It was early November on a cool morning when I was hanging twenty-five feet up in a tall oak tree. The cool Northwesterly wind blew into my face, making my cheeks begin to numb. I felt as if I was part nature, quietly watching the world wake up from a deep sleep. The birds first started chirping, quickly followed by the sun peeking into the forest. It didn’t take long for the squirrels and chipmunks to start making a ruckus all around me.
After a couple hours of silently watching everything unfold, the unforgettable sound of leaves rustling and brush crashing happened. I quickly knew the unmistakable sound of deer running through the woods. At this time of the year, my heart skipped even before finding the exact location of the sound because this was the activity I had been waiting on. Several whitetails came running in the woods and quickly stopped in the changing cover in front of me. Not far behind was a funky looking buck with half rack. He was in hot pursuit closing the distance fast.
For most deer hunters, there is nothing better than the November rut. Many of the whitetails taken during archery season come during the rut timeframe. Rightfully so, does are coming into estrus causing bucks to become more active. Even the largest most reclusive whitetails can be found moving during daylight hours.
Even with these favorable odds having a successful season can be difficult. Instead of walking away empty handed this year let’s stack the odds in your favor. It’s time for you to rule the rut.
Focus on the Does
Much of my postseason scouting involves understanding a buck’s core area. Specifically the locations in which he beds so I can slip in dangerously close. However, there is a time to focus on the does instead. Switching from focusing on buck core areas onto doe core areas happens when the does begin to come into estrus. Often times this change happens after the first week of November.
Often this is the timeframe you begin to see older bucks moving in higher numbers during the daylight hours. Often hunters will have more success focusing on the does bedding and feeding locations. Greater success will be found focusing on doe bedding because of the security these areas provide. With most hunters demanding work and family schedules, if only a short evening hunt is available sneaking into the doe feeding areas has been a successful strategy.
To have the most success, try avoiding those doe areas until its prime time. This will allow the does to be comfortable without hunters molesting those areas. Then when it’s time, there will be a larger number of does to pull in an unsuspecting buck.
Shut Up and Hunt
That is right, I said it. There are so many reasons we come up with to not hunt. It is too windy, rain is in the forecast, the temperature is rising, the neighbors are putting on too much hunting pressure, the stand location wasn’t prepared, and the list goes on. The reality is, I have never had all those conditions align during the entire rut. Often, we have to deal with multiple conditions that are not perfect.
Last year was an unseasonably warm year. Right during my week-long vacation the mercury started rising to record levels. Spending a day on stand in 80 degree weather can damper a rut hunter’s spirits. Although those conditions suppressed some of the rutting activity, nature continued to push forward. On the warmest day of the year one of my buddies, a dedicated whitetail nut, Jason Crean, took a mature 135 inch stud. It was his attitude to stick with it throughout all conditions that attributed to his successful season.
Whitetail hunters can fall into the trap of hunting the same locations over and over again. Why wouldn’t we? After months of post season scouting, we have found the ultimate spot. Additionally, early in the year we have trail camera pictures of Mr. Big in the same location. If it was possible we’d spend every hour on stand until he comes walking down the path. Unfortunately, the plan isn’t coming together like we wanted.
It’s time to pay attention to what is happening around you. Often bucks don’t need to move far to avoid being killed. On small properties that could spell disaster, but pay attention and make a move when conditions start changing. Use your binoculars to see if you can locate deer movement, which indicates a new travel corridor. Look for fresh rubs and scrapes appearing in a different location than expected. Often hunting pressure, changing food sources, and seasonal factors cause deer to change.
Lastly, don’t get stuck in a tree when things are happening out of your zone. If something is happening out of bow range, get down and put together a stalk. It doesn’t take much cover to move into the right position.
This past season I had the opportunity to spot a buck a half a mile away. He was dogging a doe and angling away. Instead of watching the show, I interjected myself into the hunt. I slid down the tree and began closing the distance. It didn’t take long before I came upon the final 200 yards of the stalk. This was the most difficult situation because it was a wide open dirt field with only a fencepost between us. I only moved when he was preoccupied with the does whereabouts. Crawling forward, the distance started falling away and I couldn’t believe everything was coming together. After getting into position, a short wait put him broadside when I could put together a successful shot.
The Best of the Best
When the rut gets going, it’s time to get into the best possible stands you have. That means hunting those stands that you know have larger bucks in the area. Focus on properties with the highest potential and stay on stand for as long as possible.
Time on stand does not equal better opportunities. Make sure to hunt the right locations at the right time. Moving stands during the day to maximize the early morning, mid-day and afternoon hunting. Most often the mid-day timeframes offer the best hunting opportunities because bucks get up and move through funnels and between bedding locations. Mid-day locations always are thicker locations or depressions that allow bucks to comfortably move. Even though you’ll see deer in the wide open, these are not always the best possible ambush locations throughout the entire day.
Using sightings during the season, historical records and trail cameras help me know which locations I should focus on. Daylight activity is a must before pushing into a location. If you know a buck is visiting an area don’t hesitate to hunt multiple days in a row. This of course can only be done if the stand can be entered and exited without alerting any other deer. Most stands will not fall into this category.
Chasing whitetails can be downright difficult. They are wary, can sniff out trouble from afar, and seem to live
underground. This is the grind that
makes chasing these majestic animals
so much fun. The rut is one of the best times to tag a mature buck. So during
the grind a couple of these tips will
help you rule the rut.