These are the last days of pre-breeding and into the breeding stage. You’re apt to see a buck prowling with his nose to the ground (with or without a doe in sight), chasing a gal flat-out, standing over a doe and guarding her, or even mounting one. Studies show that most mature does come into heat around November 7 or 8, and 80 percent of them will be bred over the next two weeks. If you suddenly stop seeing bucks on the move, the “lockdown” has begun; mature 8- and 10-pointers have moved receptive does away from competing lesser bucks and carted them off to thickets where they’ll shack up for a couple of days. This might occur later in this week.
Key sign: Well-trampled doe trails, buck tracks (3 to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide).
Moon: Look for midday buck movement to pick up later in the week as the full “rutting moon” comes on
Science fact: Studies show that most mature bucks leave their home ranges during the peak rut and go on doe excursions; some of those trips last one to three days and cover one to five miles. So the big buck you’re hunting might leave for a bit—but a bigger one you’ve never seen might show up. Hang tight and hunt.
Top stands: Try a timbered ridge flanked by row crops on two sides, or, better, grain on one side and CRP, a swamp or other heavy cover on the opposite border.
A great all-day stand for gun hunting is a point-to-point crossing. Hang a lock-on or ladder just inside a strip of trees that juts out into a weed field and creates a pinch with the timber on the far side of the field. Bucks trolling for or chasing does will move all day in this type of cover.
Hot tactics: Lay a hot-doe trail into your stand, remove boot pads or drag line, hang it 4 feet off the ground, and juice it some more; you can’t put too much “eau de doe” in the air now…. Keep rattling; you might call in nearly as many bucks this week as last…. Blow urrrp, urrrp, urrrp or urrrg, urrrg, urrrg for 10 to 20 seconds or longer on your grunt call; sound throaty and gurgling, like a horny buck tending a doe…
BEST TACTIC: Sit in a good stand all day, you might shoot your buck anytime…. Even if you don’t see a shooter one day, come back tomorrow and the next day; a big buck on a doe excursion might not be on your land every day, but he’ll swing through eventually—be there when he shows.