Hunting The Rut
Every year hunters wait patiently for “the rut” when bucks are less cautious and more visible in their search for does. Breeding time can be a very productive time of the year to bag a trophy buck, as they are the most active during this part of the season.
Don’t be fooled though, just because bucks are out and about doesn’t mean you can just climb into a stand and shoot one easily. We have compiled a list of tips and tactics that when implemented correctly, can drastically increase your odds of getting a monster buck.
Know The Area – Scouting is very important before the rut ever occurs. Generally, the rut will occur at the same time from year to year in a particular area. Be aware of the phases and when they occur in your neck of the woods so you can properly forecast deer movements. Most importantly, if you know an area is hot from year to year, do not hunt it too early and give yourself away.
Attracting The Big Buck – Decoys, attractants, and calling can be tricky, overuse can give away your position to a big mature buck. On the other hand, when used correctly, they can bring in that monster whitetail that may not have otherwise crossed your path.
Scents – Scents such as doe estrus can be used on and around scrapes and rubs to create the sense that a doe is nearby and ready to breed. In some instances, dominant buck scents can be used in the same area to cause a mature buck to feel challenged. The best piece of advice for a hunter, though, is to be completely scentless. Scents on the ground can be key, but scents on a hunter can be a dead giveaway.
Rattling – Rattling in bucks is an art form and there is no need to continuously call. Constantly calling and making noise can significantly decrease your chances of crossing paths with the buck you want. Another common mistake hunters make is expecting calls to attract only mature bucks looking for a fight, this is not necessarily true. Typically inferior bucks will be more attracted to these sounds than mature deer. Rattling and grunting should be used carefully and sporadically to entice a visible buck that may not be headed in your direction. Bucks, out of curiosity, will gravitate towards the sound of sparring.
Decoys – Doe decoys can be used to attract a buck into checking for pheromones, so they should be paired with estrus scent. Decoy bucks can also be a way of attracting a male that is claiming his territory, although it is not recommended to use buck decoys during post-rut. Bucks during this phase are more focused on breeding the last of the does and tend to avoid confrontation. The downside to using a decoy is that if the buck you are trying to attract realizes the decoy will not move, it may run and spook surrounding deer.
Change Tactics – You will have to change tactics from hunting the early season pattern and just before the rut when bucks start chasing the does. Don’t be afraid to move your stand location based on what the bucks are doing next. As the rut gets closer, bucks will be hitting field edges, rubs and scrapes to size up the competition. These are great places to set up a stand location after bachelor groups of bucks disperse.
Stand Location – The best techniques for hunting whitetail deer are ‘Still hunting’ and ‘Stand hunting’ particularly in highly frequented areas just off trails leading from bedding areas to a food source, natural funnels with heavily used trails. You should always hunt with the wind in your face while using scent control to beat the nose of a whitetail deer. Deer also have great vision and can see movement from a long distance, use slow motion if you have to move while on stand. You should have your bow or gun where you can easily grab it with little movement.
Hunt Hard During The Rut – During peak breeding, bucks are looking to pair up with a hot doe and just might be “hunkered down” with her during her 24-36 hour breeding cycle. During this time the woods may seem too quiet down. But don’t be fooled, this is still a great time to be in the stand all day long. That’s because big bucks will move at mid-day as they leave the doe they’ve just bred and seek out another that is just coming into estrous.
Following these deer hunting tips can certainly help you to have a more successful hunting season.
What other tips have you found that work well to kill deer?
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