Set up in connecting covers–those places that allow a buck to cruise from bedding area to bedding area expending little energy and in a covert manner. This last detail is important because bucks will not limit their movement to the prime hours of morning and evening. Your trophy is as likely to walk that fenceline splitting a huge CRP field at noon as he is at dawn. He’ll cover that low ridge between two swamps just when you’re thinking about a morning coffee break. Or he’ll slide along that creekbottom winding through a clear-cut about the time your favorite college team is kicking off.
This day resembles the early seeking phase, so rattle every half hour and follow every sequence with a series of grunts. Visualize a lone trophy looking for does. He hears your fight and adjusts his path to swing toward the sound of other deer. Because he’s tired and needs confirmation, throw in a snort-wheeze if he hangs up on the way in. The challenging call of another mature buck will be all he needs to commit.
If you’re not alone in the woods, take out an aerial photo and circle areas where most hunters park and hunt. Now look for extremely dense cover that lies between the circles. That’s where deer will seek refuge, and where you’ll hunt.
Place a treestand on a high vantage overlooking the sanctuary and bring good binoculars. Deer will be entering the zone throughout the day, and you need to stay vigilant. I’ve lost count of the instances where I’ve set up in security cover and watched a buck tend a doe as I listened to distant, frequent gunfire. If you want a buck, stay away from the TV and get on stand.