Deer hunting is absolutely most exciting when the bucks are frantically searching for estrus – and then suddenly a lot less exciting once they find them. That’s what makes this Friday, November 11, my pick for the best day overall of 2022. We’re just a few days away from the peak, when the bucks will be closing more and more profitably and the hunting action will to slow down for a bit. But just before we get there, like this Friday, it’s going to be absolutely nasty, and you’ve got to be in the deer woods. It looks like much of the country will see cooler temperatures later this week, which should push daytime activity into overdrive. If you’re lucky enough to have Veteran’s Day off, make the most of it. If not, it’s time to get cash on a personal day.
At this point in the mess, a fair number are already in estrus or about to be. So you can expect a few bucks to close, but that’s okay because with most of them not quite ready, most of the money will be on the move, and that’s a great time to run into a monster. At first, many of the more obvious actions involve younger money. There are some good ones standing even then, to be sure, but the biggest and smartest bucks are famous for playing it cool throughout the pre-breeding ritual and then getting down to business once estrus really begins . In other words, if you can get yourself into a stand or blind on Friday, you should not only have a day full of great deer activity, but also a real chance for a buck. Here’s a closer look at where we are in the breeding cycle and how to make the most of it.
Related: Best Days of the 2022 Whitetail Rut
Rut phase: Just before peak reproduction
If I had to put a number on it, I would guess that between 30 and 40 percent of the data are in estrus at this point, and within a few days that number will reach a point where most of them will be available for dollars. When this happens, more bucks than at any other point in the routine will be taken care of in isolated patches of cover for anywhere from one to three days. That’s the dreaded isolation, and as any deer hunter who’s stuck it out in a stand for days straight in the middle of the rubble and seen nothing but a few lonely, lost-looking deer can attest, it can bring some tough hunting. .
The good news is that we’re not there yet. And the great news, as mentioned above, is that the peak of money activity happens now, right before it ends. It is true that the routine is a very dynamic thing and that the exact timing of the different stages may be a little earlier or later depending on where you live. In fact, the exact blocking time can vary within a relatively small area. So keep two things in mind. First, if the blackout hits early where you’re hunting and you own or have permits for multiple properties, try making a move and you may find a lot of different scavenging activity. I’ve seen a farm dead and on fire just 10 miles down the road. Second, remember that even during a lockout, the money in the middle is frantic to find another one. So it might be worth taking it out. But if your timing is right, and I’m betting it will be, you’ll be witnessing the hottest activity of the year.
November 11 morning hunting plan: Find a funnel and sit all day
This is the perfect time to settle into a stand at dawn and stay there until dusk, assuming the situation is right and you can handle it. These hunts are not for the faint of heart; even the widest stand or blind can feel claustrophobic after four or five hours, but here’s the thing: that giant buck that’s been ghosting all fall can walk right by you at any time of day and if you’re not there . you won’t see it. Where? At the peak of the best rut action, I always look for a bustless funnel on an edge of a ridge, or on the upwind side of a bench, or a center where three or more ridges meet. A bustless stand is one that is set up so that the wind will carry your buck over a valley or other steep point so that a buck won’t turn you back no matter which direction he approaches. And let’s face it, during the mess, they can approach from any direction. The other big advantage of a bustless stand is that you can call and wave without worrying about a dollar spinning in the wind. So don’t be afraid to honk or call aggressively and keep your head on a swivel.
November 11 evening hunting plan: Go to the food, if you have to
I get it, sitting in one place all day is more than many hunters can handle. So do your best to stay until the late afternoon at your morning spot, and then if you feel like you need to stretch your legs or see some different terrain, go ahead and slide into a different evening arrangement . For this, I like a food plot or small oak stand that is just outside of a major food source like a corn or bean field. Any buck that hasn’t found a doe will move between these spots throughout the day and especially in the late afternoon, looking to catch a doe headed for prime food. And because these particular food sources are protected by the main food line, a buck that cares for a doe can push it out of the large food area and toward you.
Hot tip: Challenge a dollar
One of the most overlooked and underused calls is the snore. It is especially effective on mature bucks and is one of the few vocalizations that has the potential to call a hot buck. You can do this pfft-pfft-phhhhh (yes, it sounds like air being let out of a tire) with your mouth, and if a buck is close enough to hear it, he knows another buck is in his wheelhouse and ready to challenge him. If he has even an iota of nervousness in his veins, chances are good he’ll squeeze his leg close enough for you to land a shot.
Gear tip: Phone charger and page turner
Yes, I know I’m going to get some grief here from the vigilante police, but I for one could never go a day sitting down without my phone or a good book, not to mention some snacks and water to stay hydrated. How often I use those first two crutches depends on the conditions. If the woods are dry on a fairly calm day and I know I can easily hear deer approaching through the leaves, I’ll spend a fair amount of time reading, with frequent glances up as well as long periods of devoted vigilance. If the woods are wet or windy and I know I probably won’t hear a deer approaching, I’ll only put down my phone or book as often as I absolutely have to so I can stand still and keep hunting. For those of you who can stare at the forest for nine or 10 hours straight, good for you. For the rest of us, spending some time with your head down reading is worth it if it keeps you in the saddle longer.