Calling Deer After the Rut

By Brodie SwisherDecember 9, 2019

The rut is over, and deer hunters across the country are turning their attention to other things.

That is exactly why I love deer hunting after the rut. The days of December can be some of the most productive times in the deer woods as many hunters quit chasing bucks and turn their attention to ducks or other interests. Some of my favorite hunts have taken place well after those sacred days of November have come and gone. And despite what many hunters think, calling can be a very effective tactic, even after the prime days of the rut have dwindled. Here’s a look at how deer calling after the rut can work in your favor.

whitetail buck looking

Do you try calling deer after the rut, or hang up the calls until next season?  (Photo by National Park Service)

The Numbers Game

You remember how back in the day when a new girl showed up at school? If she was a hottie, she’d have every boy on campus following her around trying to get a shot with her. She was a fresh face, and a new opportunity for love. And every dude knew it. Such opportunities were few and far between.

It’s no different with bucks and does. When a hot one shows up in the woods, you can bet every buck in the area will know it. Unbred does from November will cycle again in December, and again in the following months if not bred. This is where the magic happens in the deer woods.

My buddy, Rhett Braham, was hunting on December 9th when he watched 7 bucks walking single-file behind a hot doe that came through. The bucks were lined up smallest to biggest. Rhett shot the 7th buck that stepped into his shooting lane. One hot doe came through and had every buck in the area in tow.


You’ll often find younger does cycling in December, or even January, and you can bet any bucks in the area will know about it.

Tell the Story with Your Calling

My December calling routine tends to look much like it would in November. Why? Because the story is much the same as it was back in November. I’m trying to entice a buck with the lure of love. My go-to calls for after the rut are a grunt call, can call and plastic Walmart sack for creating the sound of running/crashing/scraping in the leaves. I was hunting after the November rut last year in Tennessee when I watched a spike buck chase a doe back and forth across the ridge all morning. Finally, a nice buck picked up on the grunting and crashing in the leaves and headed in to check things out.

The buck was heading over the ridge with his nose to the ground following their trail when I grunted a loud grunt to get his attention. When he stopped, I gave another couple softer, tending grunts before going in to running the can call. He began his march in my direction as soon as he heard it. Every time he’d stop to listen, I’d tip the can over again. He couldn’t handle the idea of missing out. He marched up to 18 yards before I let the arrow fly.

The bottom line is, you are trying to tell a story with your calls. You’ve got to paint a picture in that bucks mind. Let him know that he is missing out on the time of his life just one ridge away.


Bowhunting.com’s, Justin Zarr, with the new True Talker OG grunt call from Hunter Specialties.

Be a Lover, Not a Fighter

A lot of guys want to go back to banging the antlers in hopes of calling up a deer in the late season. For me, it’s produced mixed results. I’ve had much greater luck with presenting the image of a doe that’s ready to be bred. Given the option – loving or fighting – he’s gonna chase the doe most every time. The key at this time of year is to make his approach as easy as possible for him. Make it a no-brainer when he hears your calls. Don’t give him any variables that might cause him to duck out. Try calling close to bedding areas to catch a cruiser as he’s making the rounds. If you can land the sound of your calls on his ears, chances are he’ll be headed your way.


What calls do you count on after the peak of the rut has come and gone?

Calls That Work

Can-Style Call – As mentioned, a can-style estrous bleat call is what worked the magic on the buck mentioned above. I know there are plenty of skeptics out there as for the legitimacy of a can call. The bottom line is, it works. No, it won’t work every time. No call will. But I’ve pulled my fair share of bucks into bow range with a can.


HS Estrus Bleat

It’s easy to use, fits in your pocket, and is an inexpensive call to pull off the store shelf. The Adult Doe Estrus Bleat from Hunter Specialties is a medium-size call that produces the sound of an adult doe in estrus. It’s got plenty of volume and works well throughout the rut. It’s a super easy call that anyone can master and produce great sounds.

True Talker OG

True Talker OG

Grunt Call – The True Talker OG is a new and improved call that gets its roots from way back with one of the most popular deer grunt calls of all time – the True Talker. It features the original materials and design of the first True Talker ever produced. A soft rubber exterior for added grip and rubber sleeve over the bellow/grunt tube allows for the manipulation of volume, tone and direction of the call sound.

Like True Talkers of the past, the OG produces mature buck grunt, young buck grunt, doe bleat and fawn bleat sounds. As an additional feature however, the True Talker OG features an improved reed design which not only is extremely resistant to freezing up, but produces a fifth sound – an aggressive “growl” sound for gaining the attention of aggressive mature bucks.

Calling Deer After the Rut – Conclusion

Can you still call deer after the rut? Absolutely! Is it a high-odds opportunity? Not a chance. But the key is to tell the story of opportunity for any bucks on the move and in search of unbred does in the area. You make him think she’s in front of your stand, and you’ll go home with a buck in the back of your truck.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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