Cold fronts are coming through, acorns are in full swing, and the bucks are starting to take interest in the does. Does this sound like heaven? Or some silly blog on a CBD website… I’ll let you choose.
It is the season where those mature bucks lose their edge to us hunters due to their yearly ambitions. This is the season of long, cold, sits where we concentrate our efforts into a few weeks window. Its campfires, football, camaraderie, and memories of a lifetime. This is the rut ladies and gentlemen and it’s the few weeks of the year we all look forward to.
Tips for Hunting the Rut
No matter what part of the country you choose to hunt, the rut is a magical time. It’s the small window us hunters get to fool a mature buck. There are few tips and tricks I’ve learned throughout the years that have helped me to get the most out of those few weeks and I’m happy to share them with you.
Hunting the weather is in my opinion the number one way to capitalize on killing a mature buck during this small window. Look at the 14 day or even 30 days forecast to make sure you can get time off work and clear it by the real boss, your wife. Look for when the temperature is dropping significantly over a 24-hour period, or when the wind is blowing hard for 24 hours straight and then gets calm or changes direction. These changing conditions will trigger those mature bucks to get on their feet and go seek a companion.
During the rut I recommend placing a high emphasis on morning and mid-morning sits. The first two hours of daylight I recommend hunting food sources because does like to feed early and then lay down for a bit. You’ll want to get into a stand where you don’t spook them out before daylight and capture that early morning feeding in hopes that a mature buck is checking food sources for does prior to returning to his bed.
After deer activity dies down, it probably means most deer have bedded back down. Following those first two hours or deer activity fading, I recommend getting down to stretch, eat, refresh, and relocate. Your next sit will be one between food source and bedding areas, ideally on a well-traveled transition line between the hours of 10am and 2pm. Then, the bucks have gotten some rest after their mid-morning rendezvous, they will be anxious to get back on their feet and start scent checking for does again. They are highly motivated so they will typically cover a lot of ground until they find what they are looking for.
We have talked about timing and a little location but lets do a deep dive. Those first couple of hours should be dedicated to a food source. The key is to not spook the deer getting to the stand. If you are hunting a food plot or a field, then make sure to either get to your stand way before daylight or hang back until you have visually confirmed all deer have exited the field or plot.
This will ensure you have not spooked your deer. If you are hunting food source in the woods like acorn trees, browse, etc. you will want to understand where the deer are bedding in relation to the target food source. Make sure your entry to your stand is in such a way that the wind or thermals does not blow your scent into that bedding area. Water holes also play a valuable place in the rut as those buck’s trek long distances and require more water than other times of the year.
During the mid-morning I like to focus on travel routes. The bucks are on their feet scent checking for does. Animals are intuitively brilliant and know how to best conserve energy during this quest. So simply put, a mature buck knows how to work “smarter, not harder” when it comes to finding his companions. A mature buck will keep himself in high probability areas of finding a hot doe by using his most valuable tools, vision and smell. If you are in the hill country you will want to focus on points, benches, and tops of draws for your mid-morning hunts roughly two-thirds up the ridge.
A buck will use the rising thermals to cruise that two-third elevation line to scent check for does below him. It is a very efficient way for him to check multiple bedding areas without having to go physically check them. If you are hunting flat land in the southeast, you will most likely be around a lot of pine trees. High probability areas in pine laden forest are clear cuts and transition areas. A buck can step out on a clear cut, scan it in just a few seconds to see if there are any does in the clear cut. Clear cuts are efficient for him to accomplish his goal.
Transition areas are those areas where smaller pines meet bigger pines, or pines meet hardwoods, or some sort of change. Typically, this is where a lot sign will be made in forms of scrapes and rubs. Focus on these transition areas, preferably over fresh sign, and you will be sure to find success!