For practical purposes, this is the last rut report I’ll file for this hunting season (I do have an Alabama hunt scheduled for the end of next month, and I’ll file a report when I’m there). As I noted last week, the rut is a fading flower across much of whitetail range, and recent severe winter weather will put food at the top of the whitetail list of basic needs now.
That said, unbred does and a certain percentage of fawns will come into an estrous cycle this month. A few years back I noted a sudden spike in big buck kills around the 10th of December in my area. When I mentioned this to a hunting buddy he said “happens every year at this time. And if you do the math, it makes sense. We’re about one month past the peak breeding date.” Since does “cycle” about every 28 days, it did make sense and I was embarrassed I hadn’t figured it out on my own.
Though I have seen both breeding activity and buck fights in December, they have shared common traits; all have occurred in and around food sources, and not been long-lasting or widespread. The message? Knowing prime food sources is the key to killing a nice buck now, and any rutting activity you witness should be viewed as a bonus. Talking to friends in Kansas and Illinois this week verified that they face similar situations right now…Especially since the first major snow of the year has struck. This morning I awoke to 14″ of snow and howling winds. Its gonna be fun getting around in the days to come!
So what are you seeing in your area? Any chasing/fighting/breeding activity? What strategies do you employ as the rut dwindles?