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The Rut is Over, Where Did the Deer Go?

By Sean Ferbrache COO, American Hunting Lease Association

The following is the fourth in a five part series of informative articles written for hunters of all experience levels, passions, and expectations.

From your first thought of a hunting lease to the moment you send an arrow or bullet in his direction, this series will guide you through the entire process of finding, securing and enjoying a quality hunting lease.


Well, to this point we have certainly covered the how to's, the where to's and the why to's of your new hunting lease. If you would like to read those articles, please find links to them on this page.

But now that the rut and most of the movement has really turned off, where did all of your deer go? Don't worry, they are still there. After two months of pressure, which ramped up considerably during gun season, they are just learning how to avoid you. I know its hard for some hunters to buy this, but the fact is they know when you get there and when you leave. Sounds like the truck pulling in, the truck door slamming (my personal biggest issue with hunting partners), loud talking as you dress and then the disturbance of someone walking through their living room and climbing a tree is enough for them to seek a quiet place. Also, if you are still using your trail cameras and still seeing sign, you will notice they are still there, they have simply adjusted and are moving exclusively at night. You can sit all day if you want to... but I don't recommend it.

Deer really only have one daily need and that is to eat. Post rut bucks are simply beat down, wore out from fighting, running and breeding. They absolutely must have food, a lot of it, to restore depleted nutrition and survive the winter. So what can you do on your lease to have any chance of killing a good buck or even a doe now? Find the food.

Now you are going to need some help from Mother Nature. As I type this (December 3) it is 50 degrees and has been for the entire season and looks like it might stay this way at least through Christmas. To say the hunting was tough is an understatement, but now the puzzle gets a little simpler, but still not easy. I don't count on the "second rut" much. I know it trickles in a little and you might well get lucky and catch a buck out looking for that last doe. What I like is a day or two of single digit temperatures. I mean some flat out bitter weather that makes lying in bed all day impossible for an animal that lives outdoors. These temperatures will get the deer moving a little more and give you a better chance for hanging your tag on big hunk of protein. If your lease as a food source like corn or acorns (both high in carbohydrates), or even a cut bean field, I would set downwind of the trail you first hung your stand on and wait them out. Remember they are still wary of you and will come in a little skittish and likely at last light in the evening. So, when the temps get so low you think nothing will move... you need to be in the woods for that last hour of daylight.

One final thought and that is if your lease just doesn't have a real food source. If you are still seeing sign like fresh tracks and fresh poop, they are using your lease at some point. It may be a bedding area or it may just be a travel route to or from bed/food. Either way, you should recognize this signs and adjust accordingly. Deer will travel to eat and if you can hang or set up in an ambush area, you will likely get your chance.

Remember, you don't hunt deer where they are, you hunt them where they are going to be.

Take a thermos of hot chocolate with you and as always... hunt safe.


To learn more about the AHLA's hunting lease insurance program, click here.