-By Randy Cooper
“The rut is over and I didn’t get a buck, now what am I going to do?” This is what I’m hearing over and over right now. They could call in a psychic. Better yet, these hunters could simply “stay in the groove,” get back to the basics and not feel that the season is over because they didn’t score during the rut. The rut is THE time when bucks go from survival mode to Romeo, throwing caution to the wind. They do really crazy things during this time and get very careless, which gets them killed.
What I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks is almost all the scrapes I’ve been watching have gone cold and filled with dead leaves. I’m still getting pictures of bucks visiting the scrapes as well as does, but not the kind of frequency as a month ago. Food sources are still good and water oak acorns are still falling like the leaves. Bucks are with does in Georgia right now. In two weeks (the first of December), the does that either didn’t get bred or didn’t conceive during the first rut will once again come into estrous. I’ll see a flurry of activity and the scrapes that are being ignored now will open up again; it will be the chase phase all over again only not as pronounced.
If I still don’t score during the second rut, a third will take place around Jan.1st. Now is a good time to do some in-season scouting. The areas you’ve been afraid to look at for fear of bumping a buck are places you should look now. Be extra cautious and use all of your scent elimination techniques. These bucks, love sick as they may be, aren’t stupid. If you make the careless mistake of blundering into a bedding area and scaring him off, or touch a rub with your naked hand, you probably won’t see that buck again. You have just educated him that YOU are in his home. They are a little distracted, but they’re not in a coma. You still can’t get away with being sloppy.
Look for rub and scrape lines that will tell you the general pattern the bucks are using in the places you’ve wanted to see. Don’t be afraid to move your stand to an area that looks like it is getting a lot of attention. Hunters, including myself, get complacent and will hunt one stand to death rather than move it or try somewhere else. Rotate hunting different stands and don’t let the deer pattern you. Use different approach trails if you can so that deer don’t detect a scent at the same place every time they pass that area. Does will continue to browse, so a good bet is to look for food sources and the trails that lead to them. Everywhere the doe goes now, the buck will follow. Putting up a stand along one of these trails is a good tactic late in the season.