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What Happened to This Years Rut?

by John Mueller 19. November 2008 13:45
John Mueller

This has been one of the strangest years for the rut that I can remember. It seems like I have been seeing bucks chasing does for the last month. But never did see that frenzied few days when if a doe walked by, there were 4 or 5 bucks dogging her. Or you drive past an open field and there were deer chasing one another all over it. This usually happens around the 10th of November. Almost everyone I talk to has a similar story this year. Not really sure of the reason, but I have a few theories.


My first theory has to do with the amount of standing corn still in the fields. With all of the rain we had this spring and early summer the farmers got the corn in really late this year. Especially in the creek bottoms near my farm, it was just too wet to get on the ground to plant. That made the harvest really late and we have had a wet fall too. So there are thousands of acres of unpicked corn in the bottoms around my hunting property. This allows the deer to hide in the corn and the only reason they need to leave it is to get a drink. They have all the cover they need and food is everywhere around them. Much of the breeding may have taken place right in the corn fields where the does were living, and we never would have seen it.


My second theory has to do with the weather. I started seeing bucks chasing does during a cold snap on the weekend of Oct. 25th. I think the cold weather really got the bucks moving and in the mood. But then after a few days it warmed up again to near 80* temps. This shut down a lot of the activity or moved it until after dark when it was a little cooler. My buck sightings really took a hit after the weather warmed up. Then we had another cold snap, but along with the colder temps came very strong winds. The wind blew for many days in a row without letting up. I believe the deer head for heavy cover during strong winds because their defenses are somewhat useless during windy days. Everything in the woods is moving, making it hard for them to pick out danger with their eyes. Their hearing is not what it would be in a still woods. And they cannot trust their noses with the swirling winds. So where do they go? Back to the corn fields. 


I also feel this weather stretched out the breeding longer than it normally would have been, eliminating the frenzied chasing of the peak of the breeding period. Some of the does may have come into estrous during the first cold snap and got bred then. Then a few were still coming in during the warm weather, but most of the chasing and activity was going on at night, when the temps. were cooler and more comfortable for the does. Then another round of does came into heat during the second cold snap, but since it was so windy those days, most of the activity took place in very thick cover or in the standing corn.


Now don’t get me wrong, I did see rut activity. Just not the kind I am used to seeing in that area. This year there would be one buck chasing a doe or a small buck in the food plot checking them out by himself. Heck I would even see does in the food plots for long periods of time without a buck even coming to check them out. There is usually a few days where the deer are running around all day long chasing and breeding, and packs of bucks chasing the hot does. I hunted a lot of days the past few weeks and it just did not happen.


Interesting doe encounter.

by Scott Abbott 15. November 2008 13:29
Scott Abbott

Saturday November 15th, I had a fairly interesting encounter with a lone mature doe....  The forecast for the day was for rain and wind, and boy was the weather man right on for a change.  The "mini storms" would come through one after another.  High winds and rain followed by a period of calmness.  Then again the wind would pick up and another storm cloud would unleash buckets on me.  It went on like this all evening.

This odd weather pattern didn't really slow the deer down though. I saw 4 does and 2 bucks for the evening, one being a good looking 2.5 year old 8 point and the other an average yearling. 

During a lull in the high winds and rain I noticed a doe paralleling me to my North.  She was making her way slowly but deliberately to the East browsing on some brush that was still holding it's golden autumn colored leaves.  I could feel the wind starting to pick up just as it had a few times already this evening.  Another rain cloud blew in with moderately heavy showers and wind gusts solidly into the mid 20's mph. 

As soon as the wind started to pick up the doe lifted her head from feeding and stood in the same spot statuesque for 20 solid minutes as the storm blew through.  From my vantage point 25 feet up and 20 yards away, it appeared she never moved what-so-ever.  I did not even notice her turn her head during the storm.  As fast as the storm came in - it ended.  She went back to feeding like nothing ever happened.

It was interesting seeing how she reacted to the change in weather patterns.  A lot of times during heavy showers we assume the deer are holed up in a thicket waiting out the storm, tonight showed me other wise.  I have saw a lot of deer over the years in rain showers but very few if any other than tonight in heavy showers.


Making a Mock Scrape.

by John Mueller 2. November 2008 14:58
John Mueller

Making a Mock Scrape 

Last Saturday I found a great spot for a mock Scrape. There is a long ridge that slopes down along a small creek on my property, creating a natural funnel. At the end of the ridge is a nice trail leading from my field that crosses the creek. I found a small branch that overhung the trail. This is very important. There must be a low overhanging branch to make the scrape under. The deer also leave scent on the branch with their forehead glands. As you can see in this picture I also broke the branch to add a little visual effect.


Notice the broken branch above the deer.



Then I brushed all of the leaves from a 3’ diameter circle under the branch with a stick. After removing the leaf litter I made some long scrapes in the dirt like a deer’s hooves would make. I like to make it look as real as possible. You can add some scent if you want, but I have found it is not necessary.


When I returned on Sunday to check the scrape a deer had worked it and added another a few feet away. I then went and got my trail camera and set it up on the new scrape. I had lots of action in just a few days. Right now is a great time to make mock scrapes. The bucks are really hitting the scrapes hard at this time. It’s a great way to see what bucks are in your area. Here are a few that worked my mock scrape.



This guy looks like an old bruiser.


Another big bodied visitor.


A good young buck working the scrape.

Notice that all of this activity is under the cover of darkness. That is why I usually don't hunt over scrapes. But it is a great way to get an inventory of your bucks. You can get your trail cameras and scents right here on in the shopping section if you need one.

Early Season Success in Illinois

by Justin Zarr 13. October 2008 14:57
Justin Zarr

The 2008 season has been a long time coming for me.  For those of you who don't know, I got married two weeks ago and up until then much of my free time that I normally spent doing hunting-related things was consumed with wedding things.  However, I am glad to say that after 13 long months of planning the wedding went off without a hitch, and now I'm hitched!  After my new bride and I spent a week in Cabo we finally returned home so I could get back to the business at hand - bowhunting!

Saturday October 11th was my first chance to get out in the field.  Unfortunately some unseasonably high temperatures rolled in and temps were in the high 70's/low 80's across Northern Illinois.  With a S/SE wind my stand options were rather limited so I elected to sit in a stand near a picked corn field where the deer like to feed at night.  When I arrived at the field, I sadly found out that it had been harvested for silage and not a kernel of corn remained in the field.  It may as well have been bare dirt!  So I settled in for a long night of swatting mosquitos, nursing my bottle of water, and watching squirrels run about.  Even though I didn't see a deer, it was certainly good to get out in the field!

This probably isn't the best food source for deer hunting......

Sunday morning came quick and to be honest with you, I probably would've slept in had my wife not hit me in the back as my alarm was going off at 4:15 in the morning while I was sound asleep.  So I got up, showered, took the dog out, and I was on my way.  In my stand by around 6:00 AM I strapped in and waited for first light.  It was a cool, calm morning and you could hear a pin drop.  However once again, no deer!  I did see one big coyote though, and would've had a shot at him had I not been preoccupied with taking photos for this blog!

Hello from a tree somewhere in Illinois!

Don't forget to use a safety harness at ALL times when hunting from a treestand.  It could save your life!!!

It's scenes like this that make us bowhunters live for the fall!

So two hunts into my '08 season I had yet to see a deer.  With temperatures even hotter, in the mid 80's by 3 pm, I decided to sit in our third and final location in hopes of catching a deer on it's way to get a drink in the local pond.  My good friend, hunting partner, cameraman, and fellow connoisseur of bad movies Mr. Mike Willand accompanied me on this hunt.  Mike offered to take up the new Canon XHA1 camera and the Muddy Outdoors camera arm so he could start getting some practice in before our trip to the Campbell Outdoor Challenge next month.  So we braved the sun and hot temps and sweated our way into our stands.

The wind had been calm on our way in, but once in our stands it switched to pretty much dead East which was one of the worst winds for this particular spot.  Our wind was blowing directly into a known doe bedding area.  By this point it was too late and too hot to move anywhere else, so we settled in for a few hours of relaxation on a nice fall day.  In fact, most of the night was spent in conversation about future hunts, the movie Major League, and some of our fellow members.  How we didn't spook every deer in the county is beyond me.

A dark view from our stand location shortly before the doe arrived, just a few minutes too early for her own good!

However, about 10 minutes before dark just as we were about to pack it in, a doe showed up out of thin air.  By the time Mike and I saw her she was 15 yards and moving quickly out of my lane and into the cover between us and the pond.  Mike brought the camera up into position but couldn't get a shot of the deer from his vantage point.  At this point I knew he wasn't going to be able to get anything on film, however I was anxious to get my first deer of the year and help thin the overabundance of deer on this particular farm.  So once the big doe took two more steps she stopped perfectly in my last shooting lane as I came to full draw, settled my pin on her vitals, and touched off an arrow.  With a telltale "thud" the doe pounced straight up in the air, came down, and tore off through the cover.  Within 30 seconds and only yards away we heard crashing and she was down for good!

A short track job later my dear ol' Dad located the doe and we proceeded to drag her out, snap some photos, clean her up, and be on our way home in time for a late dinner.  Even though we didn't get the hunt on film, I had a blast.  Having a good friend in the tree with you always makes your hunts more enjoyable, that's for sure.  Hopefully next time we'll be a little bit more on cue and get some footage for you all to watch.

A big mature Illinois doe.  The third taken from this same stand in the past two years.

Thanks to Mike for help with the pictures.  It's amazing to see how far we've come since the high school days of randomly walking around the woods looking for a deer to shoot!!

The weather is supposed to take a turn for the cooler this week and with the full moon on it's way out we should be seeing some increased deer movement soon.  I'm hoping to get out for 2-3 hunts here close to home and try to catch up with one of the bucks I have been getting trail camera photos of if I can.  I'm also planning on getting in an evening hunt with Todd at his new property in NW IL this weekend as well, which should be fun.  Todd's a buck magnet, so hopefully some of his luck will rub off on me!

Gear used on this hunt:

NAP HellRazor Broadhead: This is my first year hunting with these heads and so far, so good.  They flew virtually perfectly the first time I screwed them onto my arrows and within a few minutes I was grouping shots with my field points out to 30 yards.  Their pinpoint accuracy and devastatingly sharp cut-on-contact blades provided a complete pass-thru, good blood trail, and quick recovery on this doe.  I'm looking forward to shooting more deer with them.

Dead Down Wind Products: Mike and I both use the full line of Dead Down Wind products for scent control, and they work great.  I personally recommend the Hair & Body Soap, Shampoo, and Field Spray along with the Laundry Detergent and Carbon Reactivator.  Check them out in the store.

Gum-O-Flage:  I've been using this product for three years now, and I love it.  It helps eliminate the odors from your breath/mouth which is a must on days like this one where you're hunting a questionable wind.

Mossy Oak Bowhunter Gloves: This is my first season using these gloves, and so far I really like them.  They're great for early season/warm hunts and the cutout for the release makes them a sinch to get on/off without removing your release.  They also provide a great feel for your grip as well as your release.  My only complaint is I wish they came in right/left hand versions so you didn't have a big hole in the glove of the hand you don't shoot with.  Other than that, they're great.

Octane one-piece quiver:  Again, my first year with this product and so far I really like it.  The magnetic hood is super cool and a very nice feature that makes getting arrows in and out of your quiver super easy even in the dark.  I also like the quick detach feature as well.  It's silent, easy, and very secure.  All the makings of a good bowhunting product!  The only drawback is that it's pretty heavy with those magnets in the hood.  But I don't shoot with my quiver on, so it's really not too big of a deal.  I can handle it in lieu of the ease of use and quality of this product.

You can purchase all of these products and a variety of other high-quality bowhunting gear right here at by clicking on this link.

Wounded Buck - Not How I Wanted to Start My Season!

by Todd Graf 9. October 2008 13:13
Todd Graf

I was on a roll until the dreadful bad shot took place. Yes, I will say it again - I made a bad shot. Of course not on purpose, it just one of those unfortunate things that happens in the bowhunting woods.

The season has been going quite well up until this point.  I have been seeing a lot of deer, shooting just about every day and most all of my gear has been working great. I was riding high and feeling good about my chances at harvesting a nice buck this fall.  That is until the other night! 

My evening hunt started off by checking with to confirm the wind was out of the East, and it was. I was pumped and I knew exactly where I was going to go.  Back in 2004 I harvested a nice 145 inch buck out of this very stand. In the past I have had some incredible luck hunting this spot early in the season because I can get right up on a big buck bedding area without them even knowing I'm there. This spot has it all – thick cover, beans, corn, hardwoods (acorns) & a pond all within a 100 yards of the buck’s bedroom.  Early in the season these big bucks don't like to venture far from their bedding areas during daylight, so if you want to get a shot at one you need to get in close.

My 2004 early season Illinois buck.

After arriving at my spot I was able to slip into my stand perfectly and without being detected.  My camera was ready to go and just like clockwork the does started to funnel out of the bedding area well before dark.  I watched them feed out in front of me for awhile, hoping a buck was nearby. 

With about 15 minutes of shooting light left I was out of good camera light so I started to pack everything up and call it a night.  As soon as I got the camera arm off the tree and was putting the camera away I look up to see a big buck headed my direction. I would guess him to be around 150 inches, if not a little bigger.  The buck had no idea I was there as he came down the trail towards my shooting lane.  I drew, aimed and shot. That’s when it felt like the world fell apart on me. I made a bad shot.  The buck ran out about 40 yards and stopped next to a small bush.  I watched him until it was too dark to see and he never moved from that spot.

After waiting an hour I snuck out and went to my truck to call Justin and Horseshoe Mazur to get them ready for the search and rescue mission that was going to take place in the morning.  We met the next morning and found the spot where I shot him.  Sure enough the arrow laid on the ground with about 7 inches broken off.  We found 1 patch of blood where the buck had stood motionless for so long, and then as a lot of  monster bucks seem to do – he vanished. We searched high and low through the woods, CRP fields, fencerows, and any other place we could think to look and came up with nothing.  In fact, we never found a single drop of blood after our initial findings. I believe the shot was high and in the shoulder blade which prevented me from getting good penetration or having a good trail to follow.

The unfortunate reality is that this can happen to any of us.  It only takes being off by and inch or two to make the difference between a quick, clean recovery and a lost animal. We all hope it doesn’t happen to us, but when it does it’s a super bad feeling. I can only hope the monster lives on for me or someone else to get another shot at him. I guess only time will tell.

As far as good news – I am going to go to Wisconsin this weekend and I’m going to give it hell!

Also, after Justin showed me a few pointers on building my own arrows I got my son helping me.  Its amazing how fast these little guys grow up and I make sure I spend as much time with my son as possible!

If you build your own arrows, or are interesting building your own arrows, check out our arrow building supplies here on  We carry just about everything you need for building your own arrows including several types of Arrow Wraps, Bohning Fletch-Tite glue, Bitzenburger Fletching Jigs, and much more.  It's really not that hard, and can be a good way to pass some time in the evenings and customize your arrows to your specifications.

I wish all you bowhunters good luck in the coming weeks as this is what we all live for.  The rut is coming up quicker than we think and  I hope to bear good news on my next post!

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