Tips on Shooting a Buck Without all the Extra Gear
I have rattled in bucks during the rut, I have decoyed bucks during the rut, and I have used scents and lures to bring bucks in close during the rut. I have had good success with those tactics and use them quite regularly during the rut. Yes, those tactics are tried and true but I want to remind hunters to not get too caught up with those tactics and forget about some basics that they should be doing.
Don’t get me wrong, as a deer hunter and writer I have published dozens of articles on rut strategies such as decoying, rattling, and using scents and lures. I stand by those articles but I believe it’s important to share with you some rut ideology just as important as the above mentioned tactics.
Take a look below and you will see some strategies that don’t require rattle bags, buck decoys, or any other expensive equipment other than yourself, treestand, and bow.
Find The Does
The number one thing that I focus on during the rut is to hunt the areas where does frequent often. While I am not interested in shooting a doe during late October through November I am interested in using the does to bring in the bucks.
The reasoning behind this thinking is simple; bucks are looking for does to breed during the rut and since most of the time bucks find the does you should hunt where the does are at. Sounds simple enough right? Well it can be that simple, the hard part is getting a buck into shooting range and then making that shot count.
The two areas I focus in on to find does is bedding areas and food sources on my land. Bucks are notorious for roaming from bedding area to food source to bedding area all day long in search of a hot doe. Find the bedding areas and food sources your does use and set up an ambush spot near a heavily used trail and wait for the does to bring the bucks to you.
Hunt More During The Rut
The heading of this topic is a bit misleading, while it would be great to hunt for 30 straight days during the rut that simply isn’t possible for 99.99% of us. What I am getting at is that when you do get into the stand during late October and November make the most of your day.
I know several people that during the early season will hunt in the morning for a couple of hours and then in the evening for a couple of hours then take the time off in between to do other things. This is fine and I myself hunt the very same patterns in early season because bucks simply won’t move during the mid-day hours. Once rut rolls around though I pretty much double my stand time during the day.
Lets face it, bucks get few chances at romance every year and they are going to make it count so they will be on their feet throughout the entirety of the day looking for love. As a hunter you should do the same, if you do get time off to hunt during the rut no matter if it is 1 day, a weekend, or 3 weeks use your time effectively and be in the stand throughout the day.
Now sitting in a stand for 8 hours is a breeze to some, but it can be the toughest thing in the world for others. That doesn’t make you a bad hunter; it just means it is harder for you to do than others. Take a look at the sidebar article on this page to find out some ways to fight “Treestand Anxiety”.
I have a buddy that is a die-hard archery hunter. He does it all year round; he truly lives and breathes the sport. He called me up during late October a few years back and told me he had just missed a buck that probably would have topped the 170” class. After telling him that is the way hunting goes and that life will go on, he let on a bit as to why he most likely didn’t connect on the shot. I will remember his words forever; he said, “My sights were dead on when the season started, I don’t know what happened?” I replied, “Excuse me? Have you shot your bow since the beginning of season?” His answer was a simple “No”. Well, my friend I think we found the problem. Sure enough he went out and shot some practice arrows and his bow was completely off. Here was a guy that takes deer hunting to the extreme and he wouldn’t practice during the season. I couldn’t believe it! He paid the ultimate price for it too!
Over the course of the year hunters go to hunting shows specific to whitetails, scout deer year round, shed hunt, hang trail cameras, plant food plots, buy expensive equipment, and practice during the off season. Great time and expense is devoted towards the sport so don’t let all your time and efforts go to waste because you stopped doing the one thing you should do everyday…PRACTICE!
At no point during the season should you ever stop shooting practice arrows, let me rephrase that. At no point during the entire YEAR should you stop shooting practice arrows! Accuracy is one of the few variables we can control while hunting and a large part of accuracy is practice, especially during the season. Just because the season is kicked off and you had your bow zeroed in at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean you should stop shooting practice arrows daily. Stuff happens and bows and hunters are subject to error. Reduce that chance of error as much as possible and practice daily. If something is wrong with your bow you will know it the instant you practice that day. Also daily practice keeps your fundamentals sharp and keeps you used to pulling back a bow. Archery is a repetitious sport; to be good at it you have to do it over and over again during the off-season and during the season.
Hang A New Stand
I am a firm believer in hanging new stands throughout the season, especially during the rut. I have two reasons why I hang new stands during the rut and they both revolve around patterns. Reason #1 is deer pattern hunters and reason # 2 is hunter’s pattern deer.
Deer are not dumb animals, they pattern hunters just as we pattern them throughout the season. The more often you hunt a single stand the greater you risk being patterned by deer and the more you lower your chances of success from that stand.
If you believe deer are skirting your area and have you patterned pack up shop and look for the next spot. Hunting is a chess match and you need to stay one move ahead of the deer in your area at all times.
Just because it is the rut don’t think that bucks become stupid, while they are more susceptible to being shot they are still smart creatures, especially mature bucks. If mature bucks know you are in a particular area they are still going to avoid your location during the rut, I have experienced this first hand.
I spooked a buck a few years back that was a definite shooter a few weeks before peak rut. I kept the stand in the same spot because I had been seeing a lot of deer activity, I just didn’t hunt that stand for two weeks. The very next time I did sit in the stand the same buck that I spooked was hot on a doe’s trail and coming straight at me. Thinking this was a done deal I prepared myself for the shot, only the shot would never happen. This buck stopped at 60 yards from my stand, raised his nose from the ground and looked right at me. It was obvious he knew I was there. He literally did a half circle around my stand and continued to look for the hot doe. I couldn’t believe it! Lessoned learned though, if I believe I am patterned by the deer I move my stand.
When you move a stand because you have been patterned stay in the area, but move a 100-200 yards in any direction that gives you a good setup. You are just looking to throw deer a curveball and change things up a bit.
During the rut, bucks are a bit harder to pattern but you still may notice trails they are using more than others. This is most likely because of heavy doe traffic on those trails. Slip in and place a stand in the area and hunt it immediately. The rut while as unpredictable as it can be can still have its predictable moments. You just have to be willing to jump on those moments.
To review remember that you should always have the rattle bag, grunt tube, scents, and decoy in your arsenal. I would never tell myself to leave home without those things let alone 40,000 readers of this magazine. I would be laughed out of town if I told you to stop using those tactics. What I want you to take from this article is to remember that there are other strategies to use in conjunction with rattling, decoying, and grunting that you should employ in your bag of tricks. While these tactics I discussed don’t necessarily involve any cool new product to use they do give hunters a better chance of harvesting a mature Iowa buck. Keep an open mind and remember one thing: Stay alert and be on your toes at all times, it’s the rut and anything can happen!
Have a Great Rut!
“Fighting Treestand Anxiety”
Treestand anxiety is simply the urge to get down from the stand at any given time because your mind is fighting your urge to stay in the stand. A lot of variables contribute to stand anxiety; some of those are when there is no deer activity, weather conditions, health conditions, and attention span. All of these will lead to your mind telling you to get down from the stand.
If you are a hunter that fights to stay in the stand long hours each day don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad hunter. In fact I am willing to bet that the majority of hunters if not all hunters at some point in time have faced Treestand Anxiety. The best way to fight Treestand Anxiety is to get your mind off of the fact that you need to get down.
During the rut you have to be hunting more because bucks are moving more during the day. Don’t let Treestand Anxiety strike; use some of the tips that I provided below to fight against this terrible illness:
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal should be a must for all whitetail hunters. I carry a small note pad with me in my backpack. I jot down the temperature, wind speed/direction, cloud cover, deer activity, deer behavior, basically anything and everything that happens throughout the day.
If you feel your mind racing then go to your journal and jot some stuff down or review your notes from previous days. This journal is more than just a way to fight Treestand Anxiety it is also a study guide of the deer behavior in your area.
Keep your notes simple and brief, you are not out to write a novel but something to just bring your mind back to deer hunting.
Take a Break
I know we are trying to fight the urge of getting down from the stand, but sometimes that is what is best for you. There is nothing wrong with getting down after several hours in the stand to take a mini-break. Take this time to go to the bathroom, get something to eat or drink, and maybe take a brief 15 to 20 minute power nap. Then head back out to the stand. No one is saying that you have to park your butt in a stand from 5am until 5pm. While some can do this, most cannot. Get down take a small break to rejuvenate your body and mind, and then head back to the stand.
If you have multiple stands in an area get down and switch stands. The amount of time that it takes to relocate could be exactly what the doctor ordered and get you back on track.
Remember that while these tips will help pass the time that you should only use them sparingly and only when your thoughts begin to stray from hunting. Don’t allow anything to completely take your thoughts away from hunting. As a hunter you are there to hunt and your sole focus should be on harvesting your game. Use these tips and any other Treestand Anxiety fighting tips that you can come up with to get your mind back at ease.