This is a sample chapter from one of the eBooks included in our Rules of the Rut 2.0 ebook and podcast package. For more great rut hunting info, you can download the Rules of the Rut 2.0 by clicking here.
By Mark Kenyon
Beep…Beep…Beep…Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.BeepBeepBeepBeepBeep.
CRASH!!! Your rudely awakened hand slams down onto the alarm clock, a cuss word slips from your lips, and you release a deep sigh.
You’re utterly exhausted, physically fatigued, mentally broken. But still, the alarm clock summons. It’s another day, another hunt, another ridiculously early morning, and probably another day with nothing to show for it. Is it even worth going out? To go back to sleep would sure be nice…
Thousands of hunters face this same situation or one similar each November across the country. For many hardcore whitetail hunters, the rut is the time they’ve saved all of their vacation days for. One or two week hunts are common, and all day sits are the norm. For many, the rut is truly a marathon.
Of course, the rut comes each year with incredible amounts of the anticipation and excitement, but once it arrives, those emotions can sometimes quickly change to frustration, depression and pure exhaustion.
Yes, the rut can be some of the best hunting all year. But it can also be some of the most difficult.
The key to enjoying the best of the rut and weathering the difficulties surprisingly doesn’t come down to your expensive gear, your Iowa hunting lease, or your perfect stand preparation. Instead, possibly most importantly, success during the rut is dependent on your mental strength.
The Challenges of Hunting the Rut
Bucks fighting. Does being chased to and fro by monster bucks. Deer activity all day long. Bucks throwing caution to the wind and coming straight into your rattling.
We all know about and dream of the incredible aspects of hunting the rut, so lets just skip right past that and instead focus on the challenges.
The rut can be awesome, but it can also be agonizing.
For me, I believe the greatest challenges of handling the “rut marathon” are related to the extreme number of hours on stand, the extreme number of days in the field, and the extreme pressure we put on ourselves. Lets dive into each of these a little further.
Extreme Hours: Most serious whitetail hunters advocate all day sits during the rut, as many times mature bucks will get on their feet during midday to cruise for receptive does. That said, it’s easy to talk about hunting ALL day, but not so easy to actually do it. I like to be in my stand about 1-1.5 hours before daylight in the morning, and then will often stay on stand about 30 minutes after shooting light. So, on an average day in November that means I’m spending about 13 straight hours in a tree every day. That’s 13 HOURS sitting on a 10” by 5” rectangle of foam, standing on a 25” metal platform, elevated 23’ in the air. That’s 13 hours of sun, wind, rain, snow, and everything between. That’s hours and hours of monotonous, nothingness. Nothing but squirrels, birds, and leaves. If you’re catching my drift yet, let me just put it out there. 13 hours on stand is tough. Really, really tough.
Extreme Number of Days: Since the rut is when most hunters focus the majority of their time, folks will often plan week or two long vacations to coincide with the annual whitetail reproductive romp.
This extended time in the field is great, and significantly increases your chances of success – but it’s also incredibly draining. I’ve done a number of these rut marathons, and my mindset usually looks something like this. Days one, two three I’m pretty pumped to get up and going. Days four, five and six can be really tough. I’m wooped! And then after this point I usually catch a second wind and can carry on. But it’s still tough.
I don’t think it needs to be explained, but waking up 7-14 days in a row at 4:00 or 4:30 AM, and then sitting 13 hours straight in a tree can be very exhausting.
Extreme Pressure: On top of the exorbitant number of hours and days spent hunting, we also put additional stress on ourselves just given the fact that we’re hunting during the rut. Hunting in the rut is so hyped, so talked about, so acclaimed that many of us have begun to believe that it’s our only chance to get a good buck! Yes, it’s probably one of the best chances we have, but this reality sometimes can warp our mindsets.
Maybe it’s just me, but I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to capitalize on the rut, and every little mistake I make during this time period becomes amplified. This inevitably leads to some serious internal psychological warfare, and the mental challenge here can sometimes be the greatest.
The Solution – Determination, Focus, Perseverance
So, now that we’ve established that rut hunting isn’t all rainbow and butterflies, we next must examine the keys to surviving this marathon of suffering.
Most simply put, your secret weapon, your atom bomb, your Excalibur is your mind.
Mental strength in the form of determination, focus and perseverance is the name of the game when it comes to rut hunting success, and here’s why.
In order to handle 13 hour days in a treestand for days on end, you must be unquestionably determined to reach your goal. You must remain focused at all times. And you undoubtedly will need to persevere through many challenges.
Take for example, the allure of sleeping in a few days. After seven straight days of hunting, a long morning of sleep has a hell of an appeal. But that could also be the one morning that a shooter buck would walk by your treestand. How determined are you to fill that tag?
How about distractions? After spending 8 straight hours watching leaves, it’s pretty darn easy to stop scanning your surroundings and instead focus on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or The Chive! But while you were busy “poking” your ex-girlfriend on Facebook, did you see that 145” 10 pointer cruise behind you at 34 yards? What level of discipline and focus can you hold yourself too? You’re whole season can change in a matter of seconds. Will you be ready?
Ain’t no river wide enough, ain’t no valley low enough. Or is there? Are you truly willing to push through the tough times in order to stay the course in pursuit of a whitetail? After shooting your arrow just under the buck of your lifetime, it would be pretty easy to throw in the towel and quit hunting for a few days. But, if you had just pushed on, you may have had redemption. That double drop tine, 300 lb mega-buck just may have hooked up with the wrong lady, as she unknowingly led him into range of your now abandoned treestand. Can you persevere through the tough times that the rut undoubtedly will throw at you?
If you can channel your determination, maintain focus, and persevere through hell or high water – you CAN make it through the marathon of the rut.
Yes, the rut is a time of great bounty, but it can also be a time of struggle. So be determined, stay focused and push on.
And when the going gets tough, remember to have fun and stay strong. Mentally strong that is.
For more rut hunting articles and podcast interviews from top whitetail experts such as Don Higgins, Chris Eberhart, Craig Dougherty and more, check out the Rules of the Rut 2.0