Just about every whitetail hunter is familiar with the 3 phases of the whitetail rut, including the Pre, Peak and Post. But, what about the whitetail rut Lock Down phase? The Pre Rut is the build up of testosterone charged monsters asserting their dominance on trees, shrubs and subordinates. The Peak is when bucks begin to cruise many miles in search of their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th doe to breed. Finally, the Post Rut brings the entire primary rut to a close with a few last flurries of mature buck movement as they explore the landscape for the possibility of one last receptive female. The whitetail rut Lock Down phase is most likely the most missed, but critical period of time in the woods for any mature buck rut hunter. Have you included the Lock Down in your plans this season?
*Advanced treestand setups and other hunting strategies are covered in my "Whitetail Success By Design"book series, which details how to scout, plant, cut, prepare, forecast for and consistently kill mature bucks.
Whitetail Rut Lock Down Details
The 3 phase of the whitetail rut are explained in great detail in these 3 articles:
However, that is a lot of reading! So, here is the extremely abbreviated version of the entire Primary Rut:
1. During the Pre Rut the mature bucks begin to tear up the woods with new rubs and scrapes popping up daily for a week to 10 days
2. As soon as the Peak Rut hits, the Lock Down phase begins with a large supply of does beginning to approach estrus. Just about any buck can find a doe to breed close to home, and they do not need to travel far to do so. For 3-5 days the conditions can become very quiet, until the bulk of the buck begins to have to search a little harder to find a receptive doe.
3. When the Peak Rut begins, mature bucks are on the prowel. Although this can be very difficult time to narrow down the movements of any particular individual buck, this is a great time to sit on a cruising corridor and harvest a buck.
4. The Post rut is underway when nearly every doe has either been bred or has passed her first estrus cycle, and mature bucks still have the taste to breed.
*Although the 29th of October may be feast, the 2nd of November could be famine, especially when it is WARM! To learn how to still experience a productive rut when the temps are rising, check out "Warm Weather Rut Tactics".
The Lock Down phase of the rut should be in an entirely different class of it's own! The Pre Rut is a great time to take advantage of the definitive movements of a monster that has established his Fall habitat on or very near to the land that you hunt. The Peak Rut is a an exceptional time to harvest mature bucks as they are cruising somewhere between their 1st and 3rd doe to breed, over a week to 10 day period. While the Post Rut can offer long periods on a stand without a buck sighting, it is sometimes an outstanding time to connect with a random mega-monster from a mile away or more. Each phase has it's various buck(s) that you can target, and each phase can be highly productive. However then there is the Lock Down phase of the rut.
Lock Down Strategies
The whitetail rut Lock Down phase can be a pretty difficult phase of the rut to hunt, but that does not mean that there is a lack of opportunity. I personally like to focus purely on well-established doe family group hangouts, as mature bucks will undoubtably be doing the same. Cruising bench stand locations and brushy travel corridors stand locations between distant bedding areas, may not as productive as they would during the Peak Rut, because during the Lock Down phase because mature buck movements are likly to be minimal. Try sticking close to home for mature bucks during the Lock Down phase! This means that your focus should include large doe family group bedding area sits during the morning, and high volume traffic areas to evening food sources during the afternoon.
If you follow my writings you will see that for personally, I do everything in my power to take advantage of the many cold fronts that create a rollercoaster of whitetail activity surges throughout the entire annual hunting season. To make sure that you only sit during high quality weather opportunities you have to prioritize a high level of flexibility in your hunting efforts because there are often many more day of low value hunting, than high. Adding the rut Lock Down phase to the mix, only serves to increase the level of flexibility needed. However if you do so, you can maintain an exceptional level of high value opportunities.
Maybe I should have shared this first, but pay very close attention to this:Prior to the Lock Down phase, a buck will forshadow his movements that will be coming, during the Pre Rut phase.Do you remember that 1 trail cam photo that you captured of monster's midnight stroll? Make sure that you not only remember the location, but plan for sits that relate to that location when the Peak Rut and later the Post Rut, heat up.
The whitetail rut lock down phase is that awkard period of time between full blown Pre Rut rubbing and scraping activities, and the high quality cruising opportunities typical of the Peak Rut. In my experience the Primary Rut should look like this:
1. The Pre Rut
2. The Lock Down
3. The Peak Rut
4. The Post Rut
Flexibility is the key when you are planning your whitetail rut sit strategies each season, because during a typical rut, the hunting can be fairly slow. When you add unseasonably warm conditions to the mix, similar to the 2015 Lock Down phase, the woods can appear pretty vacant. Make sure to factor in the Lock Down phase when you are scheduling your time in the woods, because the Lock Down is a great period of the rut to avoid, if your time off is limited.