It's still peak breeding in most of the Midwest, but big bucks are cruising again as we enter the late rut
Historically, most Midwestern does are bred sometime between Nov. 10 and 20, with a peak around Nov. 15. We're past that now, and might even be toward the tail end of the peak breeding window.
That's not a bad thing, though. As fewer does are receptive, bucks will be forced to start cruising more. Many younger bucks are tuckered out, but some of the bigger boys have juice left in the tank. Be there when they walk by your treestand.
In Iowa, Midwest Whitetail's Bill Winke hasn't been hunting much, but he has been doing a lot of scouting. I am still seeing bucks alone, but generally they are out in open country, like CRP, Winke says. Most are locked down with does.
Hunt United co-host Slade Priest has been hunting in northeastern Missouri, where he says they are 100% in lockdown mode. I'm only seeing young bucks, Priest says. Does are getting harassed like crazy. Calling is working well, though. I rattled in the only decent mature deer I saw, and he died.
Tyler Jordan has been in Kansas, and he's seeing some pretty crazy rut action. He tagged a big buck that was between does, and he encourages hunters to get in a tree … now.
The deer are running pretty hard, Jordan says. A lot of chasing, and bigger bucks [were] locked down this past week. We got lucky. Our deer came off his doe that morning sometime. It was the first time we had him on camera in three days. Saw new bucks we had never seen before for three straight days. Exciting times, but I think lockdown is in full effect, too.
Own the Season co-host Art Helin is also in Kansas, and he's been there for several days. He's mostly seeing small bucks and fawns.
Big deer are on lockdown or nocturnal, Helin says. Cameras are showing mature deer, but very little daytime movement.
Realtree pro staffer Carl Drake hunts all over the Midwest, and he's seeing the exact same thing. He also is seeing young bucks and lone fawns, and believes they are in lockdown. Scrapes are going cold, and big deer aren't hitting travel-route trail cameras.
Of those I contacted, Backwoods Life's Kevin Knighton is the only hunter reporting non-peak-breeding activity. Currently, he's in Illinois.
I saw three does, each with a fawn still in tow, Knighton says. I saw a 3-year-old buck cruising midmorning. Then, an anxious 2-year-old chased a doe at 4 p.m. Several other hunters here in camp saw some monsters out cruising for does. Our fingers are crossed that rut activity continues to crank up.
Personally, I mostly hunt Kentucky and Ohio. I've been seeing a lot of cruising, chasing, and breeding. I've seen seven different mature bucks tend does in the past week, and even some breeding action. One hot doe brought four bucks in tow.
Some say this is a difficult time to hunt, and you either have an estrous doe near you, or you don't. That's true. But many people have a misconception of the lockdown phase. Sure, that's when the bulk of does are in estrus, and bucks are bedding up with these does. But that doesn't mean you won't see a mature deer up on its feet cruising. I've seen numerous mature deer without does in the past week.
As expected, Nov. 10-20 has offered the best true rut activity of the year, and that's to be expected. It happens about the same way every year. If you haven't been hunting lately, get out there before all of the ruttiness cools off until next season.
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