Is there a reason so many big, mature bucks are taken in the late seasons?
QUESTION: Over the past few years, I've noticed that we've shot more big bucks in the late-season hunts, early and mid-January, in northwest Illinois. What might account for this?
ANSWER: Late season is indeed one of the best times to kill bucks, particularly older, bigger ones, and there are several reasons for this, both of which are related to energy.
One is the rut. In the early stages of the rut, it is mostly younger bucks that are moving around, seeking, chasing and generally making themselves more vulnerable to hunters. They get tend to get thinned out early, taking tagged-out hunters with them. Older, more experienced bucks often wait until more does come into estrus before expending their energy. As the number of estrous does tapers off, older bucks are now peaking in activity and must search harder to find a prospective mate. Just about the time they start to scale back, the second rut hits and they’re out and about again.
Another is food. After the rut is over, a buck’s energy reserves are depleted and he has a very short window in which to restore as much as he can. This makes the post-rut period a great time to hunt food plots, particularly those with high-energy foods like brassicas, turnips and even winter wheat. Here, too, the late second rut factors in again, as younger does are entering their first estrus cycle while older does not yet bred are re-cycling.
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