I was pumped about spending six days in Northeast Missouri the week prior to the regular firearms season. Everything seemed like it was going to be absolutely perfect! Long story short, I got quite the education.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the rut this year and actually put quite a bit to the test with regard to several theories and old wives-tales. The most helpful resources I found recently was Drury Outdoors 13 series, Bill Winke’s “Chasing November” Series, and Mark Kenyon’s blog Wired to Hunt.
The first three days of hunting were lights out for the most part. I saw 10-20 deer per sit, but I also noticed that all but one buck I encountered were immature. Where had the big boys gone? It’s a phenomenon called “Lock Down.”
I had heard the term lockdown before, but was hesitant to believe it. Simply put, it is a small phase of the rut with major implications for a hunter that only has a small window of opportunity to hunt. Estrous does will find a cozy and isolated area to bed down for the day. This is where a mature buck or bucks will stay, along with circling immature bucks until time to feed.
After harvesting a fawn for the freezer Tuesday night, I chose to let the meat hang for one entire day, and butcher on Thursday morning to give my brother the opportunity to have his pick of the property. That afternoon, my suspicions were confirmed. Two mega bucks had bedded with a doe directly under my stand at some point during the day and were planning to hold tight until dark. As I walked in, I got quite the show as all three exploded from the brush and ran across a cut bean field where I never saw them again.
The afternoon wasn’t a waste, as I proceeded to see 8 more immature bucks pass through the same place the doe had been bedded.
When Friday came, it was as if someone had flipped a switch. Activity absolutely tanked. Neither my brother, nor myself saw any more rut activity for the remainder of the weekend.
Saturday morning brought the sound of distant, and actually very infrequent rifle shots. I was blessed to harvest a 10 point buck that my brother jumped as he was on his way back to the truck for a snack break.
What are the takeaways? First, if you are truly serious about harvesting a mature buck during the lockdown phase of the rut, plan for long days on the stand that are filled with very little. The waiting game is the “slugfest”. Day after day in the stand seeing nothing will wear on you. Second, if you will be hunting for a series of more than two or three days, have multiple stand locations that work with the wind you are given. This will prevent your spot from being burned out by your presence. Finally, be prepared to walk away empty handed. My family processes and eats every deer we kill. It’s a staple around our home. I don’t like going home empty handed, so because this property isn’t “managed” for deer, and there was clearly an abundance of immature bucks, harvesting the buck I did was justified in my mind. Had I been looking for a trophy class animal, I would have simply gone home with an unpunched tag.
All in all, this was the most fun trip I’ve been on since I began hunting. I was blessed to be able to take my whole family out into the blind with me for a couple sits and we had a great time visiting with some wonderful friends. I look forward to doing it all over again next year.