Mid-November, and the usual "peak of the rut" has passed. How did you do? Did you harvest that buck of a lifetime? The vast majority of hunters likely had little or no success at all during the rut. There can be many reasons; the rut didn't "peak" when everyone though it would, temperatures kept daytime activity at a minimum, the pressure in the woods moved the does away and as we all know, where the does go, there go the big boys.
Don't give up. In most states deer season has just hit the "half way" point, and there are many more days of hunting ahead. Does this mean you need to change tactics? Could be, it could also be that continuing as you have will offer as much of a chance as changing things. While I can recall many disappointments of not getting that big buck during the rut, I can also recall many exciting opportunities that followed through the remainder of the season.
Here are a few things I learned about late season hunting;
1. Hunt the food sources. Late season often means a significant change in the food sources deer take advantage of. Most harvestable crops are now gone. Acorns are limited or non-existent. What will hold deer over during the waning days of fall? Look at the property you hunt, and learn what draws deer to feed. Some harvested areas have food either left over from the harvest, or what was dropped during the harvest. Corn and oat fields, after harvest, often have leftovers that escaped the equipment and lay on the ground. In some instances farmers have left several "rows" of crops either for the wildlife, or in the haste to get the crop in, just missed several rows. Check out late dropping acorns; they don't all fall at the same time. While late falling acorns may not be preferred, deer will eat them as food becomes scarce. Find and hunt good browse. I would not have believed the plants and browse that deer not only consume, but which provide very needed nutrients to deer during the late season. Look for "green" and check to see if the plants are "nipping" the ends of the green plants. This will help you identify the food sources deer are turning to during the late season.
2. Deer get run down during the rut, so hunt later and stay longer. Deer will begin to try to re-build the body weight they have lost during the tumultuous activity during the rut. They will spend more time resting and eating. Don't expect they will be moving during the colder periods of the day (early morning or late afternoon). They are as likely to be on food plots and wandering the woods seeking food in the middle of the day. If the average "hunting behavior" where you hunt is like that where I hunt, most hunters will be in camp during the mid-day hours; napping, eating, or watching football. This drop in pressure may put deer on their feed more frequently and offer great opportunities to continue your harvest.
3. Don't forget the "secondary rut". There are lots of arguments about whether or not there are multiple ruts. I am a firm believer that there are, and have a number of exciting experiences that support that fact. Does not bred during their first cycle will re-cycle at approximately 30 day intervals. Some early fawn does may experience their first estrous cycle during the late season. Either way, I've seen some "crazy" activity during the late season with multiple bucks aggressively chasing lone does. If your season permits, you might expect to see rutting activity as early as September, of course November, and then into December and January. Some states report rutting activity as late as February each year. Be ready and if you suddenly see increased activity be prepared to spend considerable time in the woods.
While not every hunter harvests their biggest buck during the November rut, this typically is the time of year when the chances increase significantly. However, hunters who are truly dedicated to hunting for the trophy of a lifetime understand that late season can offer many opportunities for that giant you've been seeking.
Don't give up!!