The rut dies rather suddenly for bucks. After months of build-up, and then the surge of rutting activity, their testosterone levels drop quickly and the animals soon return to normal physiological makeup. But there is one glaring shortcoming: a post-rut buck will have lost upwards of 25% of his body weight, and he enters the lean winter months gaunt and exhausted. At this stage, big bucks want nothing more than to feed and be left alone.
Considering that most croplands have been harvested, expect to find late-season bucks near any food plot or grain field that has been only partially cut. Here's a tip. After exposing themselves so much to the outside world during the rut, mature bucks now seek isolated cover. Find a secluded small field or opening with nutritious food still available and you're almost guaranteed to find one or more mature bucks using it.
Short of that, expect to find post-rut bucks holed up in thick cover with lots of browse. Here they feed and hang out alone to heal their ravaged bodies. For example, pine stands, swamps and scrub-oak thickets are good buck sanctuaries.
Ground hunting can be fruitful for the gun hunter, especially along heavily used game trails leading into and out of dense cover or swampy areas. The bowhunter can also do well by hunting over these trails from a tree stand. Drives work well late in the season because whitetails are concentrated in dense cover. Some hunting clubs do nothing but make drives during the post-rut. And not surprisingly, they are rewarded with some of the nicer bucks killed during the entire hunting season.
Bowhunting during the late season can be very rewarding. However, cold weather creates a special problem for archers. Unlike a gun hunter who only needs to raise his rifle and shoot, the bowhunter must draw his bow and shoot precisely. That's tough when you're wearing heavy clothes and gloves. So before the season practice shooting from an elevated stand while wearing your cold-weather clothes. Get used to your draw and release when you're bulked up.
The still-hunting archer can have some fun in the post-rut. Cold temperatures force deer to get up and feed, and the brown-gray animals stick out against a snow background. Play the wind and cover and still-hunt slowly, trying to slip close enough to a buck for a shot.