Each fall, the days begin to really grow shorter, it gets dark much earlier and the sunrise comes a bit later. It’s this photoperiod, which triggers whitetail bucks to enter the rut, a short burst of breeding activity that occurs intermittently throughout the fall and winter. If the fresh scrapes I’m finding while scouting the local WMA’s is any indicator, our first rut period is now! They’re going to be on their hooves looking for does and challenging other bucks to territorial disputes and in their testosterone-fueled state. So, how do we take advantage of it?
The first thing to note about hunting the rut is deer are unpredictable. They may have been on patterns before, but this all changes now. The only patterns they seem to follow are going where the does are. My No. 1 tip for this time of year is to ensure you’re always spraying down with a quality cover scent. This will help eliminate human odor, which is very important because deer won’t be coming on just one trail or in one area where you can set up, based on the wind. At times it can be complete chaos so you want to ensure regardless of where the deer go, you can stay undetected.
The next issue is getting deer to stop for a clean shot. So often deer will be chasing and even the loudest grunts can go unnoticed with your shooter buck-passing right through your lane and never stopping. One way I’ve found to get a deer to stop where you want them to is by using scents. I place them right in the middle of my shooting lanes. What I’ve found is deer that are coming through will often stop to smell what this is; giving you a shot in the exact location you want. This way you can count on them stopping in that location and already be at full draw or have your gun ready and set for the moment they stop.
Another great way to utilize scents is to place a scented wick in front of your trail camera setups. One issue that many of us face who hunt public land, where baiting is not legal, is finding a way to get deer directly in front of our cameras. During the rut, I like to place my cameras on rubs, scrapes, mock scrapes, and water sources but if I have a trail or intersecting trail in the woods this is a great way to get the photos right where you need them.
And another big tip is to stay put. Pack in your lunch, bring extra water and remain on the stand as long as you can because there is no telling when that buck is going to cruise through looking for love. You aren’t going to kill your trophy at the local diner, enjoying a Cuban sandwich.
As always, if you have any questions or comments on this week’s column, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!