Get out there whenever you can, but definitely don't miss out on hunting these key dates
A good day to hunt is any day you can get off work. But knowing that some days will be better than others, I flipped through the calendar, analyzed moon phases, guessed the weather as best I could, and predicted when the hunting will be best this season.
Magical stuff happens on Halloween, so dress up in camo, paint your face and go bowhunting.
Best conditions: Compared to the last several years, we're having noticeably cooler and frostier weather for October, and let's hope the trend holds. A cold front followed by a few days of high-pressure with a light northwest wind and temperatures in the 35- to 55-degree range … if things come together on Halloween, you'll see deer moving and starting to rut.
With the new moon still on the dark side (47% illumination) I think you'll see the most does, and maybe a buck pushing a doe, from sunrise until 9:30 a.m. or so. Get settled on stand early and watch hard those first hours.
Top stand: A killer spot is near the corner of a woodlot where an overgrown pasture and a crop field merge. Bucks will run those diverse edges and fence rows, rubbing and scraping as they make for the feed in the afternoon. Some does and bucks will cut across the weed pasture, especially in the mornings, so watch for tines and flashes of hide out in the brush.
Go-to tactics: On morning hunts, grunt and light rattle to any bucks you see crossing the weed field. Calling remains a good if uncertain tactic for the next three weeks. In the afternoons, try a doe decoy. Stake her where she's visible in the cut crops 25 yards below your bow stand.
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Regardless of weather or moon phase, the majority of whitetail does in the northern two-thirds of America will be bred between November 5 and Thanksgiving. If you check the record books, November 6-8 have historically been top big-buck days within this window. That won't change this year.
Why is this week hot? Most bucks haven't bred a doe for a year. They wander around in a testosterone stupor, rubbing trees, pawing scrapes, acting ornery and waiting on that first wave of does to pop into estrus any day now.
If you check the record books, November 6-8 have historically been top big-buck days within this window.
Best conditions: Ditto like Halloween, hoping the cold and frost hold into early November. The cooler the days and the less the humidity, the better. A light wind out of the north or west is perfect.
On the weekend of November 6, the moon will be visibly rising leading into the full moon on the 8th. I like afternoon hunting around plots and other food sources these days. If it's frosty, the next three or four mornings, with the moon visibly setting, should be killer. Take off the week of November 5 and you'll be in good shape.
Top Stand: I love morning hunts back in the timber. Set a stand or blind where two or more ridges, points, and draws converge and drop off into a thick river or creek bottom. Resident bucks, as well some cruisers from a mile or 2 away, will swing though these corridors and funnels, either trolling for does or chasing them. Hunt a convergence like this for two or three days and I'll put down money you'll see a shooter.
Go-to tactics: While scrape hunting is always iffy, these are the days to try it, especially if you have trail cam pictures of bucks hitting a really hot scrape. Rattle from your convergence stand (7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on a frosty, still day is best). Grunt at any buck you see. Hanging hot-doe wicks can't hurt. Hang tough on stand until at least 11:30 a.m.; after the full-moon night, there's a good chance you'll see a flurry of deer movement in the midmorning hours.
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If you're off work this week, hunt as many hours as you can. It's the rut, man, and you never know when and where you'll see a big deer. Not to spoil the fun, but this is the start of major lockdown in some places. Older bucks hook up with does and seem to go underground to have their fun for three or four days. Shooter buck sightings can decrease noticeably. If you hit it wrong, the woods can be like a tomb.
This season I think you're best off to push your vacation days until November 15 if you can. For the next few days, some bucks that were locked down with does should begin to free up and start roaming again.
Keep in mind, though, the pressure. This is a big hunting week all across America. There will be many bowhunters in the woods in some areas, and an army of gun hunters out in other places. Try to hunt a spot where pressure is lightest.
Best conditions: I sound like a broken record, but you want it cool-to- cold for the best hunting. But don't let a heat wave stop you. One November 16 in South Dakota, with the sun burning the prairie at 80 degrees, I stalked and sweated and finally shot a 5½-year-old 8-pointer that was drooling and tending a doe out in the tall grass at 2 p.m. When you hit it right, the power of the rut is amazing.
From a moon perspective (last-quarter November 16), deer movement should be best in the afternoons. A North Carolina study found that of the four major phases of the moon, the most extreme deer activity occurs during the last-quarter, and specifically, during the last hour of light each day.
Top stand: Set a stand or blind on a timbered ridge flanked by a crop field on one or two sides and CRP, a marsh or other heavy cover on the other. The more deer trails on a ridge, the better. Heavy cover near your stand is crucial, because with the pressure of the last couple weeks, old bucks will stage and move in or near thick stuff before coming out to feed.
Go-to tactics: I back off rattling now because bucks have heard clashing antlers (both real and fake) for weeks. But keep grunting because those calls won't spook deer, and to the contrary might pull in a buck at any time. Don't freeze out or burn out too early. Plan on getting to your post by 8 a.m. and hunt till dark.
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Every year I hunt in several states in early December, from Kansas to Oklahoma to Virginia. Even though bucks are thin and tired from running does and evading hunters, I'm seeing good to great deer movement. There seems to be more late rutting activity in early December than ever before. Such good action, in fact, that the first week of the post-rut has become my most productive time to rifle hunt.
Best conditions: Now it starts to chill down for longer stretches at a time, for days or weeks, and this enhances deer movement. You might have heard about new studies that say weather doesn't have much effect on how and when deer get on their feet. Don't buy it; mature bucks move best on high-pressure days when it's 45 degrees (daytime high) or colder. Period. If you hunt this week, hope for highs in the 30s to low 40s, with lows in the 20s or teens.
While I don't focus as much on the December moon as I did on the rutting moon phases of November, the brightening waxing gibbous moon of December 4 to 6, rising to full on the 8th, could enhance the movement of hungry deer around fields and plots the last hours of daylight.
Top stand: In the afternoon, sneak in and hang a stand 100 yards or so off a corn or bean field, back in a thick funnel that leads out to crops where hungry does go to feed. Bucks are skittish, but they're ready and willing to hook up with one last doe. Hidden back in the cover in a new stand, you might get a crack at a buck as he checks the does during the last minutes of light.
Go-to tactics: Keep your grunt call handy, but leave the rattling horns at home. Lay an estrus-doe trail into your stand; a buck looking for a last doe might cut in and come in. While hunting the post-rut can be productive, the deer movement and patterns are unpredictable. Your best tactic is to stay positive and keep grinding. Your chances of tagging out on the last best days of the 2022 season are pretty darn good.
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