By Alex Comstock
Hunting the rut can be an absolute marathon. If you have yet to fill a tag during this year’s rut, don’t worry, because it’s not over yet! There’s still plenty of good rut hunting to be had, but you may have to change how your hunting to be successful. To get a different perspective, today we’ve got an awesome Q&A with Jake Huebschman from The Hunting Public covering all things late rut hunting. Read on to get some great insight from Jake!
Q: Now that we’re into the third week of November, how does your strategy change compared to earlier in the rut?
Jake: Earlier in the rut I may be more focused on traditional rut spots like funnels or pinches between bedding areas or food. But this late in the year, with everyone likely taking their rut vacations already and gun seasons either come and gone or taking place at the moment, the deer are likely going to be stacked up in a tucked away hole somewhere. Whether that means putting on the hiking boots and walking a couple miles, getting out the waders or boat to get to a tough to access spot, or finding a place that has completely been overlooked. The deer are still out there somewhere and although it's easier said than done, if you find that spot, there is some really good hunting still to be had. So I think that this late in the rut your in-season scouting is what is going to fill your tag. Every second things are changing in the deer woods, so sometimes you need to forget about the spots that may have been good in past years or even earlier that week and just get out and find where the deer are right now. So I would be getting out and trying to find the freshest sign I can and setting up on it.
Q: Being that you primarily hunt public land, this time of year are you going into brand new areas, pre-scouted areas, or places you’ve already spent time hunting this year?
Jake: I would say it’s a combination of all of those things. There are some spots I have in mind that are good almost every year late in November, just because the hunting pressure has a TON of deer pushed into a small area. Spots that have historically been good in the past are the first spots I would go to. In a lot of cases, people eventually find those spots too. So then I guess I would fall back on the scouting I have done in the past or maybe bounce to a new area I’ve never been in. Our group is always trying to keep tabs on pressure. Even when we are just driving to spots or have an extra half hour to drive around at night. In that situation we are looking for where people are hunting almost as much as we are looking for deer so we can notice if nobody has been parked at a particular spot, etc. Even if we have never set foot on it we would definitely consider checking that spot out!
Q: I think a lot of hunters put so much stock into the first couple weeks of November, and if they haven’t harvested a buck by now, they can easily get down. What would you say to a person that feels that way?
Jake: I would say quit being a baby. Just kidding… kinda. Some of the best hunts I have ever had have been in late November and even December. Bucks are looking for that last hot doe of the season and if you can get lucky enough to be in the same area as her, you might be in for the craziest hunt of your life. Earlier in November there are just simply way more does in heat at one time, so it's not as hard for a buck to find one. Later in November has always seemed like a time where bucks are moving really long distances hoping to find one last doe. Get out in the woods and you might just kill that monster you’ve been hearing about that was living 5 miles away.
Q: Do you see a shift in deer movement or mature buck movement caused by gun hunting pressure? If so, how do you adapt to this?
Jake: Absolutely. The 15 acre piece of private property I grew up hunting was right in the middle of the block. We had to access our property by canoe every time we hunted which wasn't the most convenient, but has proved to be very lethal. Bow hunting on that property was always pretty average, but once gun season rolled around, we would see a lot more mature bucks. Being in the middle of the block and sneaking into our stands by canoe is the reason for that I think. There is a huge influx of pressure from every direction and everyone is walking from the road down into their property. We have killed deer that neighbors had on camera consistently miles away that we had never seen before. It's basically like every neighbor is doing a huge deer drive to us by accident and it’s awesome! So I guess my answer to the question is try to anticipate the pressure and hunt places deer are going use to escape, or if possible hunt the bedding area they are going to try and escape to.
Q: How long do you normally see rutting activity last until? Do you see a difference in the amount of rutting activity between young and mature bucks?
Jake: I've seen it all the way into early January. That's definitely towards the end of the bell curve, so it’s way less frequent by mature bucks I think. Like I mentioned earlier, if you can find where the deer are stacked up or get lucky and find one of those last hot does, the hunting can be really good. Yes, young bucks definitely get out and run a lot more than the old mature bucks. The mature bucks will have the first doe that comes into heat and that is when the “lockdown” phase begins. This is the big difference between mature and young bucks. Once the big boys are on the first does they won’t leave them until they’re bred while the young bucks are still running hard.
Q: What’s your ideal setup this time of year? Can you run the reader through everything from access to stand location to exit route?
Jake: At that point I’m usually looking for what the deer are feeding on heavily. Whether it’s native browse or nearby crop fields they are feeding on heavily. I think at this time at least the does and likely the bucks are thinking about packing on some weight for winter. Finding a field that even just has a bunch of does coming out to it in daylight would peak my interest. If there are does coming out to a crop field during daylight, I would consider pushing closer into where I would assume a buck would be bedded that's coming to that food source to eat and check does at night.
Q: If someone told you they could only take vacation this week of November, what would be your best piece of advice to them to take down a mature buck?
Jake: I think all of these questions are very situational. A lot of it depends on if gun season has happened, is happening or is yet to come at this point. If I was in a state where gun season has come and gone already, I would potentially think about trying a different state. Not saying it can’t be done after gun season, but with the places I have hunted, chances are definitely much more slim. If It is going to be gun season, I would focus on those escape routes and and be trying to find where the deer have all been pushed to. If gun season hasn't happened yet, I would still be very excited. I would be looking for a spot where the deer are all stacked up and wouldn't be surprised to see some really great rut activity yet.
To see more from Jake, be sure to check out The Hunting Public on YouTube HERE.