LOCK ONTO SECLUDED COVER DURING THE LOCKDOWN PHASE
Like the so-called “October lull,” the “lock-down” phase of the rut is often…misunderstood. Everyone thinks bucks vanish during the lockdown. Well, bucks do move less while courting a doe and, therefore, they are harder to kill. They aren't acting as crazy as they were a day or two before. But that doesn’t mean they don’t move at all. It just means you have to know where and how to find them.
HUNT HOT COVER
Does in estrous, or nearing it, don’t like being around other deer. They temporarily abandon their fawns. They avoid contact with other does in the family group. They shy from pursuant bucks. That’s why they retreat to odd places that provide sanctuary, such as: grassy drainages, ditches, brush piles, etc. Look for estrous does—and the mature bucks courting them—in these places.
FOCUS ON FAMILY
A buck will usually only spend a day or two (sometimes three) with a doe. Once it’s done breeding that doe, it’s on to the next one. They’ll travel from doe group to doe group in search of the next receptive female. Knowing where different doe family groups frequent can be key to your success.
GET VERY VOCAL
Most mature bucks already have does. Forget trying to lure bucks in with doe estrous and doe vocalizations. Mimicking does won’t work. Instead, mimic bucks. Use aggressive and challenging calling tactics such as the buck growl, snort wheeze, and rattling. Most mature deer won’t be able to resist confronting an intruder buck. That said, you must get close to the buck and bedded doe to accomplish this task. It won’t leave the doe unprotected for very long.
OPERATION STILL HUNT
Still hunting is a great tactic for finding game when game doesn’t seem to want to come to you. Slowly work through a doe bedding areas as you look for movement. If that doesn’t produce, do the same in places you wouldn’t expect to see a deer, such as the secluded pockets of cover mentioned above.
SPOT AND STALK
Some regions of the country are easier to spot and stalk in than others. That aside, if you have a good vantage point, use it. Get as high up as you can and glass. If you see a deer bed down, play the wind and begin the stalk. If you see deer dash out and run into cover but don’t see them bed down, start still hunting from the last location you saw them. An estrous doe likely won’t go too far before bedding down. She won’t want to attract attention if she’s already with a buck.
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Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.