Best Hunting Spots and Tips for The Post Rut
So long are the days of rampant buck movement across the landscape. As fast as the intense rutting action of early November came in, it has now vanished seemingly overnight. For those left with a tag burning a hole in their pocket it only gets tougher from here on out –unless, of course, you have ample food on your hunting property. If the latter is the case, then the post rut and late season can be one of the best times of the year to tag a booner buck. However, if standing ag fields and food plots aren’t an option, post rut hunting can be a challenge.
Mounting hunting pressure from the months of September, October, and November reduces daytime buck movement to an all-time low. Bucks simply hunker down, find the thickest cover possible, and limit their movements to nighttime or the fringes of daylight. Couple this with a buck’s weakened, rut-ravaged body and it’s easy to see why hunting the post-rut can be a challenging time to bag a buck. However, though it may seem as if bucks simply disappear, telemetry studies have shown that whitetails do not up and leave their core range (Yes! They are still there!), they simply move less during daylight and seek thicker cover. As a hunter, you’ve got to scrap your early season and rut hunting tactics and plan out your post rut hunting strategies. To help, we’ve mapped out 5 prime post rut stand locations and detailed why they can be so effective. At its core, hunting the post rut revolves around food, bedding, and does.
The Best 5 Spots to Hunt During the Post Rut
To save time and energy while scouting, use aerial photos and topographical maps to locate prospective bedding and feeding areas. We’ve taken the time to locate and map out some examples using the HuntStand sattelit end terrain feed to show exctly what you should look for.
1. Hunt Feeder Ridges and Spurs Leading to Food
When areas coincide with the steep elevation lines, you can use the terrain features as an indicator of where deer will be bedded and how they will travel. Whitetails love to bed just over an edge where they can watch downwind and at the same time, have their backs to the wind, enabling them to smell danger in the direction they can’t see. You can learn more about buck bedding in this recent article: How to Scout and Hunt Buck Bedding Areas.
A deer’s bedding area in relation to food and water can’t be emphasized enough, as it reveals how a buck moves to and from the bedding area. Take a look at the following map images as they depict possible stand locations and buck travel routes along feeder ridges that lead to a standing crop field.
By using the topo maps in conjunction with the aerial maps in the HuntStand app, you can map out the likely approaches bucks will take as they make their way towards the food from bedding (indicated by the red lines on the map). While you may want to spend your time hunting directly over the food source, it’s more effective to do a few observation sits to see where the deer are entering the field. Based upon your observations, you can then move deeper into the cover along the ridge top, as this will be a more likely spot to encounter daylight buck activity. There’s a good chance you’ll see more deer sitting over the large ag field, but getting within bow range of a mature buck could prove difficult. Couple this with the increased pressure, and that’s where diving back into the cover will really increase your odds of capitalizing on a post rut buck.
2. Creek Crossings Between Bedding and Food
Creek crossings are great stand locations in general, but you’ll want to hone in on ones between bedding and food, specifically during the post rut. When using aerial imagery to scout for creek crossings, look for any bends or loops in the creek and there will likely be a crossing there. Why? When a creek bends, the water cuts into the bank on outer side of the bend and leaves a tapered edge on the other making it easier for whitetails to cross at this point. We illustrated a solid creek crossing location below that sits adjacent to a large late season/winter food source.
The red line illustrates the likely travel route and crossing a buck would use when heading to the food. The bright green lines denote the steep parts of the creek bank and as you can see, the crossing occurs between the two steep cuts. Depending on the wind direction, you can setup on either side of crossing and be within bow range of a post rut buck making his way to the food.
3. Hunting Transition Lines
Obviously, not everyone can be so lucky to hunt in the heart of ag country or where food plots are common place. So what areas should you target when the food sources aren’t so obvious? The answer – transition areas! Transition areas are distinct lines of habitat changes within a landscape that often hold the cover and browse big bucks are privy to. Transition lines come in all types of shapes and sizes from dogwood patches or oak islands in the middle of swamps, to interior conifer edges in large timber tracts.
Fact is, these transitions can be spotted fairly easy with the help of the HuntStand aerial imagery (just look at the image above). Whether you’re scouting for dogwood patches within a sea of cattails or searching for a fresh clearcut edge to hunt in the northwoods, you can easily spot the distinct lines of habitat change by looking at the coloration on the aerial or change in canopy height. When targeting post rut bucks, transition lines provide the cover bucks seek out after enduring the hunting pressure from fall, while also being chock full of native young browse at height which deer can consume.
4. Clear Cuts – The Food Plots of Big Timber Country
If you’re hunting big timber areas where agriculture is non-existent, then chances are you will not see large deer numbers or regular patterns associated with, say, a standing bean field in Iowa. Nonetheless, there’s still preferred feeding areas, it’s just that they come in the form of preferred woody browse. In big timber country, clear cuts are the premiere feeding destinations due to the nutritious young growth of early successional plants. Once again, an aerial satellite image will be much more effective scouting method than any other type of hunting map imagery.
In the above image, you can clearly see the area that was clear cut (green outline) and the suspected bedding areas along the creek. Stand locations were selected with the thought process that a buck would get up and travel along the transition line out to the clear cut. Once you identify clear cuts ona map, you can ground proof them and set up along a transition line between the bedding and clear cut.
5. Setup Over the Food
Throughout much of the Midwest, standing crops, cut-but-unplowed grain fields, and food plots provide deer with high energy food for the winter. If you’ve got any of those present on or near your property, that’s where you should begin looking for a spot to hang a stand or place a ground blind. If hunting pressure was limited, hunting the post rut/late-season may be the easiest time to pattern and kill a mature buck that avoided you all season, provided you have ample amounts of quality food. If your hitlister didn’t get whacked already, there is a good chance that buck will return home and establish an identifiable pattern moving between food and cover during the evenings.
In order to get close to the deer using large destination feeding areas, you may have to get creative by using anything from a bale blind, pop-up blind, or even better, a portable blind on a trailer. If you have a field where you’ll likely be targeting late season bucks, get a blind out in plain view as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s not in the perfect spot, you just want deer to be used to seeing it in or near that feeding field throughout the season. Spend a few nights glassing from a distance and then move the blind to a good spot based on your observations and go in for the kill!
This can be a killer tactic for hunting any large food source. Just beware, you’ll want someone available to clear the field for you at dark. If you don’t have someone to pick you up, place a remote controlled coyote call 50+ yards from your blind on the walk in and sound it off when you’re ready to leave to minimize human pressure in the area.
Hunting the post rut can be extremely challenging, especially if you hunt an area with a lot of hunting pressure. However, if you hunt smarter and use the preexisting hunting pressure to your advantage, you can undoubtedly punch that tag of yours before it turns into soup.