By Ryan Miloshewski
Lock down Commences
I hope this already finds you with meat in the freezer or antlers at the taxidermist, because hunting is about to get tough. The rut is in full swing here in Missouri. Chasing is at a peak and we will now be pushing into the phase of the rut known as lock down very soon. This is when the actual breeding between bucks and does occurs. Does are coming into estrous everywhere, and most will be bred this weekend or before. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t put a buck on the ground!
The lock down is one of the toughest phases to hunt because bucks do not have to actively seek out does as much as before. Does are coming into estrous all around them. As soon as they find a willing mate, they hang out together, in thick cover, for up to 48 hours. They will breed on and off, and loaf around. They will not be traveling far. Because of this, hunting is a challenge, to say the least. Your best bet is to focus on thick, bedding area cover. This is where the big bucks and does will be. If you aren’t seeing any movement, try sneaking through these areas or putting on deer drives. I personally like the quiet, stalking approach. Stay downwind of thick cover and slowly work towards it. Constantly stop to glass any area you’d suspect a buck and doe would hole up. Look for an antler, ear, horizontal line, etc., as a whole deer is not going to be visible 90% of the time. One thing to keep in mind is bucks usually hole up with does in very obscure places. Pay close attention to thick cover near a road, or close to your camp. Old, run down barn fields are a classic place. Just don’t leave any cover untouched because they find a way to end up somewhere “deer would never be during daylight.”
Although a majority of the shooters on your property will be following this rule, the reality is once the doe is bred the buck will leave them in search of another. This is where you capitalize. If you aren’t seeing much near cover, set up on those travel routes again. If a buck is looking for a doe, you can bet he will move through these areas to search. He may only go through there once, but that’s all it takes. A mature buck looking for a new, hot doe will be running helter skelter through the woods, as he was during the seek and chase phase. Consider using estrous urine and a doe decoy if pressure has been low. A drag rag soaked with estrous urine towed behind you as you walk to your stand can be lethal during this phase. Use estrous bleats and tending grunts to pique the curiosity of any buck cruising through.
This may be a tough time, but a mature buck is killable. Use these tactics and keep this advice in mind as you go into the woods this weekend. Rifle season is opening in Missouri, and that is sure to send deer scurrying through the woods. A big snap of very cold weather will put deer on their feet more, too, I believe. Check your trail cameras and take the temperature of the deer. See how they are acting (i.e. buck and doe together, a group of does in a feeding area, or lone bucks appearing) and go from there. Nothing is exact, so adapt to the situation at hand! Stay safe and good luck to all you hunters out there.
-Deer see hunter orange as a light gray, not as a bright, fluorescent color as we do. That makes it an ideal color to keep us safe. Make sure you wear it at all times this weekend.
-When shooting a rifle, make sure to squeeze the trigger. Refrain from punching it like you would with a shotgun. This can throw a 100 yard shot off substantially.
-Tending grunts are long, drawn out grunts bucks use when in tow of a doe or when they are holed up with them. Try pairing these with estrous bleats to simulate a buck and doe in lock down. A big, mature buck that is lonely will not tolerate this.
-If you see a lone doe this week, it most likely means she is in estrous. Does “kick out” their fawns when they are in heat, so if you see a group of does they’ve either been bred or haven’t come into estrous already. Concentrate on the lone doe, and be ready. You can bet a buck won’t be far behind.
-November 13 (Thursday) is one of the best days to hunt according to Field and Stream magazine this year.
Quote of the week: “What people don’t understand is this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There’s no other nation in the world where that happens. And it’s very much part of our heritage.”—Norman Schwarzkopf