Across much of whitetail range, peak breeding is largely over. I’ve talked to friends in New York, Ohio and North Dakota, and their recent observations mirror mine; the majority of the does have been “tended to”, the smaller bucks are getting tired out, and the big boys aren’t quite as visible as they were in past weeks.
Of course there are exceptions. In areas like Texas and Alabama, the main event has not even started. In fact, I’ve managed to wrangle an invitation from a friend in ‘Bama for the latter days of January, when chasing and breeding often peaks. I’m excited about the hunt, though I’ll confess that has as much to do with hunting where I don’t have to dress like a Stay-Puf marshmallow to endure a sit!
Though the breeding season is on the downswing, I’m not calling it quits. In fact, for the next three days I’ll be revisiting the same Iowa farms that had me shuffling through my tag soup recipes after an early-November hunt. Three factors–all rut-related–have me excited about the trip. First, good deer numbers lead me to believe that some does have not been tended to, and the chances of encountering some late-cycling does are decent. Second, mature bucks are usually the last to give up on the rut and will continue seeking when their younger counterparts are done. And finally, I’ve learned that the corn harvest has progressed some. This will force many deer back into the timber where I’ll have a greater chance at encountering them. With these factors in mind, I’ll be hunting the edges of these cut cornfields.
When I’ve hunted the waning days of the rut in the past, I’ve seen most of my best action in and around food sources. As mentioned above, the bulk of the deer are tired from chasing (and being chased) and are getting serious about eating again. And those few big boys still out on the prowl? They’re usually looking for action near the food….which is right where I’ll be.
So how are things looking in your area? What tactics do you use at this time of the season, when the circus atmosphere of peak breeding is coming to a close?