By Alex Comstock
Sweet November is finally here, and along with that there should be a number of big bucks hitting the ground over the coming weeks. Recently, I set out to dive a little bit deeper into how to put a rutting buck down in November by talking to renowned big buck killer, Jeff Danker. Jeff has a wealth of knowledge, and put down some great information on how to get a mature buck on the ground during this time of year.
Now that November is here, is there anything major that you’re changing with how you hunt compared to the last couple of weeks?
Jeff: The biggest thing that I’m changing is I’m moving trail cameras around, trying to collect the most recent information. I’ll get all my cameras over scrapes to get inventory of the bucks in my area. Once Halloween hits, I get way more aggressive with my hunting style. I’ll get deeper in the timber and use speed scouting to stay up to date on what the bucks are doing. In November, you can use sign to your advantage. If you can scout mid-day and figure out what the deer are doing, and where they are moving, you can kill a mature buck. Also, time in the stand is very important this time of the year. The time of the year is what kills big bucks, and the more time you spend in the stand with a good wind, the better chance you will have.
How aggressive are you attacking this time of the year?
Jeff: I’m getting aggressive, especially with hunting mornings. For morning hunts, I don’t worry about scrapes, rubs, etc., I only care about doe bedding areas. Getting on the downwind side of a known doe bedding area can produce great results, especially during that 9am-11am timeframe, when does are bedded, and bucks are cruising that downwind side checking for hot does.
Do you do much blind calling during the rut?
Jeff: I like to blind call the most during my morning hunts. Back in the day, I wouldn’t call as much. I’d still bring all my calls, and rattling antlers, but would be afraid to hit the horns together, and would just stare at them, and finally rattle in the late morning, but would never rattle anything in. What I’ve learned, and what has really worked well for me, is I really like to grunt at first light, and then I’ll do a rattling sequence. Before you call, make sure there aren’t any deer around you at all. I’ll also then rattle about every 30 minutes. Once lockdown hits, rattling can go out the door. The bucks stay with the does, and if they hear rattling, that will actually push them away from you, because they want to keep that doe safe and be alone with her. Something I have never done, but want to try, is I want to try using a fawn call when I see a buck locked with a doe to see if that fawn call sparks the mother instinct in that doe, and gets her to come check it out, which would in turn lead that buck that is locked down with her to me. Like I said, I’ve never had the courage to try it, but it is something I may have to give a try this year.
Do you ever find instances where decoying can be effective at this time of the year? If so, how do you employ one effectively?
Jeff: A decoy has gotten me in more trouble more than anything else. I love how it looks, and with that being said, it can work. The most important thing above all else is timing. The only time I like to use a decoy is that time of the year after the rut has been going on for a while, and does have been pestered so much they don’t go out in the open anymore. This is the best time because there won’t be as many deer out in the fields and in the open to ruin a decoy setup by blowing at it, or stomping around, or anything of that nature. Being able to identify this time of the year is key. When I do use one, I place it 5-10 yards away facing out, and only steak in the back two legs. It’s not the common method of placing it 25 yards away and having it face you. I’ve seen that most bucks will circle a decoy from the rear before squaring off, so by placing it facing away and close to you, if a buck circles and then locks up before squaring off, he will be twenty yards away, opposed to locking up 40 yards out.
Is there a timeframe during the first couple weeks of November that you usually see a flip of the switch with mature buck movement?
Jeff: The rut happens the same time every year, but what exposes daylight movement is the weather. Weather is key. I love hunting in and around high pressure systems, with cold temperatures. When good weather lines up with time of the year that is when you will find your best mature buck movement. The 7th-10th of November are my favorite days of the year and when there is a cold front or high pressure system moving through on those days, there can be great movement. If it’s warm, the rut still happens, but a majority of the activity will take place at night.
Do trail cameras play a role with how you hunt this time of the year at all?
Jeff: Mainly, trail cameras are used to collect inventory in the summer. I get inventory over corn in the summer of all the bucks on a property. Inventory is very important. I use the inventory I collect to identify the bucks that I want to hunt. They are the best tool you can use to shoot certain deer. During this time of year, I don’t necessarily hunt right where I have my cameras, but by knowing what bucks are around, I can then put other pieces of the puzzle together and hunt funnels, pinch points, etc. where I think those bucks are moving through in daylight.
If you could only give one piece of advice to somebody who wants to shoot a mature buck during the first week of November, what would that be?
Jeff: Time in the stand. All day sits can be productive, when you have a good wind. Time will kill big bucks. If you are in a stand, and then go get down and eat lunch, you miss that 10-2 period where bucks can be out cruising downwind of doe bedding areas. When you get down, your putting pressure on your property by walking through it, and then getting scent on you during lunch, and putting more pressure on the property when you walk back to your stand. If you hunt in a high pressure area, people will push deer to you if you are sitting all day. I’m very conscious of the wind though, and if it changes on me, I won’t stay in the same stand. That’s when I’ll get down, and get to a different stand with a good wind. At the end of the day, in November, time in the stand is what ultimately kills big bucks.
– Alex Comstock, Whitetail DNA
If you’d like to learn more from Jeff, be sure to listen to Episode #15 of the Wired To Hunt Podcast, featuring Jeff Danker and a deep-dive into how he hunts mature deer. Or check him out on Buckventures The Woodsman, on the Sportsman Channel