Claim Your New Year’s Day Buck

Upstate Outdoors
December 28, 2018 - 10:02 am

Phillip Gentry


Deer hunters are funny. Many of them sit in the deer stand through the early and mid-seasons, peering through the woods hoping to see a trophy deer. “I can’t wait for the leaves to drop, then I can see all that area out there and over that way and back up there” they say.

Unfortunately, when Thanksgiving rolls around and the time comes when the leaves have dropped and the hunter has full vision of the landscape around him, he can see everything except a deer.

While a few trophy deer hunters may stick it out, many stop buck hunting after Thanksgiving and start meat hunting for does. Other deer hunters are firm believers in the secondary rut and even claim you can mark it on your calendar.

If you cater to such views, a secondary rut would be made up of unbred does after they were in their estrus period, but didn’t get bred. Biologically speaking, when a doe comes into heat, if she doesn’t take the first time, 28 days later, she’ll come back in again. 

Before you get too excited that the good times are here again, the new rut is similar to the primary rut in a lot of ways, but also very different. It all boils down to hormones and hunting pressure.

Deer that have been hunted hard by hunters for several months know what is going on. While the hunters were patterning the deer, the deer were also patterning the hunters. Typically, a trophy buck is much better at that game than the hunter.

If you’ve been driving that ATV in, half a mile from your deer stand, maybe you want to just take that extra walk because come the late season, a trophy buck has been patterned to know that noise.

Going nocturnal is a natural choice for mature bucks to do their business while waiting out the commotion and impending doom that is represented by showing himself during the day. 

It’s common knowledge among veteran deer hunters that patterning rutting bucks, even secondary rutting bucks, is patterning does. Patterning does means knowing food sources. 

Whether a doe has already been bred or missed the first go round, her instincts tell her she needs to eat. Winter is coming and nutrition and fat reserves are all important to survive the winter months when food becomes scarce.

It’s not just the does that feel the strain of the concurrent mating and hunting seasons. Bucks are worn down as well and have to eat, sometimes at the risk of their own security.

During scouting of your late season hunting areas, confirm that fresh rutting sign is present, refreshing scrapes and maybe even signs of scuffling with subordinate deer. Finding food sources that deer, both does and bucks, are eating, preferably in close proximity to bedding cover, becomes the next important step. That is the main reason veteran deer hunters spend so much time in the off-season planting and fertilizing a variety of food plots.

 Wheat and oats provide energy for deer because it provides energy for the rut and after the rut and it builds mature deer back up. Clover is a great energy source that will come in from December through March. Clover helps get the deer built back up so when it comes antler growing time, he’s growing antler and not still trying to recover from the past season.

With less than a week of opportunity left, there’s always hope that a before the clock shot will add points to the scoreboard or turn the game around completely.


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on WORD 106.3 FM. The show can be streamed live online at or via podcast anytime. 


Photo Caption – The clock is ticking, but there’s still time to take that last minute buck this season. Photo by Phillip Gentry

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