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Deer Hunter's Journal

Updated on August 12, 2012

Using resources to improve your hunts

Improve your hunting by keeping a journal

Over the past 5 deer seasons, I've been keeping a journal, it began as just writing a few notes on my hunting license. Dates, times and weather, just for some basic insight for future reference. Then I quickly decided the more information tracked the more I seemed to be in the right places at the prefect time. Most deer hunters are working with some vacation time, so we have to make our week count. By keeping a journal you'll be able to track weather, food sources, moon phases, what sign is in the woods.

Game cameras are another effective tool in tracking deer behaviors and stages of the rut. The trail cam used to take the pic to the right gives you time and date. You can see the velvet is most the way off the buck to the right. Several factors should come into play when planning your next hunt. Weather, moon phase, deer sign, deer behaviors, date and time, which stands, and what tactics should be hot. Keeping a deer hunters journal will help keep this info where you need it, in your hands. You'll be able to match up what deer have done from past seasons. Based on past history I'll lay out the month of November.


Does are hitting food sources hard building strength before the rut kicks in.
Does are hitting food sources hard building strength before the rut kicks in.

What to expect from deer the first week of November

Just coming off October 29th,3:50pm full moon, expect some pre-rut action. You should see some big rubs, large fresh scrapes, while bucks vent their sexual frustrations. Some does may being getting close later in the week, they should be on a bed to feed pattern. Look for scrapes where two trails cross as bucks leave their calling car for other deer. Coming off the full moon should cause bucks to move midday, so stay in your stand longer. If a cold front runs thru watch for some great deer action, get in your best food source stand and hunt hard.

Tactic of the first week: Look for buck sign, this is when you'll get the most pics of bucks on your lease. First rut signs begin just below ridges, bucks like to bed on top of these ridges so they can move down to scent-check for scrapes below. Mornings tend to be cooler leaving you with more deer activities. Try hunting up high on your best food source, use your grunt call this week and expect to see some young bucks dogging does waiting for them to come to estrus.

Midday prowler buck

You can see how swelled the neck is, this horny buck went down right before lunch.
You can see how swelled the neck is, this horny buck went down right before lunch.

Week 2 last days of pre-rut

Now bucks should be on the prowl with their nose to the ground, following does or even guarding them. Most mature does are beginning to come into heat and will be breed over the next two weeks. Most hunters will notice a lock-down, where they aren't seeing deer. What usually has happened is mature bucks have moved receptive hot does off to some secluded area away from competitors. They're off in a swamp or thicket, shacked up with some hottie for the next 2-3 days.

The moon will be finishing up, the new moon hits on the 13th, this year. Deer trails should be heavily worn, does should be moving early mornings. You want to be somewhere that you can see a long way. Watch for deer dropping or the smell of deer piss, find a nearby pinch point, bucks should be looking for does all day.

Tactics for week 2: This is your best week for using scents and calls. Drag line hot doe scent to your stand and hang it 3-4ft up a tree branch. Settle in the stand hit your grunt call as if tending a doe, it helps blend any noise and may bring in a buck to investigate. Stay in your stand all day! Big bucks from other properties may be paying you a visit while on a doe excursion. Hunt a stand that you can stay in all day, bucks will show up even if there's no sign, their on the prowl breeding.

Week 3 Peak of the Rut

Peak breeding is going on in most areas, rut is slightly different from one area to the next. One spot can be ending the peak while another is just coming in. Much of the rut lock-down will still be on. You'll see some bucks wandering alone or maybe even chasing does but many will already be off with their gal. This is the week every hunter seems to hit the woods, peak hunting pressure. This pushes deer into deeper thickets and cover and causes more nocturnal movements by deer.

You should see trampled deer trails, fresh pawings, and maybe a few fresh scrapes. With no moon, and coming into the first quarter expect deer movements first and last daylight. Bucks will freshen old scrapes looking for more receptive does. Find yourself a quiet corner with some good thick grass for bedding or some crp where there's no pressure and hang a stand.

Tactics for week 3: With all the hunting pressure you won't see many midday bucks. Rattling is over bucks have already heard enough of that. Calls won't spook deer but they probably won't help unless you're just trying to stop a buck. Look for bucks near feeding does, along hillsides winding, heavy thickets, bottoms or ditches, and swamps.

Hidden trail buck

This buck was caught off guard following a doe along a secluded trail.
This buck was caught off guard following a doe along a secluded trail.

November Rut comes to an end

Post-rut is starting, 90% of does should have been bred but that doesn't stop bucks from trying to find the last hot gals. Does will be feeding, food plots, browse, and other food sources. Bucks are mostly nocturnal but with the full moon @ 9:46am on the 28th. Expect some great morning action this year, you could look up to find several bucks hassling a hot doe in some open field. Look for refreshed scrapes, bucks still searching from other properties. This is the best time to hunt a stand that has it all,food, water, good cover, and hidden trails. This always seems to be a great time hunting, you see lots of does feeding, the weather is usually cold and some big buck always seems to wander thru.

Tactics to close November: Time to bring out all the stops, look for new deer sign and hunt that area. Lay down a hot estrus trail to your stand, dig a mock scrape and throw some tarsal buck scent down. Right before dark, one single mature grunt call seems to bring them coming. If the temperate drops or rain falls hunt hard, bucks seem to come out then but when it warms up they go nocturnal again.

Keeping a hunting journal gives you a game plan

As you can see, in just 5 short years of keeping a deer hunters journal. I've gathered enough info to put together a good game plan for the upcoming deer season. Write down what calls work and which ones spook deer at certain times. Look for weather trends and how they effect your hunting. Keep as much information as you can squeeze in on your page. Then after you've put it all together, you'll become a much more successful hunter.


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