THE LOCKDOWN PHASE OF THE RUT: A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO KILL A BUCK
It's no secret, that during the rut whitetail bucks are most vulnerable. Testosterone is high, daytime activity is high, breeding priority is now top of mind, and a buck's protective instincts are a few notches lower.
However, when it comes to the lockdown phase, people tend to "think" the best of the rut is in the past. In reality, the lockdown presents it's own, very unique, yet great opportunity to fill a buck tag but you need to change your strategy to think outside the norm. You need to be an opportunist, it's all about spot and stalk tactics and it's becoming more popular thanks to Whitetail Adrenaline and The Hunting Public.
There's a few different ways to cover ground. Motorized vehicles, cellular trail cameras, glass, and donated boot leather can all be efficient pending the landscape you are hunting.
Across the board cellular trail cameras can be a difference maker when hunting the lockdown phase of the rut. We know bucks will only be courting does for only so many hours and that most recent information from cellular trail cameras can be item that gives you the hot tip. Also, cellular trail cameras allow you to be in more than one place. On limited length trips, out of state hunts, etc... taking some time to hang cameras on the front end allows you to be more efficient through the remainder of your trip. Be sure to setup your cellular trail cameras to transmit data in real time, due to the time sensitivity of data during this phase of the rut. You can focus these camera setups on food sources, doe bedding areas, and "out of the way" spots where bucks like to push does to isolate them. When you get that photo or video sent to your phone act fast!
In open landscapes, one of my favorite ways to cover ground is from the comfort of a vehicle. Slow rolling through back roads with coffee and your binoculars has been key in recent hunts throughout the great plains and a great way to spend your mid day time or time when in less than ideal weather. The strategy is pretty straight forward, you are looking for bedded does with a buck. Also, be on the lookout for small bucks satelliting the area, take a mental note of their location if you see this - it will be important on your approach. One tip here, is DO NOT STOP YOUR VEHICLE when you find one bedded down! More often than not stopping is going to not only spook the bedded deer but also draw more attention to the area from other hunters in the area.
Using glass at long range can be another way to cover ground. While this is used more in open type of landscapes, plenty of timber hunters also find success with this. Ideally you want to be have several glassing points picked out on your map that can be covered in a single day. While glassing in itself is a true art, the only way to get good is through experience. Pending the landscape it can be tedious work so get comfortable and stay patient. Search an area using a grid system, looking for the smallest movement or body part that resembles a whitetail. Once you are satisfied with your efforts move onto the next glassing point until you find your target.
Donating boot leather is definitely not the most efficient way to cover ground but in some cases it may be the only option. It may sound crazy but just walking until you bump deer will often bring opportunities if you can keep your mental focus. From our experiences, bumping deer during the lockdown is not as detrimental as other parts of the season. When it happens, focus on the doe NOT THE BUCK. Wherever the doe ends up the buck will too. Often times it may only be 100 yards. Keep a visual for as long as possible and give them some time to settle down before your next step. You may need to go back to your map and figure out the most likely place they went and plan your approach accordingly.
While spot and stalk hunting during the lockdown has a unique set of opportunities, it also has its own unique set of challenges. Getting within bow range of multiple deer on the ground is difficult. There are really only two options here. Get close with them where they are bedded or ambush them when the doe decides to move. When the doe moves the buck will follow.