Hit the green food sources, and if you're seeing does, stay put
Yesterday afternoon, Nov. 24, my buddy and Southwest Region Rut Reporter Miles Fedinec rolled into camp after a long trip from western Colorado. With another mule deer season behind him, Miles was looking forward to a few days of Kentucky whitetail hunting.
We checked a few cameras, and Miles decided to climb into a box blind overlooking a food plot, planted with a blend of red clover, winter wheat, and turnips. He didn't see a deer until 20 minutes before dark, when a big doe stepped into the plot. She fed for a bit before Miles heard a twig snap behind her. A stud of an 8-pointer stepped into view, broadside at 50 yards, and Miles' Kentucky hunt came to a quick end.
That's a classic scenario during this late phase of the rut, at least at this latitude. Action is mostly slow, as most of the does have been bred by this point. Bucks are tired from weeks of cruising, chasing, and fighting — and they've endured weeks of hunting pressure, too. Still, if you're hunting a good food source and seeing does, stick with it. Some of those does will still be locked down with mature bucks — like Miles' deer was yesterday — and mature bucks will still be cruising those food sources in search of the season's final estrous does.
Meanwhile, farther south, Thanksgiving weekend kicks off some of the best whitetail hunting of the year. Tennessee gun season opened a week ago, and my buddy Kerry Wix shot a great buck earlier this week in the Volunteer State. Seeking and cruising should be really picking up in southwest Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and northern Louisiana in the coming days. Hunters in the Alabama Black Belt have longer to wait, with the real action kicking off around Christmas and peaking in January.
Focusing on food sources can help you fill deer tags from opening day to the final day. I do like to bowhunt pinch points and bedding areas during the first half of November, but as fall transitions to winter, quality food becomes all the more important to your whitetail hunting strategy. In the Southeast, many fall food plot plantings remain green and viable through most of deer season. Even as we close in on December, clover plots are still green and growing around here. With limited other browse options, just about anything that's green right now is likely to attract deer. In places like Kentucky and Georgia, where baiting is legal, corn piles are going to become ever more attractive to whitetails in the days and weeks ahead.
Will Brantley is an outdoor writer and whitetail outfitter from western Kentucky. He spends much of his fall bouncing back and forth across the border between Kentucky and Tennessee.
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