The First Hot Doe

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afternoon deer hunts
In the afternoons, focus your deer hunts near feeding areas because that is where the does are headed. If one of them is coming into estrus, things will get very exciting. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Other parts of the deer rut can offer great hunting for solid bucks, but they are not necessarily the very best times to shoot the biggest buck in your hunting area. Some deer hunters firmly believe that opportunity occurs during a two to three day window when the first doe (or does) begins to come into estrous. Not to overstate this point too many times, but it is very important. If you miss this time, you have missed a great opportunity to shoot the biggest buck of your life.

The trick, of course, is not to miss it. The best way to be sure you will be there during those magical three days when all heck breaks loose is to deer hunt every day during the time when this is most likely to occur. The timing depends on the part of the country in which you hunt, but you can get a very good idea by quizzing successful deer hunters in your area. Ask them when they think the first doe comes into heat. You may get a wide range of guesses, so be sure to ask a number of people and average the results. Schedule your deer hunting vacation so that you have a few days before the likely date and a few days after, just to be safe.

For example, where this deer hunter hunts the date seems to be somewhere between November 1 and November 8 each year. Year in and year out, November 5 through 7 seems to be the best three-day period of the year. We are referring to the Midwest, but the same dates will hold up for most of the northern 2/3 of the United States and all of Canada.

Once you have nailed down the right date you then need to nail down the right location. If you know of a mature buck that lives in your hunting area, spend as much time as you can during this time deer hunting the fringe of his known core area. A buck’s core changes with the season, so you can’t assume that just because you saw him in a certain area during the summer that he will still be there in the fall. Ideally, you have hunted the buck in the past or seen him in a certain area during the deer rut in prior years. That is the place to hunt him this year. Try to catch him on the day he first realizes a doe in his neighborhood is in estrus.

hunting a ravine
Any kind of geographic funnel is a great spot to ambush a buck that is hunting a hot doe. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

If you don’t know a buck’s fall range, you should focus on deer hunting in the summer range of any good buck that you have seen. Big mature bucks are very visible in late July and early August. In fact, they are more visible during daylight hours at this time of year than at any other. They are even more visible during the middle of the summer than they are during the rut. So, hopefully, you have seen a couple of bruisers during summer scouting that you would like to hunt. If so, you stand at least a decent chance that the buck will still be there during the fall.

Mark Drury has been compiling trail camera data of the bucks on his Midwest farm for four years. He has learned that about 40% of the bucks he films during the summer change ranges after they shed their velvet. He has to find them back again come fall. He also noted that a few mature bucks even change their summer and fall ranges from one year to the next. That makes things a lot tougher to figure out, but go with your best information.

When the first doe comes into estrus you want to be hunting where the biggest buck lives. This may be the only time all season when he is vulnerable.

Where To Place Your Tree Stands

You don’t have to do anything very different here. Just hunt the normal rut tree stands in the part of your hunting area where you think the biggest bucks live. As long as he is acting stupid and covering ground, any good tree stand will work. That means funnels and doe bedding areas in the mornings and the edges of food plots and trails nearby in the evenings. The exact locations of your tree stand should be chosen to play the odds, but this article isn’t about focusing your hunt on the magical tree, it is about focusing your hunt on the magical two or three days.

You can also improve your chances by scouting each day for the first signs of aggressive chasing in the open fields and lanes in your deer hunting area. Look for lots of zigzagging, running tracks. A hard, serious chase probably means a doe is starting to come into estrus in that area. Hunt a good ambush site nearby as soon as you can.

What To Do If You Miss The Window

Doe Estrus Scent
Doe-In-Estrus scents will work well when the first doe comes into estrus because the bucks are really stirred up. In fact, any solid rut hunting strategy will work well at this time as long as you hit the time right. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

If you miss the best deer rut window, you may as well start making plans for next year. No it isn’t that gloomy, but it nearly is, in some deer hunter's opinion, if you are trying to shoot a trophy buck. It is unfortunate that the best deer hunting of the rut usually comes down to two or three days, but that is reality. You can still enjoy good hunting and you can still shoot a nice buck at other times of the rut, but the odds are never as good, in my opinion, as they are when the first doe comes into estrus.

As you deer hunt this fall, pay close attention to the times when you see mature bucks making fools of themselves. It probably won’t be very often and further, it probably won't occur, it will be during the time when the first doe is coming into estrus in that buck’s range. If you are there at the same time, you will likely experience the best deer hunting of your life and you may very well take the biggest buck you have ever shot.

Timing the First Hot Doe

Whitetail deer expert, Charlie Alsheimer, has conducted a long-term study into the affects of moon phase on rut timing. He calls the second full moon after the fall equinox (September 21) the rutting moon. He suggests that the timing of the rutting moon affects the exact timing of the does’ estrous period and therefore the exact timing of periods of high buck activity.

This year, the rutting moon falls on November 16. According to Alsheimer’s standard formula, the seeking phase of the rut begins four or five days before the rutting moon. That would be roughly November 11 this year. The chase phase usually begins a few days after the rutting moon, and thus the rut would promise to pick up real momentum by November 17 or 18. Peak breeding then will occur from roughly November 20 through November 27.

Some deer hunters have seen things break loose as early as November 1 and as late as November 10. Some believe the moon could have something to do with where the magic date falls within this ten-day period, but have never seen the deer rut take place as late as the moon data would seem to predict this year.

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