You are halfway through November and you haven't shot a buck yet. You are tired of scrolling through social media, seeing everyone else grip and grin and you've come to the hard realization that this just might not be the year for you. However, I'm here to tell you not to throw in the towel yet. Some of the best hunting opportunities for those truly old giants are about to kick off!
Hands down, the number one reason why late November is so great is mature buck sightings during daylight hours may be just as good — if not better — this time of year than early November. Usually, this time period falls right after lockdown when a majority of the breeding is taking place. What's left are those later estrous cycle does that are about to come into heat. For the most part, it's the older age class bucks that are aware of this and take advantage of this time of year because of their past rut experience. They know it's a marathon, not a race. Most of the younger bucks have wasted all their energy already, making it easy pickings for old mature bucks to tend to one more doe.
Weather is also a big factor this time of year, which helps to get those old crusty bucks on their feet during daylight hours. The last few years, the beginning of November has been fairly warm, which means most of the rutting action will take place at night and those old bucks don't show their faces during daylight. Yet, for the most part, the second half of November, you are going to get much cooler temps, which are more conducive to overall daylight deer movement.
Hunting tactics and areas to focus on this time of year are going to be pretty similar to what you were doing the first week of November. The top three areas I would recommend focusing on are transition areas, bedding areas and food sources for the end of November when the temperatures can plummet.
Finding a good area between bedding and food sources where a lot of different trails converge is a great spot where those mature bucks will be cruising this time of year, looking for those last does to come into heat. If you have multiple transition spots, I recommend going to the spot that has the most does. This time of year, if you find the does, you'll find the bucks. Transition areas are also good spots for all-day sits, which you should still definitely consider this time of year. Over the years, I've had some of my biggest bucks appear on trail cameras in the middle of the day in late November, so sitting all day can pay dividends this time of year.
Hunting the downwind side of bedding areas can be dynamite during late November. Find where most of the does in your area are bedding this time of year and set up on the downside of that bedding area to find those mature bucks scent-checking for does. If you have been hunting the fringe of bedding areas up to this point or don't have setups in bedding areas, I would say don't be afraid to get aggressive and move stands as close as you can to their bedding without spooking them. This is another good spot to consider for all-day sits. Bedding areas will be best for morning and midday movement. It will begin to slow down at the very end of the day as most deer have left their bedding and are transitioning to food.
A lot of times during the beginning of November, you might see food sources begin to go cold for deer movement as deer are eating less due to high-intensity rutting activity. However, as November wears on, the action on food sources in the evening during late November can start to pick up again. Particularly, this can occur during that last week in November or if a long stretch of cold weather hits — both of these occurrences will get deer back to hitting those major food sources as does and mature bucks begin to gain some of those calories back that they have lost throughout the rut. I recommend only hunting food sources during the evening as that is your best chance to catch a mature buck during daylight hours without spooking him.
The second half of November is a great opportunity to get a crack at some of the oldest deer in the area. Just remember: it's a marathon, not a race, and there is still plenty of hope left to get a mature buck on the ground. Continue to hunt hard and hunt smart, focusing on the areas I mentioned above. All it takes is one movement to completely change your season around. It's not over yet.