The first and last hour of daylight. Deer hunters know it as “Prime-time” in the woods. We live for it…we love it…and seldom will we miss those moments on the stand. But as cooler days come and daylight draws shorter in the deer woods, things begin to change. In fact, as a whitetail buck encounters those days in November that he was created for, everything seems to change in the whitetail world. In the month of November whitetail bucks will be on a mission. They will be on the prowl in search of the opportunity to fulfill their God-given life duty. When the rut begins to roll, primetime for big bucks quickly changes to mid-day. The first and last hour feed patterns of late summer have come and gone. It’s now time to focus on taking advantage of a buck’s response to the estrous cycle to make it happen at mid-day.
While a lot of focus is aimed at early morning and late evening hunts, as the rut draws near savvy bowhunters should consider hunting at high noon to catch rut-crazed bucks on their feet.
We often praise the effects of the rut when we begin to see bucks chasing does all across the landscape. In fact, this typically signals the arrival of the pre-rut. Young bucks think they are big stuff and will chase does with no regard to terrain, hunting pressure, or time of day. However, mature bucks know when the time is right and when the does are ready. I can’t count the times I’ve seen a young buck chasing does during first light. Historically the bucks I’ve encountered chasing does at first and last light have been those in the 1 ½ to 2 ½ year old age class. Likewise, the mature bucks I’ve encountered at this time of year have come by my stand in the 11:00am-2:00pm hours. While we often call it “Mid-Day Magic” during the rut, there’s really nothing magical about it at all. The bottom line is you create your own magic at this time of year. However, you must make it happen through endurance and persistence in the whitetail woods.
Stay Strong Sit Long
Sore butts save big buck’s lives likely more than any other factor. “Hunt mid-day!” We’ve heard it preached for years. But how often do we actually adhere to these words of wisdom? I wish I had some hard numbers on the statistics of big buck encounters I’ve experienced during mid-day and all-day sits during the rut. With certainty I’ll say, there has always been a very high percentage of big buck encounters when I’ve hunted the mid-day through the month of November. More times than not I will see a mature buck during these sits. The fact is most hunters will never make it to the mid-day hours.
Part of successfully hunting all day or during the mid-day hours requires a comfortable place to stand or sit. Make sure your treestand is up to the task of holding you for an entire day or extended hours afield.
Hunger, boredom, work schedules, school, and all the other facts of life keep most hunters from sitting on stand much longer than a few hours in the morning or afternoon. Whether hunting on public land or private land smart hunters will take advantage of the void left by hunters at mid-day. I can’t help but grin when I hear 4-wheelers and trucks crank up on neighboring farms and exit the woods at 10:00am. I know that big bucks will soon be on the move. A lunch, Bible, or maybe an IPhone stuffed in my backpack will help me endure long mid-day hours on stand. The trick is to eliminate any barriers that cause you to call it quits early. An uncomfortable treestand is not the best choice for all-day sits either. Make sure you hunt from the coziest stand you got. Pack the stuff you need to keep you dry, fed, and happy on stand. If you’re on a honey-hole stand at mid-day in November, you’re odds of success will sky rocket.
Separating Mature Bucks from the Boys
As previously mentioned, little bucks will chase does like crazy at first light. Seemingly awkward and unaware of what the big show is all about, they run does in and out of the timber like the typical first-timer. Big bucks have played the game before. They know the routine. Mature bucks will wait for the does to bed and then begin making the rounds to scent check the bedding areas for estrous does.
Unlike immature bucks, trophy class deer know when to maximize movement during the rut in order to find an estrus doe….this is usually after most of your buddies have headed back to camp for the morning.
Young bucks don’t seem to notice the arrival of hunting season and continue to move and chase does with no regard to hunting pressure. Big bucks however seem to know when opening day arrives and quickly alter their movements. With modern scouting technology we can now scout deer activity like never before. With scouting cameras we can pinpoint deer movement, arrival times, and consistency of travel in and out of the woods. But here’s the deal. With their God-given instincts, deer can much more easily pattern us as hunters. They know when and where we enter the woods. They know how often we are there. They know the presence of a hunter means danger. As a result, you can be sure all of our careless travel in and out of the woods will set mature bucks on full alert. Whether during the rut, or at any other time of the hunting season, big bucks will begin moving more and more during the middle of the day in response to hunting pressure and rutting activity. Make sure you’re on stand at this time.
Scouting cameras are a good aid in monitoring mature buck movement up until the start of the rut and during.
Hunters often complain about the lack of activity during the actual rut stage of the season. I’ll often hear guys say, “The deer just didn’t move today.” The fact is deer are continuing to move, however, their movements typically go unnoticed because much of the activity takes place in heavy cover and thickets. Mid-day movements almost always take place around these beddings areas. With great frustration, the hunter sitting along wide open spaces and Ag fields will often miss it. Mid-day buck encounters will increase when you make sets along funnels leading to and from bedding areas. From a treestand or ground blind, make your ambush along the downwind side of bedding areas to catch cruising bucks during the mid-day hours.
Go into the rut this season with a renewed passion for getting the job done at mid-day. Make the effort to eliminate any barriers keeping you from extended time in the stand. Pack a lunch, bring a book, and scroll through Facebook on your phone…whatever…just be there when the rut is on. Remember, sore butts save buck’s lives. Stick it out for the mid-day hours around whitetail bedding areas and you’ll very likely be in the hot seat for a trophy buck this fall.
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, and seminar speaker. Check out his website www.thrutheseason.com