Whitetail Hunting photo

Peak breeding has passed in some areas, such as the North Central and Northeast, while the best may be yet to come in South and Great Plains. For hunters in regions that are in the thick of breeding activity right now, aggressive tactics continue to reap rewards.

llustration by Mike Sudal

As pointed out by Great Plains reporter Steve Hill, rattling and calling can mean the difference between simply watching a fine buck and luring him in for a shot. A bump in the number of reports of bucks fighting and /or aggressively pursuing does means that simply waiting for a good buck wandering past your stand may pay off, but it’s simply not the best tactic. Prairie bucks are known for their large home ranges and willingness to respond to sights and sounds of other deer. If you’re not hitting the horns or calling to some of these deer, you’re not taking full advantage of all the tools that will work for you now.

The same can be said of the reports filed by West reporter Jeff Holmes, who notes that a sudden plummet in temps has bucks highly active and covering plenty of territory. Consequently, aggressive tactics can be highly effective now, including simply staying afield as long as possible. While deer are recognized for their crepuscular movement, cold temps combined with rutting behavior often has them on their feet at midday. Hunters are often reluctant to sit through the middle of the day, but in my experience, staying afield during every legal moment of shooting opportunity can result in some incredible action. Midday hunts may not yield as many deer, but when a buck does show, chances are it’s a great one. Holmes also notes the tendency for big bucks to push an estrous doe into oddball covers (that hunters often neglect); setting up with a view of such areas is a solid, but often overlooked, tactic as pre-rut action morphs into full-blown breeding.

South reporter Eric Bruce–who covers an area with more diversity in peak rut dates than any other–notes that now is the perfect time to rely on aggressive tactics like stalking a buck bedded with a doe, or placing a scent wick over a mock scrape. That latter move allowed Georgia hunter Shane Wilson to tag a great buck.

Bruce also notes that bleat calls—often associated with coaxing in early season whitetails—can be a killer tactic now. Does being pursued by bucks, but not ready for breeding, often look for other deer as a chance to lose the aggressive chaser, and a bleat may pull a doe—and the buck following her—toward your position. While it’s tempting to use a grunt call in this situation, it’s often the worst thing to do–the badgered doe will think your call is another buck and do her best to avoid the area.

Several reporters, including Mike Bleech in the Northeast and Will Brantley in the Mid-South noted that the hunting can still be solid even though peak breeding has passed. Remember, many bucks have been chasing does for a couple of months now, and not eating much in the process. Only mature bucks have the stamina to stay with that hunt. So while it’s likely you won’t see as many bucks in the immediate post-rut as you would weeks earlier, chances are, any one that you do see now will be big.