Any dedicated whitetail deer hunter will tell you that there is no better time to hunt than the rut.
During this time of year, the big bucks only have one thing on their minds and will break away from their usual habits to chase the does. This is what provides hunters with the opportunity of getting that trophy buck.
The following are seven tips to help you to make the most of your opportunity hunting during the rut:
When you plan on sitting in a treestand or ground blind for several hours or most of the day, it helps to come prepared.
Bring something to help pass the time. A good book and a cell phone, along with a portable phone charger will help keep you entertained while you wait. But, no matter what you do, be quiet to not disturb your hunt.
Pack plenty of food and water to keep yourself well-fed and energized throughout the day.
Pre-scout your hunting areas and place your treestands before the season starts, and try to be as generally prepared as possible before ever going out to hunt.
Find and hunt funnels
Mature bucks cover much ground during the rut. They generally use the terrain and cover to help them move between different areas. Finding and hunting the transitional areas around funnels will put you in the perfect place to intercept these deer once they start roaming.
In farm country, along with the usual funnels, be sure to include things like fencerows and narrow strips of cover that connect one field to another.
In heavily wooded areas, look for river bottoms, tall ridges, and habitat transition areas. These natural funnels will concentrate the deer as they move around and provide some excellent hunting.
With the heightened urge to breed, bucks will often move from their usual cover during daylight hours. It can pay off big being in the right position along these natural routes.
While you may only get a fraction of the number of pictures that you would in other high producing spots, all it takes is a few pictures of a mature buck to know where he is, what he is doing, and how you can best hunt him.
Be vocal but careful
Deer have excellent hearing, so take advantage of this by attracting them to you through calls and sounds if you have become proficient in using such sound makers.
Bucks are the most responsive during the rut than any other time of year, so don’t be afraid of using grunt calls or rattling antlers to mimic a fight between deer. You can also use an estrous bleat, which sounds like a doe that is ready to breed.
You can even use these sounds if you do not see any deer (called blind calling) and use it as a method to bring them in your direction on a slow day. Be careful not to overdo it and carefully practice the sounds before your first hunt. When you have practiced beforehand and are proficient in sound calling, some soft calling on a slow day can quickly turn things around.
In addition to fooling a deer’s ears, you can also fool their nose.
Use scents like an estrous doe, dominant buck, and mock scrape scents during the rut for the best results.
While the bucks are covering ground, they use their nose more than anything else to find does. An estrous based scent imitates the smell of a doe that is ready to breed.
Dominant buck scents smell like other mature bucks, which will make bucks aggressively look for a fight. Mock scrapes can be used to entice a deer within range of your treestand when bucks come to mark their territory.
Make sure you have the right wind direction before using any scents. You can also pull draglines soaked in the estrous doe scent in the area around your treestand to increase the chance of a shot.
Stay mobile if the terrain allows
Deer activity can start and end quickly during the rut, so it is important to be ready for a quick change of scenery if you do not see any deer.
Preseason scouting is important in finding many different potential hunting areas, so be prepared with several stand sites that you can move to.
Sometimes a simple change can dramatically improve your luck, even if it is only moving 100 yards away to cover a different trail or area. A lightweight treestand can be worth its weight in gold in situations like this, so don’t be afraid of moving to find better opportunities if the terrain allows it and you are having trouble getting into deer activity.
Stay with the Does
During the rut, the most important thing to remember is the does. Mature bucks are focused on them, and you should be too.
If you are in an area during the rut with plenty of does but seemingly no bucks, be patient. The big bucks WILL show up eventually.
Does will typically spend most of their time near or in between food sources and bedding areas. Food sources this time of year typically include picked crop fields and oak ridges with acorns, so position yourself somewhere around these areas.
Big bucks will find does by traveling downwind of these areas and using their nose to determine if there are does present. If you see plenty of does in your area, be patient, it’s only a matter of time before bucks arrive.
Stay focused, and sharp
Hunting the rut can produce some incredible hunting action, but that doesn’t mean it is a sure thing. You will still have slow days in the woods. But patience bags more big deer every year than anything else.
You should also remain focused on your shooting and keep practicing with your weapon of choice even during the season. You want to be as ready as possible when the moment comes, so even target shooting during the season will keep you sharp and ready to go.
The rut is one of the most exciting times to be an avid deer hunter. The woods seemingly come alive during this time of year, and this short period will give many hunters unique opportunities to harvest the bucks that you dream about. It always seems to go by much too fast, so make sure to enjoy it, and implement a few of these tips to enjoy even more success this hunting season.