The whitetail rut is gaining speed and will be here before you know it. Are you ready?
More big bucks are killed during the rut than any other time of deer season. Some hunters luck into killing a big buck, and others put the odds in their favor. Here are 5 tactics that will help you be a successful hunter during the whitetail rut.
FIND WHERE THE DOES SLEEP
This is the time of season bucks are constantly looking for does. The best place for a buck to begin his search is where the does spend the majority of their time during the day, bedded down.
Begin by going to a favorite food source of the deer, and enter the surrounding woods and other terrain. Search for probable bedding grounds like slightly brushy benches, groves of pine trees, overgrown pastures, CRP fields, and tall grass fields.
Try and locate the does actual beds on the ground. They are easily recognized by their oval depressions of various sizes, and matted down areas on the forest floor.
Mark the bedding areas that you locate on an aerial photo or topo map of the area you intend to hunt. Next, look on the photo or map for possible travel corridors connecting the bedding areas you have located. These routes could be creek beds, through thick vegetation, and gullies.
Bucks will always cruise downwind of a bedding area hoping to catch a whiff of an estrus doe. This is the perfect place to hang a stand. As the rut heats up, mature bucks will go from bedding area to bedding area along the travel corridors you found on your photo or map of the area. You need to hang stands along these routes, too.
Not all does come into estrus at the exact same time. If you come across does that seem to not have a worry in the world, that are content to just eat likely means they are not “hot” yet. Move on until you find active does that can’t stand still, and are often looking to see what is going on behind them. These are the does that are more than likely ready to mate.
If you do not kill a buck by the time these females are out of estrus, return to the carefree does you located a few days earlier. They are likely in estrus by now.
HUNT ON WINDY DAYS
Hunters tend to stay away from the deer woods when the winds are fierce, and for good reason. Deer can’t hear, see, or smell as good as they would like. Whitetails often stay bedded down until the high winds subside. But, when the rut is in full swing, deer do strange things, and hunters should to.
High winds seem to get bucks on the move for a couple of reasons. First, smart does that have not yet come into estrus yet think they can avoid the bucks with the wind concealing their movement and noise. Second, high winds often bring in a cold front following hot temperatures. Whitetails enjoy the cooler temperatures, and take advantage of them by getting up and moving.
Bucks will eventually smell these does that are in heat as they try to outsmart an old buck. Before you know it, deer are all over the place.
PACK A LUNCH
Most of the bucks you see early and late in the day will be smaller bucks. This is the time of the day does will be moving a lot, and it is difficult to narrow down where they will be. Mature bucks know this, so they save their energy until the does return to their beds. When the does bed, big bucks will begin to cruise downwind of known bedding areas.
Hang your treestands in funnels, and along overgrown fencerows that connect deer bedding areas. The best chance to kill a buck is the first time you hunt from a stand. For that reason, save these stands until the very best time, the peak of the rut.
You might go a couple of days without seeing a buck, but when you do he will likely be a mature buck.
SOUND LIKE A BUCK
Hunters are going to have to get aggressive with their tactics, and this includes when you are calling. When it is all said and done, calling will provide more shot opportunities.
Calling softly with dull grunts with long intervals between calling is not aggressive. In order to call in more, and bigger bucks, you have to add some emotion. When you spot a shooter buck that is out of range, call with a series of deep grunts with lots of bass to get him interested. This might be enough to get him to commit.
If a few deep grunts are not enough, sound off with a series of blaring grunts, and finish off with a snort-wheeze.
Most of the bucks will respond positively to calls, but some bucks will feel threatened, and hightail it out of the area. But, what do you have to lose if the buck does not respond to the call, he wasn’t going to offer you a shot anyways.
FAKE ‘EM OUT
As the rut progresses, and the chase and breeding phases begin, smaller bucks are not seen very much. Rub and scrape lines are not seeing much activity. Mature bucks can be seen cruising for, and breeding receptive does. Decoys work well near field edges, food plots, doe bedding areas, and travel corridors that connect these locations.
A buck and a receptive doe decoy is a good choice during this phase of the rut. Use a dominant buck scent for the buck decoy, and estrus doe scent for the doe. Place the scents on the ground around the decoys. Keep the decoys upwind of your position, and within shooting range. Keep the decoys clean, and spray them down with scent elimination spray.
Your calling sequences should be a combination of buck grunts and doe bleats. This should be enough to get any monster buck in the area excited.
Decoys alone will help, but add calling and scents to the mix, and you have a potentially deadly combination.
There is no magic tactic that will allow you to kill a mature buck during any part of the season. But, these 5 tips I have shared with you will put you in a better position to fill a tag.
Realtree Outdoors has some good advice in this video about bowhunting the whitetail rut.