The breeding phase of the rut is the last of the three phases of the rut.
Many hunters refer to this time as peak-rut. Some think it is a great time to
hunt. I do not and here's why.
The problem with the breeding phase of the rut is that many of the bucks of
breeding age are with an estrous doe. When a buck has a hot doe he will
typically drive her into the nastiest cover available and keep her there for as
long as she is receptive. Depending upon how far along the doe was in her
estrous cycle when the two got together, that could be just a couple of hours
or a full 24 hours, and in some cases even longer. We call it "lockdown," and
what it means is that a buck is occupied with a hot doe and you aren't likely
to see him until the doe he is with is no longer receptive. Then the old (or
young) stud will go off in search of another estrous doe. In places where the
number of does of breeding age out-number breeding age bucks by a wide margin,
that search will not take long. Then it's lockdown
So what can you do about it? Well, you can't do anything really because nature
is taking its course. Nothing you can do will make it go faster.
Of course, if
you happen to hunt one of those special places where does and bucks of breeding
age are similar in numbers, lockdown won't hurt much because there are enough
bucks seeking a hot doe, that you will likely see plenty of buck movement. But
for most of us, this is not the case. So what do you do then? Well, you have a
choice. You can go home, curse your bad timing and sulk for awhile, or you can
make the best of a bad situation. I've chosen the latter many times and a few
times it has paid off with a shot at a very nice buck.
For me, when I hunt lockdown, mental attitude is the most important tool in
my pack. I go into it knowing that it is going to be tough -- that there is not
going to be much buck movement. I know that there will be days when I don't
even see a buck. That's not giving up, it's just reality. Knowing this, I make
every effort to hunt as well as I can and as often as I can. When the bucks are
in lockdown, it is easy to say the-heck-with-it. Those that do are doomed, but
those that tough it out at least have a chance.
Your best chance will come when a buck finishes with one doe and goes off
searching for another. He covers ground relentlessly, day or night. Often he
walks with his nose close to the ground so that he does not miss the scent of a
hot doe. When he cuts the track of a hot doe, he will follow it until he finds
her. Then there is always some cat-and-mouse as the doe plays hard-to-get.
Eventually the buck gets his way and pushes the doe into a hell-hole swamp,
briar tangle, blowdowns, a standing cornfield, or
other thick cover. Or maybe, especially in farm country, he takes the opposite
tact and takes the doe out into the middle of a wide-open section and stands
over her there, all the while protecting her from rival bucks.
Lockdown is not my favorite time to hunt, but by putting in the hours and
not giving up, I've taken some fine bucks during this last phase of the rut. There is no
reason you cannot do the same.
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