The month of November is arguably the best time of year to kill a mature buck. It can be argued that other times are better (depending on circumstances), but in general, it’s hard to beat the month of November. Here’s a week-by-week breakdown of how you should hunt this month.
The first week of November is likely the best week of the year. Bucks are on the tail end of the pre-rut. Rubbing and scraping are peaking. Bucks are starting to look for does, but the ladies aren’t very receptive yet. Things are cranking up.
Now is likely the best time to hunt near scrapes. It’s likely the best time to use calling tactics, too. Set up in staging areas, near buck or doe bedding areas, saddles, pinch-points, funnels, etc. This is a great time to be in a treestand.
An important reminder — just because we’re in the rut doesn’t mean you should forget about the food. Food is still king even during the rut. Why? Does eat. Does will be where the food is located. And the bucks will be with the does. Grub is the key to your success, even during the rut.
Things are about to get interesting if not already. Some does have entered estrus. During these seven days is generally when the infamous lock-down phase takes place. That’s not a fun time to be a deer hunter, as most bucks don’t move outside a 100-yard stretch while with the doe. It’s tough hunting. And unless you somehow plant yourself in the action, all you can do is hunt through it and wait for it to be over.
Despite the lock-down phase, I still hunt like I did the latter half of the first week. Eventually, those bucks are going to leave those does in search of another. And when they do, they’ll be doing and behaving just as they were before — acting silly. If you do decide to try to fight the lock-down fire with fire, dive into some of the edges of the thickest brush in the area and hope a buck pushes a hot doe by your treestand.
All in all, the second week is pretty darn good. Personally, I’ve probably had better luck this week than any other in November. That said, it’s hit and miss. So don’t be (too) disappointed if you don’t immediately get in on the action. Be patient.
If the lock-down phase hasn’t happened yet, it’ll surely happen this week. But it should be over for the most part. The best thing to do during this week is the same as week No. 1. Use that same game plan. However, pressure has most certainly started to become more of a factor. Because of that, be extra careful not to alert deer.
During the rut, it’s all about improving the odds. The best way to do this? Be where the deer will be. Some additional good stand locations to sit are leeward (the downwind side of) ridges, crossings, trail intersections and near pockets of cover (brush piles, etc.) an around old homesteads.
Once the biggest wave of does are bred, bucks will revert back to more seeking and chasing behaviors as seen in late October and early November. They’ll also start checking scrapes more than they did during week No. 2. Keep that in mind as you continue to try to fill your deer tag.
The last days of November are here. It’s bittersweet. It’s bitter because we don’t want to see the rut leave us for another year. It’s sweet because everyone is dog-butt tired and ready to sleep in for the first time in a few months (unless you’re a late-season go-getter). Nonetheless, there’s still a little time left.
Interestingly, if you look at the trophy buck records, a very large portion of the largest bucks are killed during this period. Why? I’m not sure. Logic would suggest it would be the first or second week. Regardless, this is a great time for big-buck activity. Movement seems to wane with the younger 1½-, 2 ½- and 3 ½-year-old bucks. This is most likely due to the fact that they haven’t learned to pace themselves yet — it’s a long rut. But if you’re after truly mature deer, it’s a good time to be you.
I know I sound like a broken record, but the plan is the plan, and it’s an effective one. During the first half to two-thirds of this period, I generally operate the way I do during week No. 1 and 2. However, bucks have been pressured, so I often try to slink deeper into cover to help combat the slight decrease in daylight activity.
The last few days of November is a slightly different story. You can still get in on some good rut activity. But if you aren’t seeing any, it might be time to switch to your late-season plan. Or at least, it might be important to use a combination of your rut and late-season plans. Read the deer behavior and what they’re doing to get a feel for how you should hunt.
It takes grit to hunt hard throughout the rut, especially in tough, cold, grueling conditions. But you can get it done. You have to keep your head screwed on, though, or it’ll be easy to wave the white flag and declare the whitetail the winner. But even if you do, they gotta win sometimes, right? After all, it’s the challenge that keeps us coming back.