Draper: Stay Positive During the Post-Rut

Rut Reporter David Draper grew up hunting deer and small game throughout this region and presently lives on a family farm in Nebraska. Draper, former communications specialist for Cabela's and an authority on the Great Plains, subsists on a diet of duck breast and venison. States covered: ND, SD, NE and KS.
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Dec. 6--Overall Activity Status:** We're in post-rut here on the Great Plains, which, much like pre-rut, means deer activity is spotty throughout the region. It also means, like pre-rut, it's a great time to intercept a big buck, and maybe your last chance of the year to do so.

Fighting: Not a lot of fights going on in the woods. Bucks are keeping to themselves and recovering from the rigors of the rut. That's not to say rattling isn't a good tactic right now, as some bucks might curious enough to check out a fight in the hopes a late estrous doe is in the area.
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Scrape making:** No fresh scrapes have showed up for a few weeks, but sitting on a previously hot scrape might reveal a buck out cruising in the hopes of finding a hot doe jump starting the secondary rut. Scrapes near high energy food sources are particularly good in the late season.
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Chasing:** As cold weather descends on the region, deer are hitting the corn, sunflower and soybean fields hard. This has forced bucks and does together, which has resulted in some chasing.
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Daytime movement:** Rifle hunters hit the woods in Kansas last week and muzzleloader season opened in Nebraska, putting more hunters in the fields. This, along with the cold and snow, has deer moving at all hours, either from hunter pressure or the need to feed.

Estrous signs: Does that weren't bred last month can go into estrus again in December. I expect hard evidence of the secondary rut to start showing up any day now, especially as a few reports of half-hearted chasing and big bucks seen out cruising have trickled in lately.
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X Factor:** Conventional wisdom says the rut is the best time to kill a trophy, but I'd say late-season is underrated when it comes to big-buck encounters. For the first time since early October, bucks fall into predictable patterns, offering a chance to intercept them between bed and feed. The secondary rut, if it occurs in your area, makes bucks vulnerable as well. It's a great time to be in the woods and my favorite time of the year to hunt.