Many hunters spend their time in a treestand, anxious about their chance of harvesting a mature buck. Instead of enjoying the time outdoors, often their minds drift to friends who have already scored a buck. These intrusive thoughts feed into the fear of running out of time to make a successful shot on a mature buck, resulting in a harvested buck that was shot out of panic or a pocket full of unfilled tags.
Many hunters approach late-season hunting as an opportunity at one last shot to harvest a mature buck. Although the late season is a great time to harvest them, I prefer to enter the latter portion with a different outlook. Yes, late-season has advantages for harvesting bucks. However, I only hunt later in the year because I was unsuccessful earlier in the season. My efforts to bag a nice buck do not slack during October and November, yet sometimes unforeseeable circumstances prevent a harvest. When my plan doesn’t go as expected, I like to pause in late November, re-group, and then enter the latter part of the season, ready for a second chance.
The Second Rut
The second rut for whitetail deer typically occurs during the first weeks of December and is referenced as the time that does come into estrus a second time. Does that do not get bred during the first rut in early to mid-November, and those that do not come into estrus in time, also get a second chance.
A whitetail doe comes into heat for a twenty-four-to-thirty-six-hour period. If she is not successfully bred during that period, she regresses and will come back into heat a second time twenty-eight days later. The second breeding opportunity occurs during the prime of late-season hunting in December. During this stage, hunters can use the same tactics as the first rut in November, including grunt calls, scents, and lures to entice bucks.
Where To Find Bucks
It may sound simple, but when hunters ask where to find mature bucks during the late season, the answer is wherever the does are. In most areas of the country, December brings falling temperatures, requiring deer to consume more food than usual to increase their body heat. With an increased need for food, most deer will be found in spots where bedding areas and food sources are close together. A deer is like a human when it is cold—less movement in the cold results in less body heat loss. When it is cold, deer prefer bedding down to stay warm until it is time to eat again. The less time it takes to go from bed to food, the warmer a deer's body remains.
Since most of the does will be near food sources and bedding areas, these will also be the best spots to find mature bucks when the second chance does come back into estrus.
How To Hunt
When deer restrict their daily movement to a minimum to keep their body heat higher, hunting will likely not be as action-packed. When hunting during the late season, long sits are common.
Making long sits in a stand or blind quickly becomes the most challenging part of hunting during the latter part of the year. When temperatures are frigid, it is hard for a hunter to remain in the stand for an extended period before succumbing to the cold and heading for warmth.
Typically, most late-season stands or blinds are found overlooking a food source. Because most of the deer herd travels to the food, patiently sitting and waiting for a mature buck to show can reap the rewards. Hunters must wear a well-insulated garment when in the stand to be able to sit successfully for an extended period in chilly weather. ScentLok’s Bowhunter Elite:1 Series features the ideal garment for late-season sits. The BE:1 Voyage bibs and parka feature a deadly quiet, warm premium fleece fabric that keeps the hunter warm and dry during the harshest weather and can keep the hunter in the stand until that mature buck finally shows up.
Another excellent tactic for more extended sits in the cold is hunting inside an enclosed blind. A blind keeps the elements off the hunter and allows them to use a small heater inside to help beat the cold.
When sitting in a blind, ScentLok’s NEW BE:1 Blackout series is ideal for staying concealed. The Blackout series provides the ultimate concealment in dark areas, such as in a blind. The Blackout is available in the Voyage Jacket as well. Another option is the Reactor heated vest which provides an extra heat boost from a small battery pack, allowing the hunter to stay comfortable and focused during the hunt instead of worrying about the cold.