I spent the morning checking a few trail cameras, and the photos I got confirmed what I suspected: while there may be some late breeding activity happening, the rut has severely tailed off. The prime evidence for me consists of photographs like the one above: three bucks hanging together at a food source. My camera captured the two bucks in the foreground sparring for a few moments after this shot, but after the gymnastics they re-focused on their main purpose, which was eating a bunch of soybeans.
Most of my contacts in the region report a similar scenario, especially after the first winter storm of the season hit us over the weekend. Though most places received only a moderate snowfall, areas just north of me were socked with 16 inches of snow. This type of storm event can throw whitetails into a mini-panic that has them rethinking cover, food and movement. In short, deer will relocate to dense-cover bedding areas that are close to a good food source, which they’ll visit regularly. This strict bed-to-feed routine will last for several days (assuming temps stay cold) and result in some excellent hunting.
With the dates of peak breeding almost exactly a month behind us, I expect to hear the first reports of secondary rutting activity any day now. Every year a hunter or two asks me “How do I get in on secondary rutting action in my area?” and every year my answer is the same: “Stick with the best food sources, and the rut–if it’s going to happen–is going to find you!”