The whitetail rut lockdown phase is very real and it requires a different set of hunting strategies than the pre, peak and post rut phases. By switching gears to bedding areas and remote food sources for just a few days, you can not only learn to survive the lockdown phase, but to hunt it with a level of predictable success.
In order to hunt the rut lockdown phase, you have to learn why it is so real and predictable in the first place. There are two factors at work, when it comes to understanding and timing the annual lockdown:
1. The rut takes place at the same time every year
The Annual Rut Timing is not a moving object based on the moon, weather or if your grandpa sees his shadow on the bow opener. The annual rut takes place at the exact same time every single season in your neck of the woods, and only when you fully understand this fact can you unleash your true potential as a hunter. At the same time, that makes the annual rut lockdown a highly predictable phenomenon that you can count on at just about the exact same time in your exact location, to the day, every single season.
2. Almost always, there are more does than bucks
What is buck to doe ratio in your area? Well, in the case of the rut lockdown phase, it doesn't matter. Whether you think the ratio is 2 does for every buck, 3 or even 4 does for every buck let's face it, unless you plan to hunt the rut in a fenced in heavily controlled perserve that probably none of us have a desire to practice (including me!), then there are more does than bucks. So what do you get when you combine an annual rut timing that takes place at the same time every season with a large % of does entering into estrus at the same time, in a herd where does significantly outnumber bucks? You are delivered a rut lockdown phase where every buck who comes to the female dominated party, gets to dance. And when I say dance I mean, well...you know what I mean!
HOW TO HUNT THE WHITETAIL LOCKDOWN PHASE
The old school way of thinking was that the dominant bucks performed nearly all of the breeding however, for years science has proven that this is not true. Not in the least. In fact, nearly all ages of bucks breed nearly equally, which is why in female dominated herds that enter into estrus within fairly short breeding windows, the lockdown phase is created. With bucks locked down for 24-48 hours per doe before heading onto their next conquest, it isn't too hard to imagine why there are a few days right after a flurry of heavy pre rut activity, where nearly all bucks are locked down with a doe. Of course when a buck is locked down he doesn't need to seek, cruise or chase but instead he needs to tend and continually breed his current doe for up to 2 days. Where I live in SW WI the lockdown seems to take place during the first few days of November each year, and it can appear that there isn't much going on in the woods, when really there are several great strategies that you can take advantage of, when it comes to connecting during the annual rut lockdown phase:
1. Precision Mature Buck Bedding Lairs
I have experienced often, a mature buck and doe combo that seem glued to a buck's daytime lair. One online definition of lair, is "a wild animal's resting place, especially one that is well hidden". Think about it; if you were a wild, whitetail buck, would you want to herd you new special someone, into a huge social hotspot that could potentially include a lot of other bucks? It is amazing how many single does I have observed back in remote buck bedding areas, during the lockdown phase. Instead of long-range cruising funnels between bedding and food or even bedding and bedding locations, during the lockdown phase of the rut, try honing in on a mature bucks hidden-hole well before daylight, and see if you brings a date with him back, right in your lap. If he isn't there, then during an evening sit find another mature buck bedding area that you can get into without spooking deer, and wait for the potential of a particular buck to show himself tending a doe, as he exits just before dark.
2. Lockdown Corridors Between Doe Bedding Areas
On hundreds of parcels in 22 states and counting, I have experienced that doe family groups prefer to bed as close to their afternoon food source as possible. while focusing on major movements to food during an afternoon sit may be a bust during the lockdown phase, setting up between major doe bedding areas that parallel a large food source, can be incredible! Within 24-48 hours a buck will leave his first doe and look for a 2nd. The first doe comes pretty easy for him, the 2nd a little harder and when it comes time for a 3rd or maybe even a 4th doe 10 days to 2 weeks into the rut, the pickings of available does are slim. However, when a buck leaves his first doe he can't wait to find another, and you can bet that he is aware of every major doe bedding area in the neighborhood! Keeping close to food and major doe family group bedding opportunity, places you squarely into a cruising buck's laser-like focus of cruising for his 2nd buck.
3. Finding Whitetail Lockdown Habitat Hotspots
During the annual rut lockdown, traditional buck cruising hotspots and major food sources may actually be a huge letdown for you. In fact, when it comes to the large social afternoon food sources, the locations may actually be a little too social. During the lockdown phase mature bucks seem to prefer seclusion to socialization. Whether you try to avoid traditional long range cruising portions of the habitat such as open mature hardwood ridge lines or river bottoms, or major food sources, you will place yourself much closer to preferred buck lockdown habitat if you focus on remote and hidden.
While I would personally hunt an outstanding cold front during the October lull and the pre, peak or post rut phases of the rut, hunting the annual rut lockdown phase isn't really that bad. However, the great part about the rut lockdown phase is that it only lasts a few days and when it ends - watch out! The breakdown of the rut lockdown phase ushers in the best rutting activity that takes place all year, and when the weather matches with the timing of the start of the peak rut, there is no better time to be in the whitetail woods all season long.