Deer behavior: Post-rut begins most everywhere, but there is still more breeding going than you think. If you get lucky and find one of the last receptive gals, you’re apt to see one or more bucks following The does that have been bred transition back to food plots, fields, browse, and other food sources. Bucks are tired, spooky and largely nocturnal; the colder it is this week, the more likely you are to see a buck in daylight hours.
Key sign: Primary doe trails, buck tracks, fresh rubs, reactivated scrapes
Science fact: Research of collared bucks from Maryland to Texas shows that 20 to 40 percent of mature bucks continue to make long trips out of their core areas in the post rut in search of the last hot does.
Hot Spot: By now most crop fields have been picked clean, but it doesn’t take a lot of feed to attract rut-weary deer. Find a little food and find a lot of deer. Set up near a field edge with feed, water, funneling terrain, and thick cover where weary, pressured bucks can hide, but where they also opportunistically hook up with a last hot doe that comes off the feed.
If you hunt big woods, public or private, miles from the nearest crops, you won’t see nearly as many deer, none some days. To have a chance of punching your tag you must find and watch what little food/cover mix is left for a buck: greenery on the edge of a power line or in a cutover; a few remaining nuts in a second-growth oak flat; browse near a cedar swamp. A spot like that.
Hot tactics: Keep re-checking areas with scrapes that you found back in early November, and hunt in the vicinity of any with new activity…lay an estrus-doe trail into your stand; a buck on a last hook-up mission might cut it and come in…if you hunt private ground where the pressure has been relatively light all month, try rattling in the mornings; studies show the post rut is one of the best times to pull in a 4½-year-old buck…don’t miss a day if the temperature dips into 20s or teens because some bucks will hit the feed early in daylight; when it warms back up, they’ll go nocturnal again. Good luck!