Gregg says this whitetail season has been one of his best in a long time and credits the success to hard work in the off season. “I didn’t hunt any harder,” he says, “but all the work we did in the preseason, all the cameras that we ran, the stands that we already had up and placed, it paid off. All that sweat equity we put in during the summer has added up to a lot of inches of whitetail this year.”
Hunting the post-rut may require a shakeup in tactics now that pre-rut and peak-rut activity has tapered off. However, before you go changing your entire strategy, Gregg says it’s important to remember that the secondary rut is coming. Twenty-eight days after a doe comes into estrus the first time, she will cycle and come into estrus again a second, and even third time, if she isn’t bred. Gregg says you’ll see more of this secondary rut activity in areas where the buck to doe ratio is out of balance. The rut is like a bell curve, he says, so the majority of does will come into estrus within 48 to 72 hours of each other. If an area has far more does than bucks it creates a shortage of bucks to breed all of those does during estrus. The does that go unbred then cycle out of estrus and 28 days later go back into estrus again. These are the cycles that drive the secondary rutting activity. For this reason, it’s still possible to use rut hunting tactics to con late season love hungry bucks. Gregg says it’s important to watch your trail cameras and use observation to determine if the secondary rut is coming on. During the secondary rut bucks will be on their feet all day and their range will really increase because the number of available does will only be a fraction of the the first rut period. For that reason bucks will have to cover a lot more ground to find those open does and hunters will have a wide window each day to ambush them. If the secondary rut never really materializes, it’s likely the bulk of the does have been bred and in that scenario Gregg says, in terms of strategy, it’s all about food and hunting evenings only.
One of the biggest challenges of late season hunting is pressure. By the time the post-rut arrives the deer are wary, they have been hunted and they are reacting to the pressure they have experienced for weeks or even months. It’s during this time that food and habitat are king, Gregg says. You need to have the right habitat for the deer in order for them to have the security and cover they want. The work you do during the off season clearing trees, planting warm season grasses, hinge cutting and creating sanctuaries is critical. When hunting the post-rut, Gregg says it’s important not to penetrate these sanctuaries. Instead he says hunters need to stick to the edges. During this time of year, deer will take the shortest path from secure cover to quality food. While they are looking for the shortest path, Gregg notes that deer will go out of their way, walk longer distances and circumvent good food for other food just so they can feel more secure. This is where it becomes imperative that hunters really consider their access trails going in and out of stands and blinds. Once they feel pressure, they will go nocturnal, he says.
Hunter pressure isn’t the only kind of pressure that will impact whitetail activity. Weather is also a major catalyst in whitetail behavior. Gregg says rising barometric pressure, especially above 30.1, will increase daylight activity and feeding. When storms move through and bring high pressure systems with them, they are often a gift to hunters as deer will be more active and feed as a result. Pay attention to the weather, Gregg says. Whether it’s rain, snow or pressure systems - keep a close eye on the weather and take advantage of your vacation days accordingly!
Listen in as Gregg Ritz joins The Revolution with late season whitetail hunting tips. Be sure to watch Gregg on “Hunt Masters” Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on Outdoor Channel. You can also catch previous seasons and episodes anytime using the MyOutdoorTV app.
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