Hunting the 4th Quarter of the Rut
Those prime November deer hunting dates may have seemingly come and gone, but we are still very much in the 4th quarter of the whitetail rut cycle across a large portion of the country. While a large region of the U.S. sees primary rutting activity between the last few days of October and inside the first two weeks of November, the last two weeks of November can be pure magic.
You have to see the reality of the situation. Very few deer herds in America are perfectly balanced. Most of us hunt deer herds that feature a lopsided buck-to-doe ratio, which equates to more sporadic rutting activity. Meaning that most of us can see rutting activity trickling on into the month of December in the most extreme cases.
There is absolutely no set date in which does stop coming into heat and bucks stop chasing. Even if there was, late-November is still prime hunting. Yes, it's definitely the 4th quarter when it comes to rutting behavior, but that means we're still in the game.
If we're still in the game, that means that we can come up with a game-plan for success. Let's do just that.
1. Hunt the Ladies
Locate the does and you may just locate success in this 4th quarter of the rut. With hot does dwindling by the day, bucks are beginning to search long and hard for that last taste of the breeding season. Especially those older bucks who have been to the rodeo and back quite a few times. This means that those mature bucks are going to be hitting the areas in which does frequent. Locate those areas and you may be in the chips. Get close to doe bedding areas and food sources that feature heavy doe activity.
2. Get Tight to Cover
With bucks looking to scent-check those bedding areas and the thickest cover for that last hot doe, we want to be pretty close to those areas. Downwind, of course. We also have to remember that hunting pressure is on the rise in a major way in most states. With many gun seasons kicking off at the same time as the rut is trickling to an end, you can count on mature does heading deep into security cover. Big bucks will be doing the same thing, especially with that last taste of the rut on their minds. Hunt accordingly and get into your deepest cover locations during this phase. It's one of the only times during the hunting season that I prefer hunting right on top of the bedroom.
3. Pull the Long Hours
This is a consistent tip that I provide in my rut strategy articles, and it's for good reason. I hate to harp on the same point, but hear me out. If you have yet to fill a tag, you have to look at the remainder of the season like an hourglass with sand trickling away. Unless you are blessed to have a ton of food for the late season, your chances will be dwindling as the season goes on. Gun seasons roll through and turn the season on its head. Trust me, I know how miserable it can be to hunt hard during the cold and nasty days of late-November. Just think of that hourglass. I'd select a couple of great weather days in your forecast and pull all-day sits. I'm talking about packing snacks and not moving from your best spot. Mid-day hours can be some of the most productive during this phase, so don't bounce out early for a biscuit and coffee. Bring the goods with you and get comfortable.
4. Stay Aggressive
I'm a big sports guy, so I love sports analogies for this period of the season. We're calling this the 4th quarter of the rut, and football fans know what has to happen when you are down a touchdown in the 4th. It's time to throw your best Hail Mary. Go all-out in pursuit of that big buck. I'm going to try and do a bit of everything in this phase. Grunting, rattling and deploying scents. Those old warrior bucks on the march for that last doe can still be very responsive to calling and scents.
5. Find the Food Source
Our final tip is something of a double-edged tactic. It can be valuable for those of you who are still seeing rutting activity and for those who are not. Food is always going to play some kind of a role in deer hunting. If your deer are still rutting hard and looking for does, hunting a food source filled with does is always a sound idea. If it's looking more like the post-rut in your neck of the woods, the same applies. Deer are looking to replenish after the rut one way or another. You could catch that old bruiser browsing your food plot for that last hot doe, or you could find him coming to the dinner table to recover after a tough rut.
If you take nothing else from this article, please realize that this is not the time to quit. It may seem like a lost cause after a couple of months of tough hunting, but there are still some amazing days in late-November. In fact, I saw my highest single sit deer count on November 22, 2015. It was a magical day that yielded over 35 deer observable from my stand.
It may be the 4th quarter for a lot of us, but we aren't done yet!