Post Rut Tactics

Posted by: Jordan Howell on Dec 4, 2012
Page 1 of 3

So it is December. That means that unless you live in the far southern reaches of the country, the whitetail rut has come and gone.  Like the whitetail breeding phase, you may think that your best chance to tag a big buck is over. After all, isn’t the late season just a time to fill the freezer? That depends on who you ask. Many of the most successful big buck hunters out there will tell you that the late season can be your best chance at bagging a monster buck. How so?  Well let’s look at some of the tactics and then you decide for yourself if you can have a successful season after the rut is over.

Food, Food, Food

After whitetail bucks have spent the entire rut chasing does, fighting off other bucks, and barely eating or resting, their focus changes dramatically.  The rigors of the rut, coupled with trying to avoid hunters leaves a mature buck in the worst physical shape of the year.  Both his fat reserves and muscle mass will have been diminished.  That’s not a good thing with winter threatening to knock down the door.  So, in order to survive a buck must replenish his fat reserves and restore muscle mass as quickly as possible.  Thus, in the late season, bucks become slaves to their stomachs. Consuming as many carbs, proteins, and fats as possible is their number one priority.  Therefore, finding the hottest food source around is the ticket to success during the post-rut.

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Food plots that attract during the early season and the rut are great, but don't neglect late-season "favorites"...your success may depend on it. 

Deer begin flocking to high quality food sources when the mercury starts to dip.  An ideal location would be a standing soybean or corn field, or a small brassica plot.  All three provide the deer with what they need at this crucial time of year.  Soybeans contain a lot of protein for rebuilding muscle mass, while corn and brassicas such as turnips provide a lot of carbohydrates, which the deer can use for energy and also turn into fat stores.  The colder the temperature, the more deer need to feed.  It takes a lot of energy simply to stay warm when it is frigid outside.  Deer burn a lot of calories in winter, so they constantly need to replace them.  Mature bucks are in even more need of this than other deer, since the rut takes the greatest toll on them.  I have actually found that mature bucks are often some of the first deer to enter a field when it is brutally cold out; contrary to what we know about a big buck's nature. The key to hunting them successfully lies in first locating the best food source available, and then hunting smart.

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Jordan Howell

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Garden Prairie, IL
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