Hunting Tips for Peak-Rut Deer Hunting
We all look forward to the peak of the rut, when bucks are chasing does all over the countryside just prior to actual breeding. It's like a seven-year-old arriving at the Disney World gates – there it is, the Promised Land. Here are five ways to get the most out of peak-rut deer hunting.
Select Wisely, Then Stick To It
Sit all day long at a major funnel. It may be a narrow tree-lined fencerow connecting two big blocks of timber, or it may be an inside corner where you can see a crop field and into the woods bordering it, or it may be where a farmhouse and pond or small lake form an hourglass. Key is finding a high traffic area and sitting there all day long.
An all-day sit requires certain items, including a lunch, snacks, plenty of water and toilet paper. A book or hand-held video game also helps pass time between deer sightings, but be sure to equip your stand with a pocket that can be accessed quickly. See a buck and slip the book or game into the pocket without undue movement or noise.
Quick Scout A Hot Doe
Two days of sitting and you've seen two spikes. You've got a choice to make. Get on the run and scout during the midmorning. What you're looking for isn't necessarily the buck you're after, but a doe bedding area or visual evidence of a hot doe. Small woodlots are perfect for the latter. It can take no more than five minutes to skirt the edges of a small woodlot, and bucks often try to steer hot does away from the competition and into a limited area just like this. Slip around the downwind edge and look and listen. Catch a glimpse of a buck trailing a doe and you've got a spot that likely will stay hot for a few more days. Slip in at night and hang a stand, then be there early the next morning.
Make Some Noise In The Thick Stuff
If the area you're hunting sees some pressure, locate the thickest, nastiest area and hang a hunting stand where you have an advantageous view. Then, get in there and make some noise. Rattle, grunt, snort-wheeze your head off from early shooting light until midmorning. During the afternoon, begin with an occasional doe bleat from a tip-over style call, then as evening rolls in go back to rattling and grunting.
Always keep watch downwind and apply some buck and doe estrous urines nearby so that the incoming buck can smell the deer it hears. Also keep yourself as scent-free as possible with the periodic reapplication of scent elimination sprays and scent-inhibiting clothing.
The peak of the rut means that bucks are very agitated and quick to fight, and have one thing on the mind. This makes them less wary than any other time of the year, and very susceptible to every hunting technique. One of the best is a deer decoy. Select the most visible spot on your hunting area (decoys only recommended for bowhunters or bowhunting-only areas). It may be a hillside or crop field corner. Set a buck decoy within bow-range and spray with scent elimination spray, then pour some buck urine on the leaves and area around it. Remember that a buck will approach a buck decoy nose-to-nose and set it accordingly.
Double your effectiveness by adding a bedded doe decoy to the mix. Again, apply scent elimination spray and add doe estrous urine to the mix. Place the doe decoy five yards in front of the buck.
When using a decoy, the hunter needs to make as much noise as possible to get bucks to come looking. This means rattling and grunting and bleating and snort-wheezing as much as you like.
There's nothing wrong with a little push when things are slow, but it's best to be clever about it. You're trying to push bucks within their home ranges, not send them running out of the county. Here is an example of a good early afternoon push.
You've got a 300-yard long brushy draw running north/south and a wind coming from the south. Slip a stander into the north end of the draw, then circle around to the south (upwind) end. The best situation is for this end of the draw to end at a road so the "pusher" can pull up, slam the car door and generally make some noise for a few minutes. Recruit a smoker to light up and let the wind carry the smoke down the draw, or spray some cologne into the wind. Take your time. Deer will get uneasy with this activity and head toward your stander at the other end.
Only after 10 minutes of making noise and scent should the walker(s) proceed. Always wear plenty of hunter orange when doing a push, and go slow.
A big-woods push requires more walkers and more standers. Push still should be done with the wind at the back of the walkers. Line out across the area and begin your push, keeping visual tabs on the walkers on your sides.
One big key to every push is that everyone involved must be on the same page, and in many cases some of the walkers are unfamiliar with the area. Take time to draw out a map of the land, even if it's on a napkin from the floor of your truck. A good visual provides more understanding than just telling someone where to go.