By Cody Altizer
Each and every deer hunter is usually different from the next in nearly every facet of the sport. Some prefer hunting with only archery equipment. Further, some only prefer hunting with traditional archery equipment. Some like the late season cold, while others kill their biggest bucks patterning deer during the summer and shooting them opening weekend. Simply put no one deer hunter is exactly like the other. However, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a deer hunter who does not like hunting during the rut. I think that’s one topic all hunters can agree on. So, given the season, I’ve included my three favorite rut hunting strategies.
Find the Does
If you’ve read any credible deer hunting magazine, website, or watched a hunting tv show about the rut you are going to hear hunters talk about finding the does, and in turn finding the bucks during the rut. I couldn’t agree more, but it’s not always as simple as just finding a doe group and mindlessly following them around waiting for a buck to start chasing them. During the rut I like to hunt in areas where high concentrations of does are likely to travel through. This is usually between a primary food source and a doe bedding area. On my hunting property the primary food source is 2 1.5 acre food plots located close to one another. For morning hunts I set up off the food sources close to a bedding area to prevent from bumping deer off the food sources, and in the afternoons I set up closer to the food sources for the same reason. This is a tried and true tactic I rely on heavily the first two weeks of November.
I’m a HUGE fan of trusting your spots throughout the hunting season, but the rut is the one time I feel you need to be flexible and adapt. If one of your stands isn’t producing activity like you think it should, and you’re seeing action elsewhere, pack your stand and move it to where the action is. There are a lot of variables at play during the rut, and things can go from hot to cold very quickly, so it’s best to put yourself in the hot spots as frequently as possible.
However, being mobile means having the equipment that allows you to be mobile and stealthy at the same time. Taking down, transporting and putting up a loud, bulky two man ladder stand may do more harm than good, so equipment is key here. Personally, I love Lone Wolf hang-ons and sticks, particularly the Assault. It’s extremely light weight, easily packable and I can hang the stand and sticks safely in no time. That being said, it’s not the only alternative. Any lightweight, quiet stand and stick combination that you are comfortable with can you put you on rutting bucks in not time. Additionally, if you like hunting out of climbers (which I do not) you’re even more mobile and can bounce around even more effectively.
PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)
One of the biggest mistakes I see hunters make during the rut is they burn themselves out too quickly by over thinking things. Just as a buck’s testosterone levels rise in early November, so do a hunter’s expectations that they’ll see bucks chasing does all over the place their next time out. That’s rarely the case. As a result, we get down on ourselves too quickly, get jealous of our friends success posted on Facebook, curse the deer gods because it’s not happening to us, and fall into a trap of self-pity.
During the rut it’s important to remember that things can change on a dime, and you can go from sitting in the pouring rain sulking over your bad luck, to staring down the buck of a lifetime in a matter of no time. The point is, keep a positive mental attitude, and truly believe that good things are going to happen to you. Put your time in, hunt hard, hunt smart, but more importantly have fun while doing so. Your mind will thank you for it, and you’ll be better prepared for the moment of truth when it does come around. Plus, what’s the worst that could happen? You could go an entire November without killing a nice buck. If that’s the biggest problem you’ve got on your plate, you need to reexamine your life’s priorities anyway.
So there you have it, the magical formula to harvesting mature bucks during the magical time of year known as the magical rut. Kidding. The above tips are just a push in the right direction to help you find some success in the coming weeks. Yes, the rut is our best chance to kill a big buck and it’s the most fun time to be in the woods, but it’s not the end all, be all, and it’s not a super confusing thing to figure out. Get out there, hunt hard, have fun, be safe and shoot the biggest buck of your life this week!
– Cody Altizer