By Mark Kenyon
If you go to Google and search for “whitetail rut” , you will find a million different definitions, hunting strategies, tips, tricks, tactics and stories. I dare say there is more written about the rut than any other deer hunting topic in the world. That said, while there is plenty to be said about the super bowl of our deer seasons, it can sometimes be over complicated. There seem to be a thousand different tips and tactics balley-hooed every year for hunting the rut and I’ve gotten to the point that I think we might be confusing ourselves more than helping.
With that in mind, I’d ask you to take a step back and look at the rut from a big picture perspective. Think about it this way. Above all else, there are two things that bucks do during the rut. They are either with does, or traveling and looking for does.
Given this simple reality, I believe that all rut hunting strategies eventually all roll up under two major pillars of rut hunting success. If you can understand these these two pillars and revolve your rut hunting strategy around them, you’re in for some exciting hunts. So here they are, the two pillars of rut hunting success.
1. Hunt the Does: The number one thing on a buck’s mind during the rut is a hot doe. We all know this. But, are you thinking about this every time to choose a location to hunt during the rut? You will most likely not get a shot opportunity at a mature buck during the rut if you’re not hunting an area where does are or in an area on the way to does. You can obviously dive into this idea much deeper, and thats where many of the thousand other rut hunting tips go – but keep this basic principle in mind whenever you’re setting up to hunt. Am I in an area that a buck could find does? Am I in an area that a buck could travel through to find does? If the answer is no to both of these questions, pack up and move to a different spot! Food plots, ag fields, bedding areas, CRP, etc, etc. There are many examples of areas that will hold does – but don’t get too bogged down by the details. Just make sure you keep this over-arching principle in mind.
2. Hunt Travel Corridors/Pinch Points: In the paragrpah above I mentioned that during the rut you can either hunt where the does are, or in an area that a buck will travel through to get to those does. That’s where travel corridors and pinch points come in! If you’re not on the does, you need to intercept a buck on the way to them – and the best way to do this is to find where terrain naturally funnels bucks into smaller areas. Bucks travel from bedding area to bedding area, and food source to food source, checking for does in estrus. If you can find sweet spots where bucks most often travel, you’ll be able to close the deal on a rutting whitetail. A simple example of a pinch like this would be if you had a block of woods in the form of an hour glass, with farm fields surrounding it. The point in the middle of the hourglass, where the woods pinchs down is exactly the spot where you’ll most likely find bucks crusing through because it’s the only option to get from side A to side B without entering the open field. This basic idea can be found in many forms, but the key is to always have your eye open for it.
The rut is a fascinating and complex part of the deer hunting season – but it doesn’t need to be as complicated as we sometimes make it. Always keep the pillars of rut hunting in the back of your mind, and you’ll be on your way to success in no time.
Hunt the does or hunt the pinches – it all boils down to that.