Deer behavior in fall

Deer behavior in fall is fascinating, and understanding it is key to hunting success throughout the month of November.

November 1 – 7

In this first week of November, bucks ramp up the rubbing and scraping of their antlers as they begin to search for does. Does are not yet receptive this week, making the bucks even more restless.

As you hunt, focus on areas where bucks have scraped up the trees. Set up your blinds near bedding areas, feeding zones, funnels, and pinch-points. If you have a tree stand, now is the time to use it.

November 7-13

This week, the first does are entering estrus. This makes it a tough time to be a deer hunter, because bucks lock down within a 100-yard zone with their doe. You may get very lucky and find that sliver of land, but if not, keep moving and wait for lockdown to end.

Once a buck leaves the doe, they’ll begin searching for another. This is the perfect time to snag them, because they’ll return to their goofy rutting behaviors. This week is definitely hit or miss, but if you’re patient and persistent, you’ll likely succeed.

November 14-20

Normally, lockdown has ended by this week. You should be able to return to the plan we laid out for the first week of November, albeit with an emphasis on stealth. This week, deer will be on high alert, prepared to dash away at the slightest hint of something amiss.

Optimize your hunt by setting up your stand downwind of trail intersections, ridges, and near bushes, brush piles, and low tree branches.

November 21-30

By the end of November, you’re probably bone-weary, yet sad to see the end of this year’s rut. Before you settle in for a long late-fall nap, there’s a bit more time for you to work on filling your deer tag.

Bucks have bred the does, so they will resume their goofy chase behavior we saw at the end of October and during the first week of November. They’ll loop back to inspect scrapes, so you may have success setting up near scraped trees again.

Counterintuitively, a large percentage of bucks are bagged during this last week. We tend to think we’ll have the best luck during the first or second week, but somehow big bucks are often snagged this week. Younger bucks are often exhausted by this week, but mature, large bucks are still trucking—perfect for your hunting goals!

During the very last few days of the month, you may not see any more deer. Keep an eye on indicators of deer behavior, and adjust your plan according to the activity in your area.

Despite the challenges of hunting through rutting season, you are capable of accomplishing your goals. Stay focused, use your knowledge and your intuition, and remember that even a “failed” hunt adds to your experience and understanding of deer behavior in your neck of the woods.