That magical time of year we bowhunters live for, enduring the other 11 months of the year with nervous anticipation.
When you hear that grunt; when you see that set of antlers bobbing through the woods barely a foot off the ground; when you see that doe standing in front of you looking backward with focused attention; you know it’s happening.
And now it’s time to get creative with your hunting. Simply heading out to sit at dawn and dusk over primary travel corridors or food/bedding areas isn’t necessarily the key to success. Here are seven hunting tweaks to make for the rut.
Find those Pinch Points
This is the time of the season when bucks are on their feet actively searching for hot does. They’re on the move. That’s a characteristic that makes them vulnerable. You just have to figure out where to post up.You’re looking for anything that will funnel travelling deer through a confined space. That’s where you need your stand during the rut.Pinch points are areas where deer movement is crunched into a relatively confined space. Maybe it’s a gate along a long span of fence, or a thin strip of cover that connects two larger blocks of timber, or a narrow, wooded strip between a highway and a housing development.
Using Drag Cords
Sort of in line with the previous tactic, using a drag cord also takes advantage of a rutting buck’s propensity for travel this time of year. A drag cord is a rope that you trail behind you as you walk to your stand. At the end of that rope, tie a swatch of cloth soaked in doe estrus scent.The idea is, that traveling buck hits your scent trail and follows it right to your tree. When it works right, you’ll swear you were cheating.
It’s true, you can call to deer any time of the season, and they might respond. But I’d argue that the rut is when calling is most effective overall – especially for aggressive calling.Now is the time to bang those rattling antlers together. Now is the time to utter loud grunts and growls, mixed in with estrus doe bleats. If you’ve ever been near a rutting buck chasing a hot doe, it can be a noisy affair. Mimic that noise to draw in a buck looking for love.
Bucks are active all day long when the rut hits its fevered pitch. That means you need to be in the woods as much as possible.While dawn and dusk were the only times you could really rely on seeing deer a month ago, now they might show up at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., etc. Head out before sunrise like normal, but take along everything you will need to spend the day in the woods. If you don’t come out until after dark, then you know you gave that spot every opportunity to produce a deer that day.
While you’re on that all-day sit, if you notice the deer activity is especially good some distance from your stand – move. Remember, the rut isn’t like the early season. For sure, climbing out of a stand part way through an early October hunt and moving 70 or 80 yards probably is going to ruin that particular sit. But that’s not the case now.Deer are running all over the woods these days. That means they’re used to hearing activity in the woods. It also means deer are coming and going. You can spook a couple of deer at 9 a.m. and then have a completely new bunch of deer move in at 10 a.m. Go where the action is.
Hunt Whenever You Can
When hunting season opened, there really was no point sitting on stand from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Could a deer have shown up? Sure. Anything is possible. But it wasn’t likely.Hit one of those pinch points, or get close to a doe bedding area, and do some calling. This is the time of year to be aggressive.Now, that rule is out the window. If work, family obligations, etc. only afford you some free time in the middle of the day to hunt, get out there. You’re not wasting your time when the rut is kicking.
Chase Them on Foot
I will never forget any of the times I have encountered bucks chasing hot does hard. All of them were under 20 yards, and none of them cared I was there.
One time, I was pheasant hunting in some tall grass and a doe stood up no more than 10 yards in front of me and hopped away. As I stood there, a huge eight-point stood up right behind where the doe had been bedded and he actually charged toward me about five steps. I pointed the shotgun at him, thinking I might have to shoot him, but he eventually turned and walked off after I started yelling my head off.
Hunting Tweaks to Make for the Rut – Conclusion
This is the time of year when big, smart bucks do incredibly stupid things. Take advantage of that.Don’t be timid now. If you see a buck chasing a doe in an area you think you can sneak up to, do it. A lot of times, the rut-crazed buck will totally ignore you and you’ll be amazed at how close you can get.