Whether you are in the South where it is early season or somewhere a little "hotter", November tends to be the center of whitetail season across the country. On the podcast today we have two new guests joining us to talk about whitetail hunting: Josh Nielson and Nate Barker.
Josh Nielson works at Skre Gear and is primarily in customer relations. If you've placed a phone order or sent an email, chances are you've talked to Josh Nielson. He also works closely with Skre Outfitters and Pro-Staff.
Nate Barker is the Director of Operations. He helps oversee order fulfillment, customer service, and works closely with Skre's international partners and dealers.
November Whitetail Rut
In the South, November tends to be kind of a lull for whitetail hunting. Early season opens in October, so the pressure from early season hunters and a later rut causes a lack of motivation for whitetail to get up and move. But from Canada all the way down into the Midwest, at some point in November you're chasing whitetail during the rut.
Mike, Josh, and Nate all just returned from a whitetail hunt in Canada, which may differ from other types of whitetail hunts.
Canadian Whitetail Hunt Versus U.S. Whitetail Hunt
Locke: "What were the big differences between your other whitetail hunting experiences and the Canadian whitetail hunt experience?"
Nate: "I've been out in the Midwest with you a couple times: Nebraska, Missouri, and such. And there's definitely a difference in the hunting between there as well as up in Canada. You're sitting tree stands over breaks in a cornfield or you're sitting over travel highways, where deer are coming through, checking scrapes and all sorts of stuff. Sometimes you can see a lot of country. Other times you can't."
"But up in Canada it's a completely different ballgame. You're sitting in the middle of a forest. You're hunting these bush bucks where there's miles and miles of thick forest. You may be in a 10 yard by 60 yard shooting lane, and you're just waiting for deer and bucks to come cruising through there."
"You're over bait. And deer are rutting or - and we'll probably get into this - this year they weren't really rutting when we were up there. But there's definitely differences. A few similarities, but there's definitely differences."
Mike: "I would concur. It's totally different because in Canada, where we were hunting - southern Saskatchewan - very similar to the Midwest or even kind of like the Dakotas. Just kinda rolling grain fields and there's coolies and stuff."
"But as you get more to the middle/northern half of Saskatchewan, it's the boreal forest. It's timber and aspen and a lot of hazel brush. It's super, super thick and it's not super productive in this area to hunt ag [agriculture] fields. There are ag fields there; There are deer out in the ag fields. But as soon as the snow flies and you get any kind of amount of snow, the deer more actively hit the hit the bay piles. And so it's really how they hunt in Saskatchewan during the rut."
"Last year when we hunted Canada, as soon as we landed and started heading to camp, we immediately recognized, "Dude, there's, there's a bunch of snow." There had to been well over a foot of snow on the ground. And so what happens is you've covered up all the feed sources - the ag fields. And in this part of Saskatchewan, there's not nearly the amount of ag fields that there is in the southern portion of Saskatchewan. So it really pushes those deer into the wooded areas. At that point, you're just dependent on the rut and snow."
"This year I saw virtually no rutting activity and we had no snow on the ground. In fact, it sucked because literally when I climbed out of the blind on Saturday to head home, it started to snow and proceeded to dump over two feet in the next couple days."
"And I think that's where the Midwest and Canada are very similar in that respect. When you have cold weather, those deer are on their feet during daylight hours. They're up and moving and they're dogging does. Last year, we were hunting the third week. We started hunting about the 15th of November and bucks were dogging does, we had snow on the ground, and we had a lot higher success rate last year than we did this year. We still killed some great bucks."
Snowfall and Whitetail Hunting
Locke: "In the South and even in the Midwest, a lot of times snow is not a good thing. That's like too far on the cold spectrum. You never have a situation in the South or the Midwest during this time of year, where you have two foot of snow that's there to stay. You may get a front move through and it may dump snow that hangs around for a day and a half, but it's not gonna stay. It's not like part of the environment for an extended period of time."
"And in my experience, a lot of times when you get that... snow, it almost shocks the deer to the point that they act completely different."
"If you want to increase your chances of seeing deer, a high pressure cold front with a little frost on the ground and rising barometric pressures are ideal. The cold weather tends to make deer more active, which can make the rut activity more visible. Based on what you've said about your hunting style, it seems that hunting in the snow can force deer into a more predictable pattern that makes them easier to spot. Without snow, it can be more challenging to locate deer. Nate, although you haven't hunted deer with me yet, you did come down for a summer pig hunt and spent some time at my place."
"It's pretty thick in this area too. We have some large expanses of thickly forested land with different stages of timber harvest. Early in the season, it can be difficult to hunt because the deer are spread out and have plenty of food available without having to travel far. This can make it challenging to locate them. In fact, a friend of mine here in Louisiana, who used to work as a deer manager for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, wrote a book about it. It's worth noting that the lack of snow, which is unusual for you guys, could also affect the deer's movement patterns."
"There's actually a book about it, with a really long name, that serves as a checklist of all the different browse plants that deer eat. It's surprising how many plants they can consume, even in our forests where there's plenty of vegetation. In Canada, I imagine that the snow can force deer into more open areas where bait and cleared areas with more accessible brows are available. This could be why you're seeing more deer during your hunts. Is that accurate?"
Nate: "I agree. In Canada, snow is a crucial factor when it comes to deer hunting. The snow covers their feed, which forces them to rely on other food sources like bait piles to survive during the winter. Without snow, they have more options and can find food elsewhere, making it harder to locate them. But with more snow, they go into survival mode and become more predictable in their movement patterns, which can make them easier to hunt."
Locke: "I know. Well,"
Mike: "To that point, I remember one of the nights when I was in camp, and the outfitter mentioned he saw 40 deer out in the ag fields while he was heading back to camp. Although it might seem like a good thing, it's not necessarily a good sign. This year, without any snow, I personally saw significantly more deer than last year when there was a lot of snow. It was interesting to observe how the animals' behavior changes based on the weather. Even though the ag fields are mostly stubble, there's still a lot of nutrition available for the deer, and they can find food on the forest floor as well with all the different browse available."
"Even on a bad year, elk can strip the bark right off a tree, completely annihilating it. That's the biggest difference between hunting in Saskatchewan and other places. They mainly use ground blinds over bait rather than tree stands. I found that hunting in the first week of November, as opposed to the middle of the month, made a big difference for me. But it's hard to say for sure when the best time to hunt is because these are wild animals and they can be unpredictable. Last year, for example, they hammered some of their biggest bucks during the first week of November. At the end of the day, you can never fully predict what they'll do"
Locke: "I can relate to your story, especially when it comes to hunting the rut. I've hunted the Midwest rut in different date ranges, from October 27th to the week before Thanksgiving, around November 20th. Last year, I killed a deer in Missouri on the 11th and another one in Kansas on the 14th. Throughout my trip, I thought I might be too late and that the big bucks would be locked down with doe and not moving much. You want to hit that sweet spot where they're very active but not too many doe are in estrus. Hunting during the lock-down phase can be challenging because the bucks will stay with the doe for up to 48 hours until they breed her, making them less likely to move around unless you're hunting in open country where you can locate them."
"During the lockdown phase, bucks will stay with a receptive doe for up to 48 hours without moving more than a hundred yards, even in the middle of an open CRP field. You want to hunt during the few days before there are enough does in estrus that the bucks have to travel and find them. There are so many variables that come into play when it comes to hunting the rut. I've had a lot of success hunting the first week of November in the Midwest, but it's hard to predict when the most exciting whitetail hunting experience will happen, which is the cruising bucks and bucks that are responsive to calling during the rut."
"The rut is probably the most productive time to hunt because the deer are constantly moving and searching for does, which gives you a better chance of seeing them. During this time, deer don't bed up as much, which makes it easier to get them into bow range or range with any other weapon you're using with calling. This year in Kansas, we didn't see any of that during our nine-day hunt. We only saw one big buck, which was disappointing considering how receptive deer usually are during the rut."
"The only buck we saw during our nine-day hunt in Kansas was a big one. We didn't see any small rack bucks trying to get a jump start on following does around cruising like we usually do in the weeks leading up to the rut. The scrapes were also random, and we only saw a fresh one every now and then. One night when the temperatures got better and it rained a little bit, there was a flurry of activity, and all the scrapes got freshened up. But for the five days following that, there was no activity."
Scrapes and Whitetail Hunting
Mike: "Let's talk about scrapes. The area I was hunting this year had a specific big buck that I was after. Unfortunately, he was mostly nocturnal and never showed up during daylight hours. However, we counted over seven scrapes within a 50-yard radius of the blind. What does that typically indicate in terms of the rut? Is that pre-rut?"
Locke: "I think scrapes are a year-round thing, but the freshening of the scrapes on the ground is more prominent during peak phases of the rut. Scrapes serve as a territorial marker for bucks and a way for them to communicate. The branch that's almost always above the scrape is also important because the bucks lick it and rub the gland in the side of their nose on it to communicate. Bucks will freshen the scrape and come back to check it because does will also check it. This is the buck's way of knowing where the does in the area are at."
"The buck will check the scrape on a regular basis because does will come by and leave their scent in the scrape. As the activity in the area increases during the rut, the buck will check the scrape more often. If there aren't many does in the area or they're not yet ready to mate, the activity will be slower, perhaps once a day or during the night. At some point, the buck's focus will shift completely to finding does, and the scrapes will have served their purpose. However, there will still be primary community scraping and licking locations all over the area, which the deer will use year-round."
"Scraping is one of the ways deer communicate with each other and know who's in the area. Bucks freshen the scrapes and paw the ground to leave their scent and communicate with does. As a hunter observing and strategizing, an increase in scraping activity indicates an increase in testosterone and territoriality and an overall increase in buck activity. This can lead to the logical deduction that at some point, the buck will start day lighting because he's doing this more often and sensing the does starting to come into estrus. The amount of scraping activity can vary depending on the overall deer herd in the area."
"The amount of scraping activity can vary depending on the overall deer herd in the area. The more bucks in the area, the more territorial they become, and the more they'll engage in scraping and other rut-related activities. This also makes them more responsive to calling. In contrast, areas with a less robust deer herd and fewer bucks will have less scraping activity. Observing scrape activity can give you insight into where the deer are in the rut cycle and help with your hunting strategy."
Mike: "If you notice an increase in scraping activity around your hunting blind, it's a sign that bucks are becoming more active and territorial, which can increase the chances of them daylighting. However, it's important to remember that the behavior of wild animals can be unpredictable, so it's hard to say for certain. But an increase in scraping activity is definitely a positive sign for a hunter."
Locke: "And that's when you can use that information to your advantage as a hunter, by targeting those areas and using calling techniques to try and bring in a buck that's actively searching for a mate. But it's important to remember that every year is different and every deer herd is unique, so the timing and intensity of scraping activity can vary. It's just one piece of the puzzle in understanding the deer's behavior during the rut."
Mike: "Well, I think there's definitely an advantage to trying to call in a buck during the rut, especially if he's actively making scrapes. Bucks are more receptive to calling and rattling during the rut because they're in that heightened state of territorialism and competition for does. However, it's important to be cautious and not overdo it, just like with elk hunting. You don't want to spook the deer by being too aggressive with your calling or rattling. It's best to start with subtle calls and rattling and see how the deer responds before escalating. It's also important to pay attention to the wind direction and try to position yourself in a way that the deer will come to you without getting wind of you. Overall, it's definitely worth calling and rattling a try during the rut, but be strategic and cautious in your approach."
Locke: "Absolutely, and it really does depend on the area you're hunting and the deer's behavior in that area. It's important to do your research and observe the deer's behavior before deciding to use calling or rattling tactics. If you're in an area where the deer are not responsive to calling or where it could potentially scare them off, then it's best to avoid it altogether. However, if you're in an area where calling is known to be productive, then it can be a great tool to use during the rutting season. The key is to use it in moderation and at the right times to avoid spooking the deer."
"And I think some of that has to do with deer density and how the deer are positioned on the landscape. Canada and the South are characterized by large expanses of thick forest that are hard to access without disturbing the deer. In contrast, ag country in the Midwest has small wood blocks, hedge rows, and creek bottoms because of the huge open fields. These deer are more confined and in competition with each other in every aspect of life, which means more vocalization and competition during the rut cycle. So it's really just a matter of understanding your local deer herd, their behavior patterns, and adapting your hunting tactics accordingly."
"But if that doe is not ready to go, that buck is not leaving her side. So, you know, there's kind of a window of opportunity where calling can be very effective and that's before the does are fully in estrous and the bucks are still kind of trying to establish dominance and compete with each other. And then once those does start coming in, it becomes more of a waiting game and trying to intercept those bucks as they're moving around with those does. So it's kind of a delicate balance and it's, you know, every situation is different, every area is different, but I do think that from a time of the year perspective, that pre-rut and early rut is the best time to try calling and rattling to bring in those bucks."
"And I think it really comes down to understanding the behavior of the deer in the area you're hunting and the specific time of year you're hunting them. And if you're in an area where calling is effective, then it can be a really useful tool to have in your arsenal. But if you're in an area where it's hit or miss, then you need to be careful not to overdo it and potentially scare off the deer. And as you said, the time of year and the behavior of the deer can play a big role in how effective calling can be. So it's important to be adaptable and willing to adjust your tactics based on the conditions you're facing."
"It seems like there are so many factors at play when it comes to hunting rutting whitetails. And it's interesting to hear your perspective on the role of calling and how it can be effective in certain areas and at certain times of the year. It really goes to show that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to hunting, and you have to be adaptable and open to trying new tactics based on the specific situation you're in."
Mike: "I agree with you that big mature bucks can be very nocturnal and difficult to kill. And I think the window of opportunity is even shorter when you're dealing with those kinds of deer. They have learned how to avoid danger and survive for many seasons. So when you do have a chance to hunt them, it's important to be patient and make the most of that opportunity. It's interesting to compare hunting whitetails to mule deer, which I know you and your friends are also experienced with. Each species has its own unique characteristics and behaviors, which makes hunting them both challenging and rewarding in their own way."
The Mental Game for Hunting Whitetail
Locke: "In terms of hunting mature bucks, the window to kill them is fairly short, especially if they've had five or six seasons under their belt. Nate and Josh both killed great bucks during our recent hunting trip, and they could speak to the differences between hunting mule deer in the West and whitetails in the Midwest. While mule deer hunting requires more physical endurance, enduring 10 days in a blind for whitetails can be a challenge as well. It's all about being adaptable and learning the differences between the two types of hunting."
Nate: "Yeah, for me, the biggest difference is that hunting mule deer involves a lot of hiking around and sitting at glassing points, trying to find the deer and then making plans to get them killed. It can be physically exhausting, depending on how far you have to hike or how long you spend away from camp. On the other hand, hunting whitetails is a completely different grind. It's very emotionally and mentally draining, sitting there for hours on end, sometimes without even seeing any deer. On our recent hunt in Canada, for example, it took me about seven hours on the first day before I saw any deer at all, and even then it was just two does."
"The physical aspect of mule deer hunting is definitely a lot more demanding. But I also think the mental and emotional aspect of whitetail hunting is a lot harder. I mean, you're sitting in a blind for hours and hours on end, and you're not seeing anything. And you're just waiting, waiting for that moment when something finally comes in range. And it can be really tough to stay focused and to stay patient. But I also think that the rewards are greater with whitetail hunting. I mean, when you finally do get that buck in range and you make a good shot, it's just such a great feeling. So, you know, I think both types of hunting have their challenges and their rewards, and it just comes down to personal preference and what you enjoy more."
Josh: "Yeah, for sure. I agree with everything that Nate said. I went on a hunt in Colorado, and it was the first time I had ever been in that area. It was about an eight or nine-hour drive from home, so we didn't have any time to go and scout it. With that hunt, we were in an area not knowing what was there, and it was mentally challenging because we didn't know if there was a buck at all. But with the whitetail, it's the complete opposite. You know the buck is there because you have trail camera pictures of them, but you're hunting for days and not seeing them. So it's kind of a little swap that you make there. But yeah, with my hunt, I was actually pretty fortunate to kill within the first few hours."
"And I think that's the beauty of hunting, you know, the unpredictability of it all. You can have all the trail camera pictures and intel in the world, but it all comes down to that moment when you're in the field and anything can happen. And I think that's what makes it so exciting and keeps us coming back year after year."
Locke: "Yeah, I completely agree. And I think that's what makes whitetail hunting so special and so addicting is because it is mentally and physically challenging. And like you said, you can't just give up and go back to the house because you know that that big buck could step out at any moment. And so it's, it's all about grinding it out and being in the right place at the right time and just being patient and persistent. And I think that's what makes it so rewarding when you do finally connect with that big buck that you've been hunting for days or even weeks. It's just an incredible feeling of accomplishment."
"But at the same time, you don't want to be so focused on just sitting in the stand that you're not making adjustments based on what you're seeing. You have to be adaptable and willing to change your approach if necessary. And that's where the mental toughness comes in because it's easy to get discouraged when you're not seeing deer or when you're not having success. But you have to remind yourself that hunting is about more than just the kill, it's about the experience and the challenge. And when you do finally have success, it makes it all worth it. So, I think it's important to have a balance of persistence and adaptability when it comes to hunting whitetails, especially on these trips where you have limited time to make it happen."
"Because in the case of hunting whitetail, you're not just dealing with the physical challenges, but also the mental challenges that come with it. Unlike other types of hunting like mule deer, where you can hike around and spot the animal, hunting whitetail is more mentally exhausting. Even if you have a trail camera and know that the deer is there, it's not like you can just go find him and figure out his movements. You have to sit and wait, sometimes for days, until the deer decides to show itself. And during that time, it's mentally draining to sit in the same spot for hours on end without seeing anything. This is compounded by the fact that in heavily wooded areas, you can negatively affect yourself by blowing out your hunting spots or hunting in areas where the winds are blowing in the wrong direction, which can make it even more difficult to hunt. It's a game of patience and mental fortitude, but when it pays off, it's all worth it."
Mike: "Well, and I think that's a great point, because with whitetail hunting, especially when you have a specific target animal that you're after, it's not like you can just pack up and move to another area like you can with mule deer hunting. You have to stay put and be patient and wait for that deer to show up. And I think that's what makes it mentally exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding when you finally do see that deer and get a shot at him. And like you said, it takes a lot of patience to sit in a blind for 55 hours waiting for that one specific buck to show up, but when he does, it makes all the waiting and mental exhaustion worth it."
"However, Tony was not seeing any deer and he was getting pretty down on himself. But that's the nature of the game, you know, and, and the mental aspect of it is huge. You just gotta, you gotta stay positive and you gotta just keep grinding it out. And, you know, like Josh said, it's just a matter of seconds and then everything changes. You know, that one deer that you've been waiting for for 55 hours could just show up and it's all worth it."
Locke: "It sounds like you were limited to hunting deer that followed feeding patterns, which can be frustrating, especially when it comes to November feeding pattern whitetails. It's difficult to predict their behavior at that point. Early season whitetail hunts in areas with agriculture can be more predictable because the velvet on their antlers is a key indicator of hormonal changes. When the velvet is present in September and early October, they follow what's known as summer patterns and are more consistent in their behavior, as long as they are undisturbed."
"After bucks lose their velvet and break away from their bachelor groups, their hormonal changes prepare them for breeding and the rut. The activity level ramps up depending on environmental factors within the doe herd. This change in behavior makes it more difficult to predict their movements, even if you sit in one spot for 50 hours during a week, he may only come feed in that area once during daylight hours. This unpredictability can be frustrating for hunters, which is why the rut is such an attractive feature for whitetail hunters across the country as the deer become more predictable during this time."
Whitetails During Rut
Locke: "While whitetails can be unpredictable in their day-to-day movements, they become more visible and active during the rut, making them more predictable in that sense. One point worth mentioning is that the best time to hunt an older buck is often after the primary rut, as these bucks are very smart and have been through the hunting season many times. They know that there are fewer does early on and will become more desperate later in the season. During the early stages of the rut, there are many does and bucks competing, but once the competition eases up, older bucks are more likely to let their guard down and become more vulnerable."
"After the primary rut, there are only a handful of does left in the herd that are either going into a second asterisk or a late asterisk. At this point, the older bucks become more desperate as there are fewer does for them to choose from. They become more visible and active as they try to pair up with the last available does or those that are coming into a second estrus. This change in the overall deer herd means that some rut tactics might need to be adjusted to account for the older bucks' behavior during this time."
"Older, more mature bucks can be easier to figure out during the late stages of the rut as they become more visible and hungry. During the peak of the rut, they are constantly breeding, following, chasing, and fighting, and don't eat much. However, as the rut begins to tail off, they start to transition and become more desperate in seeking those final does. This desperation means that they are more likely to come out during daylight hours and are more visible to hunters. Additionally, the cold weather during this time means that they need to "hammer down" on calories to survive, making them more likely to feed in areas where they can be spotted by hunters."
Mike: "The late stages of the rut in Canada can be different from other areas because feed sources get covered up by snow, and the bucks are finishing up the rut but are still searching for a few final does. The rut can wear them down, making them more susceptible to bait as they become hungrier and more desperate. Talking with some outfitters, they said that they typically kill some of their bigger bucks towards the end of the rut when the deer are super hungry and worn down, and they start to hit the bait more frequently."
Locke: "Whitetail hunting is one of, if not the primary big game season in North America, spanning a large geography and calendar space. As you move further north, the snow can make hunting more difficult, and it tails off in the Midwest as well. Down south, the pre-rut is still a few weeks away, and the best hunting is usually around Christmas, providing hunters with two and a half full months of hunting season. While there are common denominators in all styles of hunting, the smartest thing hunters can do is adapt to their specific location and environment. Whether it's hunting open country ag fields in the Midwest or hunting thickets and forests in the south, understanding the local habitat and deer behavior is key to a successful hunt."
"To capitalize on the rut in your area, it's important to understand your local deer herd. While there may be variances between hunting in Canada, Kansas, or Louisiana, the primary factor is usually deer density and geography. Genetically, deer are programmed to act naturally, but they respond to their environment differently. The holding capacity of an acre with a high deer density is different from one with a low density. If you're in an area with an poorly managed deer herd and a bad buck to doe ratio, your hunting experience will be dramatically different than in an area with a well-managed deer herd and a good buck to doe ratio. Understanding your local deer herd is key to successful hunting."
"As a hunter, it's important to understand the factors that impact your local deer herd, such as deer density and geography, and figure out how to read them. To make the most of your hunting opportunities, you need to learn what to do in your specific area, which requires being a woodsman and figuring it out for yourself. This knowledge isn't readily available, so you need to put in the effort to learn and understand the local environment and deer behavior. By doing so, you can maximize your chances of a successful hunt."
Other Tips and Information
Mike: "For hunters like us who predominantly hunt elk and mule deer in the west, the whitetail bug has bitten us, and we try to go on outfitted hunts every year. It's funny because our outfitters have a big whiteboard with a sign that says, "Don't guide the guide." These outfitters are experienced in checking trail cams, working food plots, and bait sites, and have a history with the local deer. As hunters, we can learn a lot from these outfitters and should trust their guidance to increase our chances of success."
"Wind is always a big deal when hunting whitetails, especially when hunting from a tree stand. In the Midwest, scent mitigation is a big deal, and there are ways to contain scent in the blind. Outfitters and guides are experienced in checking wind patterns, and they know the deer herd and their movements. Trusting your outfitter and their knowledge of the local environment can increase your chances of success. While success is never guaranteed, most outfitters are excellent at putting hunters in the best possible position for success."
Locke: "While there may be dishonest outfitters out there, generally speaking, there is no value for an outfitter to take your money and not provide any level of success. Return business and happy customers are the key to success in any business. During an outfitted hunt, there may be uncontrollable situations, and the outfitter may ask you to do certain things, such as where to sit and how long to sit. Trusting their guidance can increase your chances of success. If you have questions or concerns, don't be afraid to ask, but remember that the outfitter's experience and knowledge are valuable assets."
"It's not in the outfitter's best interest to be careless or randomly make decisions that don't give you a good chance at success. The outfitter's success is tied to your success, and they want you to be successful. It's important to have faith and trust in your outfitter, even if their recommendations may not make sense to you. In outfitted situations, it's not uncommon for hunters to get frustrated by things that are not the outfitter's fault and to blame them for poor results. However, most outfitters are knowledgeable and experienced, and taking their guidance can increase your chances of success."
"It's important to remember that if you're on an outfitted hunt, you're likely in an unfamiliar area with factors that you're not familiar with. It's important to trust the outfitter's guidance and expertise. In wrapping up the conversation, I want to share a few things from my experience in Kansas that may be valuable for others. While we saw plenty of deer, we didn't have a great hunt. Based on my observations, I can tell you where the rut was and what was going on."
"So, the combination of warm weather and wind during our hunt in Kansas made it difficult to get close to deer. Additionally, the deer seemed to be moving more at night and bedded down during the day due to the warmth, which made it harder for us to catch them moving during daylight hours. These factors, along with the lower buck-to-doe ratio in the area we were hunting, contributed to a less successful hunt."
"During our hunt, we experienced some windy conditions that had an impact on us. Of course, heat is always a factor no matter where you go. However, there were a couple of observations we made about deer movement that I wanted to share with our listeners. If you go on a hunt and notice these things, you can get a good idea of where you are in the rut cycle. If you see groups of does moving early and late, there's probably not much going on in terms of estrus. When does go into estrus, they leave their fawns, yearlings, and other doe groups. So, if you're hunting and you see a lone doe moving around at 10 o'clock in the morning, it's likely that she's about to come into estrus or is close to it. My advice would be to stay put and wait for the action to unfold."
"A lone doe up and moving at a random time during the day is a good indicator that she's in estrus. However, if you see that same doe with her yearlings on a regular feeding pattern during the first and last hours of daylight, she's likely not in estrus. The same can be said for groups of mature does, as they typically don't group up during this time.To indicate rut activity, you should also look for physical signs like scrapes on the ground. Additionally, you'll want to see young bucks, ranging from a spike to a small basket rack or two to three-year-old bucks, up and moving around without really feeding. If you see these deer passing by you, it's a good sign that the rut is in full swing."
"When a buck is in search of a mate, he'll often work in a zigzag pattern, going left and right, and circling around. It almost looks like he's a hunting dog searching for a scent. If you see a lot of deer moving slowly and predictably, engaging in feeding patterns and other routine activities, it's not a great sign for rut activity. During our hunt, we observed a lot of does, but none of them appeared to be going into estrus. We also didn't see any bucks, which was concerning. I mentioned this to my cameraman Colin, as we were up in the tree observing the activity. Although this was our specific scenario, I think it's relatable to many hunters who may find themselves in a similar situation."
"In many hunting areas, you'll find a creek or small river with a food source on one side. Hunters will set up with their wind positioned to intercept the travel route from bedding to food. If you're in that stand in the middle of the day or later in the afternoon, you may see deer starting to pour out into the food source. For example, let's say there's a cut cornfield on the other side of the creek, and during the last hour of daylight, you see 15 does with yearlings and a few small spikes slowly grazing through the food source. If the rut is imminent or already underway, you should see a three or four-year-old buck cruising on the downwind side of that food source. He'll be checking every one of those deer to see if one of them is starting to come into estrus."
"If you're consistently seeing deer in a slow feeding pattern, without any signs of buck activity, it's likely that the rut is still a ways off. On the other hand, if you notice a significant increase in deer activity, such as feeding, scraping, and travel routes, and it coincides with a cool down in temperature or rain, it's possible that the deer are responding to the weather rather than the rut. During our hunt in Kansas, we experienced a day where it rained all day and the temperature dropped to around 40 degrees. For about 12 hours, there was a significant increase in deer activity, with activity on our cameras and in our tree stands. However, this surge in activity was short-lived and died down soon after. In summary, while weather conditions can affect deer behavior, hunters should also be aware of the signs of the rut and adjust their hunting strategies accordingly."
"During our hunt, we observed that the increase in deer activity was due to weather patterns rather than a triggering event like the rut. These are just a couple of helpful hints to keep in mind when trying to observe where you're at in the rut cycle. If you're with an outfitter, it's best to follow their guidance. However, if you're hunting on your own, it can be challenging to figure out the best approach. If you find yourself in a situation where you're not seeing any signs of mature bucks, it's unlikely that a four or five-year-old buck will just happen to come cruising by you looking for a doe. In this case, it's best to try to figure out where the buck is bedding and the best access route to get as close as possible. Remember, he's probably not moving very far, so the closer you can get, the better your chances of a successful hunt."
Mike: "It's fascinating how we try to figure out deer behavior, but they always have a way of surprising us. For example, I was in the same stand where they killed a giant buck last year around the same time of year and with no snow on the ground. The buck just showed up, and the guy was able to kill it. There's always the exception to the rule, but it's interesting to see how these deer have their own personalities, habits, and behaviors. Despite our best efforts to predict their movements, sometimes they can just decide to get up and start cruising, even during the off-season."
Locke: "I find it interesting how I approach whitetail deer hunting, which is one of my favorite things in the world, similar to how I approach baseball. Both involve statistics, and in baseball, swinging at first pitch curve balls is not a great approach for a hitter, regardless of their skill level. Similarly, in the white tail woods, there are certain things that generally work and some that don't, even though exceptions can happen."
"However, when you have a defined period of time, you may have to hunt the exceptions to be successful. On the other hand, over the lifespan or season span of a deer hunter, it's essential to have a plan and not physically push yourself too hard to find that perfect animal, as Nate mentioned regarding mule deer hunting."
"Ultimately, it's important to enjoy the process and appreciate the beauty of being out in nature, regardless of the outcome."
"When it comes to mule deer hunting, you have to accept what's given to you. You can't simply pack up and go to the next ridge in search of another animal. You have to work with what's in front of you. Statistically speaking, it's important to learn as much as you can about the animal and make high percentage decisions, even though they may not always work out."
"Over the course of a hunting career, making high percentage decisions and learning from them will increase your chances of success. It's about developing a deeper understanding of the animal and the environment, and learning how to read the signs to make informed decisions. While exceptions may happen, having a solid foundation of knowledge and experience will lead to more successful hunts in the long run."
Mike: "Nate and Josh's success this year is proof that making high percentage decisions and being patient pays off. They were able to kill mature bucks, while some of us, including myself, had a different experience. It's important to put yourself out there and be patient, even if it means going home empty-handed."
"In the end, hunting is unpredictable and sometimes it's tag soup, and other times, you're successful on the first day. It's what makes hunting exciting, and you just never know what's going to happen. Whether you're twiddling your thumbs back at the lodge or out in the field with your buddies trying to get something killed, the thrill of the hunt is what keeps us coming back year after year."
Locke: "As deer hunters, we go through different cycles and seasons of success. Some years are better than others, and after a few days of observing our situation this year, it was clear that it wasn't great for us. However, that's just part of the cycle of a deer hunter's life. One year you may be successful early on and the next year you may have to hunt until the very last hour and still come up empty-handed."
"As Colin mentioned to me in the tree stand, after a successful year, you may find yourself sitting around camp watching TV and cooking for everyone, while the next year you may be the one hunting it out until the very end. It's all part of the journey and the thrill of the hunt."
"Overall, it's been a great conversation for this podcast, and we hope our insights and experiences will help other hunters in their pursuit of these magnificent animals."
"As we wrap up our discussion, we wanted to touch on whitetail hunting, which is currently in full swing across the country. Congratulations to Nate and Josh on their successful hunts, and to Mike, we wish you the best of luck for the remainder of the season and in the years to come."
"Before we go, we want to remind everyone that November is a popular month for online shopping, and at SKRE, we have a big Black Friday sale coming up at the end of the month. Look out for some great deals at skregear.com."
"We appreciate everyone who has been listening to the podcast and invite you to share your feedback with us. Let us know what topics you want to hear about and who you want to hear from. You can reach us at email@example.com."
"Thank you again for listening, and we hope you've enjoyed this conversation as much as we have."