In this edition of questions from our readers we will focus on the fast approaching whitetail rut. The rut as we know is the time when bucks will be actively cruising for does during all parts of the day in hopes of passing on their genes. This is undoubtedly the best time for hunters to put a tag on an Iowa whitetail, however just because it’s the rut doesn’t mean hunting comes easy. Heck some of the most stressful times of the year are trying to figure out how to and when to hunt the rut, hopefully some of the questions other readers submitted will help you in your quest. Below are the most popular questions we received:
I am a weekend deer hunter who has 160 acres of private land to hunt. With the rigors of life I just can’t get away during the week to hunt. Should I be more aggressive during the rut when I do get out during the weekends?
The rut has four legitimate weekends this year; call it five if you believe the rut will carry over into the final weekend of November. Of those four to five weekends only two will be in the prime time when bucks are cruising for does. With limited time to hunt the best days of the year you will have to get more aggressive.
The best aggressive tactic I would use is to hunt your best stand/s as many times as you can. Now is the time to sit in those couple of stands you have been waiting for all year long. If you see a lot of movement from these stands continue to use them without worrying about over hunting them. Remember you have little time to waste so focus your efforts on where you are seeing deer. If you are worried about pressuring the deer too much don’t be. With a four to five day lay off in between your hunts deer won’t feel all that pressured.
Another tactic you could use is hunting really close to doe bedding areas during the rut. I wouldn’t hunt directly on top of them but closer than normal. With little time to hunt the rut you have got to play every card you can.
Is it wise to hang an impromptu stand during the rut where I am seeing a lot of bucks cruising?
Absolutely! I am a firm believer in hanging a stand on a moments notice and hunting it that very same day or a day or two later. If you see a spot where bucks are cruising regularly and don’t already have a stand there I say go ahead and put a stand there. During the rut, bucks can and mostly likely will cruise during all parts of the day so you might get caught in the act, but I wouldn’t let that deter you from switching stand spots especially if there are a lot of bucks traveling the area you have found.
Normally I will hunt an existing stand in the vicinity I want to hang the new stand during the morning. I will either haul in a new stand with me that morning or take down am existing stand and move it. Once the activity around me dies down I will get down and hang the new stand. Then depending on the day and activity I have seen in the area I will decide to hunt that stand immediately, come back that afternoon, or wait until the following morning.
Does hot weather put a halt to the rut?
No hot weather doesn’t put a halt to breeding activities. It may slow down a buck’s movement during the day, and most likely promote more nighttime, early morning, and late evening hour movement. So when the mercury is rising high on the thermometer buck movement will most likely be less visible, however the rut is still going on but just not during the heat of the day like it would be during cooler temps.
If the weather is hot you have to wait it out, by that I mean be in the stand. Remember this is the rut and just because it’s 70 degrees or hotter doesn’t mean a buck won’t be on its feet during the day. Put your rear end in the stand and hunt, as you normally would do during cooler temperatures. If you have a stand that is near a water source now might be the time to utilize it.
Does the phase of the moon play a role in predicting the rut?
Personally I believe the lunar calendar has little effect on predicting the rut, it may have a part in the intensity of buck movement during the day depending on the brightness of the moon but the actual prediction of the rut I believe happens every year approximately the same time give or take a week.
This year may be a good test to that theory. Hunters who predict the rut and its stages often say the best time to hunt the rut are the days leading up to and directly after the second full moon after the autumn equinox, commonly called the “Rutting Moon”. Well that date just happens to land on November 17th notably later than the traditional “best days to hunt” which is often believed to be around November 1-10.
Should I hunt one stand all day long or get up and move locations?
It all depends on the particular day you are hunting and if you are seeing a lot of activity in a stand. If you were seeing non-stop movement I wouldn’t move or at least not until the activity ceases for a long period of time.
On the other hand if you are not seeing much movement in a stand and have given that stand several hours with still no movement then I would most definitely get up and move to another stand. This will allow you to stretch your legs a bit, let your wandering mind recover, and possibly put you in a spot that is yielding more activity.
No matter if you sit at one stand all day or break the day up with a few different stands, just remember that bucks will cruise all day long so be prepared at a moments notice. Just because you haven’t seen a deer in four hours doesn’t mean that a buck won’t walk around the bend in the next two minutes. It’s a crazy time of the year!
Last year I had a completely nocturnal buck during the rut is there anything I can do to harvest a buck like this?
I question that the buck you were seeing last year was completely nocturnal during the rut. I am not saying this to offend your observation because it could very well be that the overwhelming majority of this buck’s time on the hoof was at night. However it is the rut after all and a buck’s instinct is to breed any doe that will have him. So it is my belief that all mostly nocturnal mature bucks will slip up from time to time and present a shot during shooting hours at some point during the rut. So what am I getting at? A lot of the time shooting a deer that seems to be nocturnal comes down to being in the right spot at the right time; when that bruiser makes that one mistake.
To get in the right spot at the right time use any current trail camera pictures of this buck you might have during the rut. Albeit these pictures may be at night it still gives you visual evidence that he is scent checking the area for receptive does. If there are any bedding areas or food sources in the area make sure and have a stand set up on the downwind side. It only takes one mistake for a buck to fall victim to a hunter, but you have to be there to make it happen. Use what you know to harvest that nocturnal bruiser!
When should I use a grunt tube and a rattle bag?
I will use a grunt tube starting in mid to late October and use it all throughout the rut. As for rattling I typically start rattling mid to late October and stop around the peak breeding season. I normally haven’t had much success with rattling as the rut progresses into the breeding stage. That isn’t to say it won’t work, but I let my experiences dictate my actions most of the time when hunting. Once I believe the breeding phase of the rut is coming to an end I will from time to time hit the antlers together again as the bucks will be a bit more aggressive looking for the next doe in heat.
Is there anything I can do to bring a buck locked down with a doe my way?
This is by far the most popular question received lately in the inbox. When a buck is locked down breeding a doe it is nearly impossible to get him to break away from her. His mind is on one thing and there is virtually nothing you will be able to do about it. One thing that you can try is to get down from your stand or out of your blind and try to sneak up on the two lovebirds. This is a super aggressive tactic so you run the risk of scaring this deer away from your property, but if it’s late in the season and you are not concerned about bumping the deer then this tactic may just what the doctor ordered. When making your approach remember to come in from the downwind side of the deer and use extreme caution.
Should I hunt feeding areas in the morning during the rut?
You most certainly can but I caution you to do so. When you walk to your stand that is located on a food source during the morning hours chances are there will already be does and possibly bucks there to greet you. The end result is you spooking what deer are already in the field, which could potentially lead to a rather slow morning.
A better approach would be to wait until the late morning through the evening hours to hunt the food sources to give the does time to bed for the day. This way you won’t bump any deer feeding in the morning. While most does won’t be feeding in the late morning and afternoon hours bucks will still come by to scent check the area to try and find the trail of a hot doe, so just because you are sitting on a field edge during non feeding hours don’t think that a buck won’t come by.
Focus your morning hunts on funnels deeper in the timber that lead to bedding areas and food sources. This will give you a better chance at going undetected on your morning walk ins, plus it gives you the ability to harvest a buck cruising the funnel between bedding and feeding areas. As the norm make sure and have entrance and exit routes that take you to and lead you away from where the deer most likely will be bedded or feeding.
Should I be calling on public ground?
Public ground often means a lot of hunters, which means more pressure on the deer. I believe calling on public ground can work but for the most part it is extremely difficult and more often than not results in a hunter actually spooking deer. Deer are obviously smart animals and if they hear continuous calling from a bevy of hunters they will put two and two together and become educated. My advice is to sit still, be quiet, and leave the calls alone.
Thanks again for submitting your questions! Keep them coming too. While we won’t publish all the questions in an article we will reply to every email we get with our best advice! Please send questions to [email protected] Subject: Question From A Reader.
Good luck in your rut adventures! If you happened to shoot a buck this year please send us the photos to place in our trophy room or the chance at having your buck profiled in an article in an upcoming issue of the magazine!