Key Lockdown Locations to Know

By Gary Faith

Being in a treestand during the whitetail rut here in Iowa is what dreams are made of. Waiting for a hot doe to come trotting through with a big bruiser in tow is what all of us hope for each time we climb into the tree during this time of year. The rut is an amazing time to be in the woods, but it can also be incredibly frustrating. If there was a list of frustrating times during the rut, the “lockdown” part of it is going to be near the top.

A general explanation of the lockdown is when there are so many does in estrus all at once, usually falling in mid November, that bucks are not having to search for does to breed. Rather they are able to just move to a new hot doe immediately after leaving one. Not only this, while locked down with a doe, the buck tends to tuck the doe away and limit their movements substantially. This part of the rut is notoriously difficult to hunt, but it’s important to dig into this topic a little bit deeper.

Bucks are going to breed does during the rut, no matter what. Mature bucks know it well, and have been through the process in years previous. One thing they have learned is if they let a hot doe stay around other bucks during her estrus cycle, she is going to be harassed to no end, and he is going to lose her to the competition. Knowing this, these mature bucks are pushing that hot doe to a destination when its time to breed her. He is pushing her to a protected location where he can use the wind and terrain to hide her scent while he is with her during her estrus cycle.

Doing this, in theory, he should be able to have her to himself. This is a process called sequestering. While not all these destinations look the same, they do serve the same purpose. They are protected from the wind, remote, and not a place that a big buck would normally be bedding on a Tuesday at 1pm in the afternoon. Being able to recognize these locations and key in on them during this lockdown phase can help improve the odds of a quality rut encounter.

• Standing Corn. If the farmer was not able to get that 3-acre chunk of corn that sits in the low spot of the field, this is an ideal spot for a buck to push a doe. I have rode in combines and watched a buck push a doe in a standing cornfield while it was being picked. When the combine would come though, the buck would just move her over to the next rows of corn that were still standing.
• Brushy Fence Rows. These areas are easy to overlook, as they are less than 5 yards wide at times. These fencerows are great for holding bucks and hot does. A buck can push her out into that open beanfield and tuck her in the fencerow 600 yards from anything. Many times they are on a roll of the hill with the wind over their backs.
• Field Terrace. Big agriculture fields with a nice set of terraces on it can be a great place for a buck to push a doe. These terraces give them a topographic advantage and with the right wind he can send her scent out into an open space and not to other deer.
• Pond Dam. This type of topographic feature is a great location and provides protection, water, and food all in one.
• CRP or tall grass fields. These fields give the bucks a number of places to push a doe. The edges and low spots in these thick pieces of grassy cover can be a good spot to locate a buck during the lockdown.
• Points of ridges. Many times these are secondary spur ridges that come off of a main ridge. These spots can be good, especially if the area below the point of the ridge is an open field.
• Creek Bottoms. Down in the bottom of the creek a buck can hide the scent of his hot doe. If there is a bend in the creek, the point of that bend can be a great spot to find a hot doe with a buck.
• Islands. These raised areas, or literal islands in the middle of bodies of water are a great place for buck to hide a doe. These places give him the ability to listen for animals coming through the water, while using the wind to their favor.

These are just a few examples of areas to look during this lockdown phase of the rut. All of these areas that a buck sequesters a doe intend to have the same general framework. They are a remote destination that are located in a place that will allow them to hide a hot doe from intruders. In many of these examples they are using the wind and topography to push their scent away from the general population of the deer herd. As for hunting each of these locations, it is truly dependent on each encounter. Being able to locate a good buck can be a large portion of the puzzle, but there is still the mission of putting yourself in bow range.

If you do find a buck with a doe tucked away, take a step back and look at the situation as a whole then come up with a game plan. If you have some optics, take a minute and watch them. Bucks will often walk a perimeter on the bedded hot doe and perhaps he may show you a way to get in close as he orbits around the doe. It may require hunting on the ground, or out of a hang on in a small tree 5 ft off the ground. Locating a likely food source that they may use and setting up on an ambush route to and from can be a good way to get that doe to drag the buck by as they leave that bedding location.

If the area presents the opportunity for a spot and stalk on the bedded animals it is certainly possible. Having some cover noise such as higher wind speed or road noise only improve your odds to sneak up on a buck distracted by a doe. I would have to discourage calling too much, or at all in a situation such as a lockdown buck. Decoys, grunts and snort wheezes seem to have the opposite effect, as he tends to push the doe away upon introduction of another buck. Unless of course you are in really close, then it’s hard to say how he would react, but it could get exciting quick.

The lockdown portion of the rut certainly can be difficult or slow hunting at times. One thing you can count on though is that those animals are still out there living in the woods. If you are in that mid November time period and find that the area you are in is not the hot spot, don’t be afraid to go and look in some of those remote locations to see if perhaps a buck has a doe stowed away in there.

It seems the anticipation of a November rut hunt is as much fun as the hunt itself at times. What could be considered a slow hunt or rut may turn into complete whitetail chaos 10 seconds later. That is why bow hunting rut whitetail can be both amazing and frustrating at the same time. Good luck everyone and be safe.