The primary rut is about over, and the bucks should start cruising again
The past 10 days have been filled with locked-down bucks and does. At least, that's what the scientific data suggests. If you look to virtually any state throughout the region, and even some outside of it, such as Kentucky and parts of the Northeast, wildlife biologists have produced data that proves the bulk of does conceive during the middle two weeks of November, and especially November 10-20. Some does peak a little earlier, or a little later, but virtually all fall somewhere within that window.
Of course, some does become receptive much sooner, such as in late October or early November, while others might not enter estrus until late November or early December. Doe fawns that reach the weight threshold necessary to breed might not cycle in until January. Still, 95% (perhaps more) of does complete their estrus cycle sometime within that 10-day period.
So, are 2021 in-the-field encounters supporting that data? Based on my experiences and others, yes. I've witnessed some serious chases in the past week, had trail camera photos of bucks in hot pursuit, and even witnessed several mature bucks bedded down with does.
That was all in the past week or so, though. If the timing of things stays consistent to historical data, we can expect the activity to begin changing quite rapidly. Now entering the last leg of the primary rut, we'll still see classic rut behavior in the coming days. But it won't be as frequent, or as crazy, as during the first two-thirds of the month.
Furthermore, most young bucks are running out of energy, and so their rutting enthusiasm will be much less than it's been over the past month. On the flip side, mature bucks have experience, and they've saved a little gas in the tank to finish out the rut strong. The record books support this, as a high percentage of top-end deer are tagged during the latter days of the rut.
What does all of this mean for this weekend, and the coming week? A lot. First, if you still have a tag, keep hunting. Contrary to what social media might have you believe, there are still a lot of bucks roaming the landscape.
Furthermore, many of these deer are still moving during daylight hours. You just have to be there when they do. Given that many does have already been bred, expect bucks to start cruising a little more than they have the past 10 days, looking for end-of-rut breeding opportunities. This behavior might only last another week or so, but you can bank on it happening.
The best news of all? We have another cold front pushing through in the next couple days. And then another next week. Regardless of rut activity, I think the daylight action will be good. If you're still seeing plenty of movement on your trail cameras, focus on those areas. If not, find pockets of cover and food that haven't seen as much hunting pressure. That's where the deer will be.
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