November 6, 2012, Wisconsin bowhunter Dusty Gerrits (picture left) sat and waited on a 150-class buck he called Tiny. “We had pictures of Tiny on a scrape the morning before, so I set up right there,” he says.

Two small bucks showed early, but no Tiny. All of a sudden and out of the blue a giant rolled in! Not Tiny but bigger! “He pushed an 8-point off the scrape, but no shot,” says Dusty. Finally, he saw his opening and fired. The buck crashed 50 yards away. The monster netted 189 and change, at the time the new state record archery typical.

Regardless of weather, moon or other environmental factors, the vast majority of does in the northern two-thirds of America will be bred between November 6 and Thanksgiving. That was true 10 years…will be true this season…will be true 20 years from now.

November 5-8

Historically over many years, November 5-8 have been some of the top days to shoot a giant buck. A random check of the record book reveals that in some years, 10 to 15 Boone and Crockett bucks have been killed on November 8 alone. That many monsters are apt to be killed November 5-8 this year, so get out there soon if you can!

Why so hot? Most bucks haven’t bred a doe for a year. They wander around in a testosterone stupor, rubbing trees, checking scrapes, acting ornery, waiting on that first wave of does to pop into estrus any day now. These four days are some of the best of the year to see a giant on his feet in daylight. Take off work if you can!

Best weather: The cooler the air better, with a light to moderate wind out of the north or west. But since the bucks are out of their gourds and the sweet smell of does is so powerful, you are apt to see a big deer on his feet even if it’s in the 70s.

Top Stand: Scout back in timber, 100 to 150 yards off a corn, bean or alfalfa field, and zero in on spots with rubs, scrapes and doe trails. Set a stand where one or more ridges, points and draws converge and drop into a cover-lined creek bottom. Many of your resident bucks, as well some cruisers from a mile or two away, will swing though these corridors and funnels either trolling for does or chasing them–if not on the 5th, then maybe on the 6th or the 8th. Hunt a spot like this for 2 or 3 days in a row and I’ll put down money you’ll see a shooter.

Go-to tactics: While scrape hunting is always iffy, these are good days to try it, especially if you have recent cam pictures of bucks hitting a really hot scrape in daylight. It’s prime time for rattling, which works best in the mornings. Grunt at any buck you see, and he might turn into range. Hanging hot-doe wicks can’t hurt, and will help cover your scent.

November 15-17

If you’re off the week of November 9-14 hunt like mad because you might spot a big buck cruising or chasing anytime. It’s the rut man, and it’s all good! But these are the days of major “lockdown” in many places. Older bucks hook up with does and seem to go underground to have fun for 3 or 4 days. Shooter buck sightings decrease noticeably. If you hit it wrong, the woods can be like a tomb.

I think you’re better off to push your vacation back a few days if possible, until the 15th. Bucks that were locked down with does begin to free up and start roaming again. November 15 is when we start seeing a lot of bucks move here in Virginia.

Keep in mind, though, pressure. This is a big hunting week in most areas. There will be a troop of bowhunters in the woods in some areas, and an army of gun hunters out in other places. Obviously, the less pressure in your spot the better your chances.

Best conditions: At risk of sounding like a broken record, you want it cool to cold. But don’t let a heat wave stop you. One November in South Dakota I hit this rut phase just right. With the sun burning the prairie at 80 degrees, I stalked and sweated and shot a 5½-year-old 8-pointer tending a doe out in the open grass at 2:00 p.m. When you hit it just right, the power of the rut is amazing.

Top stand: Look for a timbered ridge flanked by a crop field on one or two sides and CRP, a cattail marsh or other heavy cover on the other sides. The more buck sign on the ridge the better. Heavy cover near your stand is crucial, because with any pressure at all in the area, old bucks will move in or near the thick stuff.

Go-to tactics: I back off rattling now because bucks have heard clashing antlers (both real and fake) for weeks. But keep grunting because those calls won’t spook deer, and to the contrary might pull a buck anytime. Don’t freeze out or burn out too early. Plan on getting to your post by 8:00 a.m. and hunt till dark; remember with the full moon, bucks should move best from 11:00 o’clock on, either on natural movement or pushed by a hunter. Be ready.

November 27

Most does have been bred, and bucks are tired and run down from chasing and eluding hunters. But those survivors know the chance to breed a doe won’t come around for another year. They prowl for the last five percent or so of does that might still be receptive. They move mostly at night and in cover, but a good buck might slip up at dawn or dusk, so be out there.

The day before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest hunting days of the year as family and friends get together and fan out across the woods. This is another reason to hunt. You never know where and when that pressure might drive a giant into your lap.

Best conditions: Hope for daytime highs in the 20s to 40, with lows in the 20s or teens. Light snow would be great.

Top stand: You’ll likely have a cold west or north wind, so set up on the east side of a hill or ridge where the wind is right, and where you can cover a wide swath of thick woods, marsh and/or a weed-choked field below. Watch for a buck cutting from one thicket to the next, hoping to run across a last hot doe—or sneaking from pressure.

Go-to tactics: Keep your grunt call handy. But now the best and only real tactic is to get set and be ready.  Stay positive and poised to react the second you catch a flash of thick tines in the cover below.  Your chances of tagging out on the 8th best day of November are better than you think.