null Skip to Main Content
The Post-Rut Is Here in the Midwest

White-Tailed Deer


The Post-Rut Is Here in the Midwest

Posted 2023-12-05  by  Josh Honeycutt

Most of the rutting activity is over throughout the region

The rut is over in the Midwest. Of course, that doesn’t mean missed does won’t re-cycle, or that a few fawns won’t reach the necessary weight to enter estrus. But all of that is second-rut or post-rut activity. It isn’t part of the primary rut.

As for deer activity, it’s not what it was a few weeks ago. “It has been a slow rut overall,” said industry veteran Bill Winke, who reports from Iowa. “The deer are mostly nocturnal and not coming out in the open in daylight. Mature bucks not moving much. Best action by far is found back in the timber. Both morning and evening. That likely changes soon though as they return to food.”

Neil Kendall is a hunting guide in northeastern Kentucky, and southeastern Ohio. “Bucks and does are visiting scrapes again,” Kendall said. “A lot of does have been bred and the bucks that are still alive are trying harder than ever to find the remaining receptive does. The cooler weather equals a great time to hunt.”

HuntStand’s Josh Dahlke is in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and he signals that the first rut is certainly over. “Multiple all-day sits, along with a pile of cell cam intel, have shown me that mature bucks in my area of Wisconsin seemingly transitioned from peak-rut lockdown to nocturnal feeding patterns,” he said. “Now, I’m pulling the pin and hunting near or inside heavy bedding cover, hoping to glimpse an early morning bruiser heading to bed or browsing before sunset. Even the does and fawns are evading daylight activity, despite a freshly combined corn field with ample waste grain. However, it’s just a matter of time before post-rut deer will start hitting high-value food sources during shooting hours.”

Growing Deer TV’s Grant Woods is in southern Missouri. He echoes that the primary rut is over throughout the Midwest, and even much of other regions. He expects deer to return to scrapes soon, but not with as much gusto as during the pre-rut. Of course, deer are thinking more about food now, and those with good habitat should see an uptick in action.

Outdoor writer Darron McDougal recently hunted in Illinois. There, it’s the post-rut, he says. “Scrapes aren’t being worked,” he noted. “Deer are on morning and afternoon patterns. Bucks might feed anytime. I just killed a buck over a winter wheat plot.”

Outdoor writer Alex Gyllstrom is also in Illinois, and he shares virtually the same message as McDougal. Movement has been fairly slow, but it picks up with short spikes in activity. Now, deer are focusing on food sources, though. Focus on ideal conditions of cold weather and good food from here on out.

In Kansas, Legends of the Outdoors TV’s Phillip Vanderpool recently tagged his target buck — a 185-inch deer. He’s been watching trail cameras in several states, and he’s even noticing some bucks forming late-season bachelor groups. “I think the next few weeks are going to be really good,” he said. “Concentrate more on your food sources.”

I’m still monitoring cameras in Ohio and Indiana. I’m not seeing much of any rutting activity. The big bucks seem to be mostly focused on food. And I’m seeing a few bucks return to trail cameras that haven’t been seen in several days or weeks.

Overall, the late season is here. Focus on late-season bedding (solar and thermal cover) and good grub. You might see some late-rut action. But don’t bank on it. Just be thankful and capitalize if you do.


  • Day Activity

  • Rubbing

  • Scraping

  • Fighting

  • Seeking

  • Chasing

  • Breeding

Exit off-canvas