Every Whitetail deer bowhunter knows that the prime time to be in the woods is during the breeding season. The rut occurs at different times in different regions, but one fact remains true no matter where it happens; big bucks are more exposed during daylight than any other time of the year. However, a lot of hunters don’t have the luxury of hunting the entire rut and that’s not a bad thing because hunting the lesser known ‘second rut’ can be just as good.
During that time of the year, buck’s hormones cause them to break almost every safety rule that they have been living by for the last ten and a half months, and it is not uncommon to see mature bucks walking around at all hours of the day in their pursuit of hot does. In fact, predicting what mature bucks will do during the rut is almost impossible due to those hormones.
Most of the time, bucks try to keep hot does contained in a small area so they won’t have to deal with competing bucks, but does don’t always cooperate. If a doe is restless and not yet ready to breed, she might try to link up with other familiar herd mates regardless of what a buck wants her to do. This sort of rut rebellion causes both deer to be exposed more than a breeding buck desires and therefore, that is why hunters often see mature bucks chasing does in some crazy, unexpected places. This is the drama of the primary rut.
The secondary rut is a lot more predictable and a lot less chaotic but it is a very effective time period to nail a mature buck. During the second rut, un-bred does enter into estrus again and it forces area bucks to repeat the breeding process all over again, but usually with slightly less zeal due to the fact that a mature buck’s body has lost weight expending all that energy that the rut required. This is where feed zones play a major role in deer behavior. Every deer needs to feed heavily to not only restore lost muscle energy from breeding, but to prepare for the upcoming winter. Find the feed zones and that big buck won’t be too far away.
Although you won’t find many bucks in the actual fields feeding with the herd, you can find them just inside the perimeters waiting to show themselves at dark while they take field inventory for hot does. It is at this time that you can set up down-wind of almost any feed zone and catch a buck scent-checking a field.
A mature buck will often circle downwind of any gathering of deer so that he can know what is going on with a herd without having to see it for himself. If you can find a trail that skirts a feed zone inside the cover of timber, you will have a great stand location. If you can find such a trail, set up slightly down-wind of it. Chances are good that you will not be disappointed. This will be the only time of the year when a buck is thinking with his hormones, but also being predictable.