By Mark Kenyon
Once November 1st hits, my internal countdown clock begins, ticking away each day that passes without killing a buck, and each day driving me further and further into a mild panic. And I know I’m not the only one.
A lot of us have been programmed to believe that the first two weeks of November are our absolute best chance to kill a buck all year, and if it doesn’t happen then, it might not happen at all. But that is far from the truth.
In fact, these next two weeks, the second half of November, can be a prime time for opportunity as well. That said, here are a few ideas on how to get it done during the back half of Sweet November.
Across much of the country, Mid-November is looked at as the “lockdown” period, when many bucks are locked down with a specific doe that is ready to breed. When this type of behavior peaks, the actual daylight movement that hunters see goes down, as most bucks are paired with a doe and not needing to travel all day in search of a new one. That said, over the next few days, it’s likely that many hunters will be experiencing this type of situation. So how can you get it done during the lockdown?
In short, stick to your basic rut principles (hunting funnels and doe bedding areas), but with one adjustment. Consider getting tighter to the thick stuff.
In many cases, when a buck is locked down with a doe, he’ll try to push her into some type of thick cover and keep her there until he’s done with her. Within that cover though, they might move around a bit. If you can get into an area like this with a hot doe and buck, you’ve got a great chance. On the other hand, if you’re out in an open travel corridor and all the bucks are locked down, you’re going to be in for a slow sit.
That said, if you can’t get into this type of cover, your traditional rut stands can still produce, but don’t be surprised if you need to sit a lot of slow hours until you finally catch a buck back on the move. None-the-less, anything can happen at this time of year, so stay in the tree.
Cruising – Part II
Speaking of staying in the tree, as we push a little later into November, the lockdown period will wrap up, the number of does in estrous will decrease, and bucks will again need to get moving to find a female. This time period can be one of the absolute best chances you’ll get at a mature buck, as the older deer seem to be the ones getting after it the most at this point.
This last week to 10 days of November will see an increase in cruising behavior from bucks, similar to what you might have seen during the first week of the month, even during the midday. So if you can, get in a tree and stay there all day at this time. And as mentioned earlier, this again is a time to hunt those travel corridors and downwind edges of doe bedding areas. Scraping activity also picks up again at this point, so keep an eye out for fresh sign too. This is a time of year I’ve really come to look forward to. So if you need to pick and choose your times, this is a period I’d prioritize.
Pivot With Hunting Pressure
Another thing that some hunters have to deal with during mid-to-late November is the opening of firearm season in many states, and with the firearm season comes a dramatic increase in hunting pressure. If this is the case where you hunt, one of the best tactics you can employ at this time is to simply hunt where no other hunters have been. With firearm hunters flooding the woods, deer will congregate anywhere they can get away from that pressure.
If you happen to know where a hard to reach patch of cover is or have been keeping pressure off a specific property, now is the time to get in there and take advantage of the fact that other hunters have pushed a disproportionate number of deer into this smaller area.
If any lesson has been hammered home for me this year, it’s that anything, truly anything, can happen during the rut – so never give up! Even though the famed first two weeks of November are behind us, there are plenty of opportunities ahead of you still. So get back in the tree and keep on hunting. If you stay at it, good things can happen. Just keep grinding.
Looking for more advice on this late November period? Check out the two articles linked below.