It’s the most exciting time of year in the whitetail world, and these winning strategies can make your rut hunt one for the books!
You’ve waited all year for this narrow window of intense whitetail action, so making the most of every minute is essential. Using bad strategies will waste precious time, and leave you wondering if you’re missing the party going on somewhere else. So don’t be that guy saying the rut never happened this year, put your time into these high percentage tactics that will give you confidence, and help put a brute buck on your tailgate!
Before we dive into strategies, let’s just say there are differences in deer movement depending on the exact phase of the rut, which we will break into prerut (when bucks are seeking does), and rut (when actively chasing/breeding). Strategies may be different depending on the exact phase, especially when comparing these two parts, and also depending on your area.
Rut Hunting Strategy #1: Get in the Middle of It
Traffic is key during the rut. Think of it as gambling, and the more you stack the odds in your favor, the better chance you have to hit a jackpot. In whitetail hunting the rut, the more does you can be around, the more chances a hot doe will wander by and bring a good buck in tow. Good places to get in the middle of it are high traffic funnels, feeding areas, and fringes of feeding areas, but think about particular areas on the properties you hunt that hold does, and show a lot of doe activity. If you’ve been hunting low impact fringes during the early part of the season, it’s time to push in further to where the deer are moving and take more chances. High traffic however, means a higher amounts of eyes, noses, and ears in close proximity, so beware. Although bucks can get “stupid” this time of year, does will not, so don’t throw caution to the wind when planning your entry, exit, general setup, and while hunting. Make sure to utilize proper sight, scent, and sound concealment (for 7 essential sound concealment tactics, click HERE).
Rut Hunting Strategy #2: Let Him Come to You
Chasing a buck is like chasing your tail, often difficult to catch. Bucks are notorious for always staying one step ahead of hunters, so why not get several steps ahead and wait for him? If you can get where you know he will eventually be, it’s just a matter of time before you connect. This time of year, before a doe is ready to be bred, they will seek thick cover to ditch bucks that are constantly harassing them. This is where you need to be. Typically, these are good doe bedding areas as well, and if you “hunt the does,” a buck or many bucks are sure to find you. So check those known, thick areas on your properties, and known bedding areas and odds are you’ll intercept a buck. Again, be extra vigilant as the chance of busting does, and busting your hunt, increases dramatically. Feeding never stops with a whitetail (except for maybe a buck during peak rut), as he is constantly on the prowl. For does, which is your key, they still eat regularly. So a thick area, close to or adjacent to a known food source is another area to key on for daylight activity and cruising buck action.
3. Rut Hunting Strategy #3: Think like a Wingman
Top Gun fans know every Mav needs a good wingman (Goose), especially when out cruising the scene. Someone to help guide him to the right place, and time, with help, the right lady. Well in this case, bucks are cruising for does, and you need to be thinking like a wingman for that bruiser buck. Where would you tell him to cruise to pick up an available doe? Now get there! Typical cruising locations are scrapes (before peak breeding, where does will pee and bucks frequently check to see if a doe is in estrus), downwind of bedding areas (where bucks will scent check for does in estrus), and the downwind edge of fields/food plots (inside the timber for security). This applies more for prerut, or bucks that are actively searching for does, not ones already with or chasing a hot doe.
Now, let me say a bit about private vs. public ground. Typically, being less aggressive on private is the best and safest bet, but at the same time putting yourself in high-odds locations. For public land, utilize the above strategies, but be realistic about deer behavior. They make mistakes, but not as many as on private due to so many hunter encounters at this point in the season. You may have to get more aggressive, get further back into thick areas/bedding areas, and be prepared to stay all day to catch that movement when it happens (and it will).
Nothing is certain, and unorthodox tactics work from time to time, but odds are employing these strategies during this year’s rut hunt will increase your chances for making it a winner!
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