The whitetail breeding season will soon be upon us and that equals a lot of excited hunters across the state of Iowa. In a time where hunting shows and the next big hunting celebrity seem to dominate views on hunting styles and tactics we wanted to give our readers some “real” knowledgeable information from people who are actually out hunting the Iowa whitetail rut; our readers! Nothing against hunting shows or hunting celebrities, but we feel that information from fellow Iowa hunters is far more valuable to you than what any hunting show or hunting celebrity can provide. Take a look at what some of your fellow readers have to say about the best tactic they use during the rut.
I Hunt Big Timber Funnels
Scott, from Decorah
I hunt a lot of land that is mostly timber, which sounds great to people and it is as deer like to move back into the timber during the mid-morning from the food sources, but it has its drawbacks. When I hunt big timber I still have to know where the deer like to go or more importantly where they have to go. My main tactic is to find funnel routes within the timber that deer are using to get from bedding area to food source and vice versa. This could be a shallow ravine, a thicker patch of cover running the length of the timber, or a creek. It takes a bit of scouting and some time to figure things out, but if you hunt big timber don’t just hang a stand. Have a plan and know where the deer are going and what routes they are taking to get there…most of the time it will be a funnel system within the big timber. Deer have a rhyme and reason for everything and that includes travel in big timber.
Hunting Cropland Fingers
Parker, from Ames
I hunt on a piece of property that has a lot of timber fingers leading from a large tract of timber. These fingers go out into cropland. While some might guess that I would hunt the big timber most of the time I actually do the opposite and hunt the fingers. It took me a while to figure out that the bucks like to use these fingers to come and check the fields for hot does during the early morning hours and evening hours when does are out feeding. The security the fingers provide is a sure fire ambush spot!
Evening Food Plots
Rick, from Guthrie Center
My go to tactic is hunting food plots or food sources during the evening. Does will emerge from their bedding areas in the late afternoon and early evening hours to start feeding and I always see some buck activity in the field or plot. What I like to do is play the dominant wind pattern obviously, but I don’t set up directly on the field. Instead I set up back in the timber a bit to stay downwind from the trail and the does in the field. This way if a buck does approach on this trail the wind will carry my scent away from him. I still like to have a shot at the field and will usually set up in a corner about 15 yards from the field edge if possible. I also pay attention to fence rows, if I can find one that has barbed wire down I like this set up as it allows the buck to cross into the field with minimal effort…remember bucks are kind of lazy even during the rut, if they can be.
Dan, from Johnston
I know a lot of people question the use of rattling, but I am a firm believer in this tactic. During the latter part of October and all through November I will always have my rattle horns with me and use them every day I am hunting. I am sure I have had times where they have hurt my chances without me even knowing it, but I have had such great luck bringing mature bucks into shooting range because of rattling I use the tactic religiously! During the rut I rattle every 20 minutes or so and don’t give up and I think that is key. Just because my first or second session didn’t yield any results I don’t stop and often my third, fourth, or fifth session will bring something in for a look. Another good thing about rattling is that is extends my hunting area by providing common deer noises for deer outside of my hunting zone to hear and come in to investigate. Use the bag or horns every chance you get!
Terry, from Keokuk
I love using decoys during the rut! Some people are afraid of the extra work involved in the setup or that a decoy might blow their cover, but if done correctly I think this is one of the best tactics a hunter can use during the rut. I use both buck and doe decoys and a lot of the times I use them together. The joint use of decoys plays at other buck’s jealousy strings and may bring a challenger in for a fight during the rut.
I am always mindful of how to set up the decoys so the approaching buck will not detect my scent and will also not be looking my direction. Buck’s that approach other bucks usually will do so head on so it is wise to either place my buck decoy broadside or quartering to me. This takes the approaching buck’s eyes away from me and allows for a broadside or quartering away shot. The opposite is the norm when a buck approaches a doe.
Most of the time you will see them come in from the rear to scent check the doe. Therefore I always set up my doe decoy either broadside or quartering away from me…allowing for the buck’s eyes to focus away from me and provide the broadside or quartering away shot I am looking for. If I use both a buck and doe decoy I set the doe decoy facing me and the buck decoy directly behind her. An approaching buck will focus in on the buck decoy and approach head on providing me with again a broadside or quartering away shot, exactly what I am looking for.
John, from Sigourney
Give me a time period to hunt during the rut and I will always chose the middle frame of 10am-2pm. A lot of people like to hunt during this time and I am one of them. I have always seen a lot of mature bucks during this time and of the bucks I have harvested the majority have been between 11am and 1pm. I used to think it was luck, but after consistently killing bucks during this time I started thinking why? My belief is that the mature bucks know that does like to bed during this time and they also know they will be easy to locate. So the older savvy bucks will be out cruising doe bedding areas during midday while the smaller younger bucks go crazy during the morning and evening hours when does are out roaming and harder to locate.
Bedding area hunts
Austin, from Red Oak
My go to tactic during the rut is to find where the does bed. It makes perfect sense! What are bucks looking for during the rut? A doe in heat, so why not set up shop where you know does will be. Bucks will scent check bedding areas from the downwind side so I always have a stand located in the general vicinity. Then bucks will move on and take travel routes to other known bedding zones, I make sure to have stands on these routes as well.
Knowing where does bed beforehand is a must so I take every measure I can to scout my hunting property well before season starts. This allows me to have stands in place at the locations I mentioned so that I don’t have to intrude during season.
Change stands based on time of day.
Derrick, from Newton
I am a firm believer in hanging and hunting stands based on the different times of day. What works in the morning may not be as good as the evening and I plan accordingly. In the morning during the rut I like to hunt bedding areas and travel routes to and from bedding areas and food sources. Does will be heading back in from the food source in the morning and looking to bed for the day. The buck’s will not be far behind and scent checking these areas during the morning hours. It may take a few hours for them to come into the area, but they always show up. Then I will switch things up in the evening and look to hunt food sources. Does will be leaving bedding areas during this time and start feeding. So the bucks will too switch their thinking and start looking for food sources to scent check and look for does.