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Hunting the Second Rut


There is a phenomenon that occurs on or about Thanksgiving annually across the southeast. Particularly in the Carolina’s and Georgia, is the second whitetail rut. This rut is the second breeding of the whitetail deer.

Whitetail does come into estrus for a period of about 48 hours in the last half of October annually. Those does that do not get bred during this first estrus cycle will once again come into estrus about twenty eight days later, and will continue this cycle until they are bred. Very rarely will the doe come into estrus a third time. When this occurs you have an over population of does and your buck to doe ratio is severely out of balance.

However, in the heavily populated areas of the Southeast it is not uncommon for fifteen percent of does to need to come into estrus a second time. When this occurs we hunters experience what is known as a ‘second rut’. While the intensity of this rut is not nearly as severe. Usually, there are fewer bucks to breed the remaining does and this alone can increase the movement of the remaining bucks which in turn gives us as hunters a better opportunity to intercept one of these wandering bachelors.

A few years ago, while hunting the days after thanksgiving I sat and watched a doe come loping into the cutover I was hunting. Since it was a legal either sex day I readied my rifle when I noticed she was acting unusual so I waited to see what would transpire. A few minutes later a mature buck came out following her every foot print, a few tense minutes later and I had my largest whitetail buck to date. He was hot on her trail and exposed himself at 3:00 in the afternoon. This alone was proof enough for me that while there may not be very many does that are in estrus during the second rut, there are enough that make this an exciting time to hunt.

Now more than ever, I will hunt the does. Finding the areas does congregate, food sources, bedding areas, cutover areas all are magnets for doe during this time of year. When you find these, the few remaining does that are not bred will draw out bucks looking for one last bit of action. Since the leaves have dropped I look for areas with a lot of visibility and areas where I can see and cover a lot of ground.

The second rut can and often is some of the most productive time to kill big bucks. Hunters who are looking for one more deer for their freezer of wall will do well to use this time to key in on the vulnerabilities of the mature bucks and search them out and find how to get into their heads and put themselves in position to see and kill these mature bucks.