Ahh, the rut. Every hunter’s dream. If you’re a bowhunter or know anything about bowhunting or hunting in general, then you know that the rut is one of the if not the most important times of the year for all bowhunters to get together and tag that big, prized buck that they’ve always dreamed of.
There’s a lot of preparation, excitement, and anticipation that happens leading up to the rut, but it is important to not let this distract you from taking the steps necessary and following these tips so that you can make sure you are getting as much out of hunting the rut as you can.
If you want to be ahead of the game and tag the bucks and does that you’ve had your mind on all year or even to get that trophy buck that you’ve fantasized about getting, then it’s best you stand out from the crowd and go in with a plan.
Not only will this separate the boys from the men, but will also show that you are serious and worthy enough to bag that buck that you always knew you could bag.
The key to a successful hunt is to use strategy, top-notch preparation and to have the ability to think 10 steps ahead of your game, so sit back and take notes on these tips and pointers so that you can have the upper hand when it comes to hunting the rut.
1) It’s As Simple As Waiting
I know it can be disheartening or frustrating when sitting in a tree stand or camping out in a ground blind for long periods of time without having any deer pass you by, but if you wait long enough, the chances of a buck moving past your location are very likely.
When bucks are in “the mood”, they will travel miles upon miles just to find a doe to mate with, so if you simply set up shop in one location where you know activity has happened then tagging that buck is more likely to happen than you think.
I know it can be difficult to sit in one spot for a long period of time, but if you’re serious about tagging something nice, then you have to be willing to make that move. You might be surprised to see that this approach can be very beneficial and can pay off more than if you were to be on your feet most of the time.
Not to say that you shouldn’t be mobile at all during the rut, but camp out at one location longer than you typically would so that you don’t miss out on anything. Patience is the name of the game when hunting the rut, so think smart and prepare to do things that others wouldn’t.
2) Prepare To Get Settled In
Chances are you’re going to be in this hunt for the long haul, so get prepared way ahead of time so that you don’t end up cutting your hunt shorter than you would have liked. It is a common mistake for many hunters to plan for a long hunting trip but forget to actually bring the things they need to allow them to make that hunt possible.
Before even leaving the house or cabin, it is recommended to pack up supplies such as food, water, books, and equipment that will ensure that you’re staying comfortable while you’re waiting. If possible, look into getting cushions for your tree stand and memory foam material to go into your ground blind.
There is absolutely no worse feeling than being deep into a hunt and then going hungry, becoming dehydrated or cramping up too badly due to discomfort. This has happened to me before and trust me, it sucks. I was sore for over a week and couldn’t move much until the cramps went away.
Unlike me when I was a rookie, do all you can beforehand and you will thank your self later when the rut is over with.
3) Track Down That Doe!
If you can somehow manage to hunt down a couple does during the rut, then you may have just lucked out. During this time of the year, the only thing deer are worried about is mating, so when you can get in an area where doe are, then bagging the buck you’ve been waiting on is almost inevitable.
Does are on the hunt, too, but probably not for what you’re thinking of. During the rut, you can typically find does hanging out around different sources of food or areas where they can rest. If you want to heighten your chances of tagging a buck, then lurking out around one or both of these areas is probably a good idea.
The chances of deer coming to you during while you camp out are still pretty high if you wait long enough, but if you want to really increase your chances at finding something worth catching then sometimes you have to go directly to the source, and the source for a buck, is where the doe are.
If you want to know what to look for when searching for a doe then just keep your eye out for fields with crop or ridges that have tons of acorns in them. Doe are not limited to just the two sources of food, always stay on the lookout for potential food sources when you’re on the mission to track down that doe.
4) Use Your Voice
Deer hear very similar to humans, but because of the way their ears are shaped, they are able to pinpoint and pick up sound a lot quicker than we can. Because of this, using a deer call is very effective during the rut.
Not only are they in a more vulnerable state to responding to anything that sounds remotely close to the sound of a doe ready to mate, but are generally always attracted to the sound of other deer and should come pretty quickly, especially during the rut.
Keep in mind that deer calls can and will attract deer from many yards away, so if you aren’t having much luck with spotting anything and want to give what hunters call a “blind call” with absolutely no clue where any deer are, then don’t worry, these call do have the potential to work for you.
Grunting, mimicking a deer fight, and using a rattle bag have all shown to be very effective when it comes to bringing in deer. Another alternative would be to invest in a deer hunting calling tool to help you make sure the sounds you are making are consistent and also so that you don’t strain your voice too badly from repeatedly making unnatural calls.
5) Attractants Can Help
There are many types of attractants you can use when hunting deer, but when you’re hunting during the rut, you’ll want to make sure that you are using something that is appropriate for the occasion.
Since bucks are running around looking for doe, then what better way to imitate the smell of one then by actually getting a scent that smells like them. As stated in the paragraph before, deer are extremely vulnerable at this time of the year, so being able to use their senses against them in a time like this is very important when it comes to your hunt.
I recommend going to your local archery store and picking up a good batch of attractant, but if this is not an option for you then there are many videos on the internet that will help you make your own right at the house.
Another noteworthy scent to look into when attracting deer during the hunt is a dominate-buck attractant. Deer are always in competition with other deer to prove dominance and with it being rut season deer are fighting to see who is worthy enough to win over their desired doe.
6) Deer Leave Clues
If you’ve waited a while and are not having much luck spotting any deer where you camped up at, then sometimes you just have to cut your losses and go search in other areas. A good way to know where a deer has been when looking is to pay attention to the little clues that they leave.
If you look at the base tree, you can sometimes see bark shavings and a little bit of sap oozing from the tree. This is done because the deer are trying to either mark its territory, remove velvet from their antlers, or attract doe. Either way though, they are leaving a sign to show that that is their area and that is where they’ve been.
A good hunter knows how to look for signs and clues to let them know they’re onto something, so utilize the resources the deer are providing you with and take full advantage of it as this can help you greatly when finding a buck to bag.
You’d be surprised at how much easier hunting deer can be when you pay attention to the many clues around you.
7) Use Some Footwork
Sometimes when hunting, things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but that’s okay because you can change your luck fairly quickly by just making a couple of changes. If you’ve been in your tree stand for a while and haven’t seen anything pass or have been camping out in your ground blind waiting patiently and still have had little to no luck then moving locations will probably be your next best move.
Simply moving within a visible distance from where you were stationed can sometimes make all the difference when it comes to having a successful hunt. It is not unheard of to have to move quite frequently before you’re able to find that sweet spot.
If you have a tree stand, then make sure it is lightweight so that you’re not straining yourself too much between each move. Many hunters would like if the deer came to them every single time and during the rut, this is expected as there is a lot more activity, but this is not always the case. Sometimes moving from location to location is the only option you have when hunting the rut.
I haven’t heard too many people do this, but buying some cushioning for the inside of your shoes can help tremendously when walking with heavy equipment on-hand. The gear you have can be very bulky, so do what you can to make things a little easier on yourself.
How disappointing would it be to get to the rut just to find out you’re a little too rusty to really tag anything. When I know the rut is around the corner, I practice my shot for at least a week prior leading up to the day I head out.
This is a very special time of year for me and many other hunters, so I want to make sure my shooting skills are always up to par and I think others should, too. Any chance you get, set up an at-home target and practice your shot repeatedly until you feel your shot is good enough to hunt.
For me, missing out on a buck during rut season compared to a normal hunt feels way worse, so before it happens I’m making sure I’m on top of my game. And if you’re a serious and dedicated hunter, then you will too.
Be very patient with yourself and get your shot right so that you can be able to say that you brought something home this year during this special time of the year.
9) Pay Close Attention To Deer Noises
Deer make a lot of noise during the rut, so making sure you’re quiet and listening to the sounds they are making is pretty vital to how your hunt will turn out. If you feel that you have a deer near you or is in viewing distance, then use a call to attract it closer to your location.
Deer make their move off of noise, so take full advantage of this and keep your ears open so that you don’t miss the potential chance of scoring that big buck that you’ve been waiting oh so patiently for.
10) Heat Picking Up
As many hunters know, when hot weather moves in during the rut, you can say goodbye to the deer. One way you can save your luck though is by searching out bodies of water on higher ground where the winds are less aggressive. This will typically be in the springs or near watering holes.
The reason why bucks are moving when the heat picks up is because doe do not move when it’s hot out, so the only thing left for them to do is find a water source and resting area until it’s time to mate again the next day.
To avoid this, try to skip hunting on hot days as much as possible. During the rut, the colder the weather is, the better. If you feel the heat picking up while you’re out on your hunt, then you know you’re in a bit of a predicament.
11) Think Ahead
Before the rut even begins, it is smart to scout out the area you’ll be hunting at so that you will have a bit of an advantage over the deer. Coming in blindly is never recommended and can call for an unsuccessful trip.
A good way to check for potential bedding areas for doe is to look for dead spots in water-soaked areas in fields where the field was previously seeded. Areas like these usually have spots with high grass and can be scouted out as a potential resting area for when the rut is in place.
This can be a location that you can check for regularly when hunting out your deer.
When bucks fight, the fight will typically end just as fast as it started, so if you’re using a rattling technique to attract more deer near your area, then switch up your tactics by rattling your antlers together for different periods of time each time.
This will confuse the deer and will trick them into thinking that something is actually going on wherever your location is. If you rattle for the same amount of time each time, you might notice that the deer will become unresponsive. This is because it won’t be believable as this will not sound like any real behavior that the deer are used to.
13) Stay Protected
If your rattling method finally brings a buck in and you are caught off guard by a deer with antlers in your hands, then instead of hanging them up, drop them where you stand. If a deer sees you and suspects a threat, then he is likely to charge at you.
After you drop your antlers, pay close attention to the deer to see what his next move will be before reaching for your bow. You’ll want to keep your eyes on him at all times so that you don’t run the risk of getting injured.
The rut can be an amazing time of year to hunt, but if you come unprepared then you will find out very quickly that the fun and exciting experience you were looking for is no longer fun and exciting. Different factors like scouting, stealth, comfort, and patience will all go into hunting during the rut so it is best you have all areas covered before jumping in the field for a hunt.
Take the tips you’ve read into action and you will find that you will have a lot more success with hunting the rut than others.