In honor of the whitetail rut taking place in the woods at this very minute, today we’ve got a special bonus excerpt from our Rules of the Rut 2.0 eBook and Podcast package, one of my personal favorite pieces of writing I’ve put to the keyboard – “A Day In The Life of a Rut Hunter.” If you’re at all like me, having spent a whole lot of hours in the tree lately, you could probably use a good laugh. So read on and be sure to check out the full Rules of the Rut 2.0 eBook and Podcast package, which includes two downloadable eBooks and three hours of audio interviews, all focused on the rut, and featuring some of the top minds in the deer hunting world, such as Scott Bestul, Don Higgins, Steve Bartylla, Chris Eberhart, Jeff Sturgis, Bernie Barringer and many more. Enjoy. – MK
By Mark Kenyon
3:30 AM: Alarm clock rings. One eye opens and you frantically reach for the phone in an attempt to stop this wretched sound that interrupted your perfect dream scenario, as a beautiful 10 point buck had just stepped into range. That is until your iPhone caused you to fall out of your stand. Actually no, you thought you fell out of your tree stand, but now you realize it was your bed. You’ve fallen out of bed reaching for the alarm. On the bright side, now you’re awake. Time to get moving.
3:35 AM: You stumble into the closet searching for your other wool sock, reasonably clean underwear and your insulated long johns. In the midst of the struggle, your less than understanding significant other imparts some helpful encouragement. “Stop making so much noise. You’re waking me up!”
3:40 AM: To the shower you go. It’s freezing cold in your house this morning and you stand shivering, awaiting the rising temperature of the water pouring forth. You realize that this is a feeling you’ll enjoy once again, far too soon. Immediately the thought comes to mind, why didn’t I take up golf?
3:45 AM: Into the shower you go and immediately you begin the scrub down with your scent eliminating soap, shampoo, and conditioner. After a quick rinse you dry yourself down with what is hopefully a scent-free towel and then move on to brushing your teeth with the scent-free toothpaste, then putting on your scent-free deodorant, and maybe even easing the pain of your chapped lips with some scent free chapstick. Now though you feel a rumbling in your stomach. Last night’s venison chili seems to be causing a stir. You raise the lid and sit down. This will not be scent free.
4:00 AM: Coffee? Check. Granola bar? Check. A truck bed full of gear, totes, boots, bow, tree stand, and extra toilet paper? Check, check and check. You have all the essentials packed and now you’re in the truck and racing towards your hunting property. It’s November 7th, the rut is on, the temperature has dropped 24 degrees in the past 24 hours, and you know what that means. You will have inevitably forgotten your gloves at home. You curse, spin the truck around back towards home and wipe the spilt coffee off your lap.
4:30 AM: ¼ cup of coffee? Check. Half a granola bar? Check. A truck bed full of gear, totes, boots, tree stand, extra toilet paper and gloves? Check, check and check. You finally, truly, have all the essentials packed and now you’re in the truck, again, racing even faster now towards your hunting property. Flashing lights appear in your rear view mirror. You hear sirens.
5:10 AM: Late start, forgotten gloves, spilt coffee, and speeding ticket aside – things have gone pretty smoothly this morning. You arrive at your parking spot, shut the vehicle down and emerge into the cold. You remember standing next to your shower earlier, imaging how much colder it was going to be later that day, this is worse than you imagined. Again, golf sounds nice.
5:30 AM: Five minutes ago you had pulled out camouflage garments from a large scent-free plastic Rubbermaid tote, stripped down to your skivvies, and one by one put each new item on, while wearing gloves, and then sprayed your entire ensemble down with scent eliminating spray. Now you find yourself hiking up the third of five ridges you must cross enroute to your tree stand. Sweat is now pouring down your face, sliding down your back, and wetting your armpits. You think back on the shower, the odor free storage, the spray, all to eliminate your scent. And now this? You strip back down to your skivvies and continue your hike.
5:45 AM: Finally, you’re there. 23 feet high, perched in an oak tree, while sitting atop a small aluminum platform. This is it. You’ve waited for this day for weeks and months, and finally you’re in the stand, the rut is here, and anything can happen.
7:00 AM: You’ve waited weeks and months for this day, so what’s a few more hours? Your wait continues. So far nothing but a few squirrels have passed by. But something has to happen soon, right?
8:00 AM: Your wait continues.
9:00 AM: Your wait continues.
10:00 AM: Your wait continues
11:00 AM: You begin to think about what your co-workers had said the day before. Why would you want to spend all your vacation time sitting in a tree? While freezing? While doing nothing at all but sitting and watching? Now that you think about it, it does seem kind of ridiculous. And then, it happens.
11:01 AM: In just a matter of seconds, everything changes. The woods erupt in commotion, you quickly stand and reach for your bow as a doe sprints past your stand followed by a buck, and then another and another. Forkie. Six point. Eight point. Giant! There he is. It’s the 10 pointer you’d been dreaming of earlier that morning. And while he skirts past your stand location at too far a distance, he soon slows his pace as he approaches the doe 80 yards away in the cut corn field. You watch in amazement as he slowly angles in, her tail up high and flagging, and then he pauses, rises up and mounts her! Is this actually happening? Yes! This is why you saved all of your vacation days! This is what the rut is all about! You smile in anticipation as you imagine telling your co-workers all about this. Now they’ll finally get it!
11:10 AM: After thinking things through a bit more, you realize that explaining to your co-workers that you saved your vacation days up to watch two deer have intercourse doesn’t sound quite as good as you originally thought it might. In fact, it sounds a bit creepy. Back to square one.
12:30 PM: Things have slowed down again, but you’re momentarily reinvigorated by the realization that it’s time for lunch! Yes. One of a very small number of things you can dependably look forward to during a 13 hour sit during the rut, lunch is a glorious time. You carefully pull out the bag of half crushed potato chips, a Snickers bar still frozen, a bottle of water and your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Cancun has nothing on this.
1:30 PM: A wise man once said that if you give a man a deer, he’ll feed his family for 6 months. If you teach a man to deer hunt, he’ll sit in a tree and play on his phone for hours on end. So very true.
2:30 PM: Still playing on your phone.
4:00 PM: It’s getting to be crunch time and your excitement level is slowly rising as the sun moves back down towards the horizon. You think to yourself, what a great bargain! Hours of fun in the great outdoors, without spending all sorts of money like your friends and family are on their vacations to Tahiti, LA, or Frankenmuth. The joke’s on them. You then proceed to pull your new top of the line compound bow off from the hanger and grab your new rangefinder from the pocket of your Primaloft insulated four piece carbon scent eliminating suit. While rearranging all of your gear you accidentally bump the ozone machine that’s screwed in above your head, but ignore it as you pull your clearcoated, UV protected, ultra high def 10X42 binoculars from their hook and start to glass the field. Ahhh, yes. The simple, inexpensive joys of the hunting. What a bargain.
4:05 PM: You’re still glassing across the field from left to right, when all of a sudden your heart jumps right out of your body, all the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and your pulse sky rockets. There’s a buck! Only 30 yards away and heading right towards you. And then, just as quickly as you noticed him, you realize it’s just the buck decoy you had set out there an hour earlier.
5:00 PM: The procession of real deer has finally begun as a doe, another doe and then a fawn, and four more does file out past your stand. It’s only a matter of time before a big boy shows up. And sure enough, just inside the edge of the swamp, you see him.
5:10 PM: He’s still there inside the swamp about 150 yards away, keeping an eye on the does milling about the field. But he just won’t come any closer. With daylight waning, you know it’s now or never. Luckily, you’re an expert deer hunter. You know exactly what to do in this scenario. You’ve planned for it for weeks. You’ve gotten all the right gear, you know all the right strategies, you have all the right tricks up your sleeve. So as he slowly parades back and forth along the edge of the swamp, you reach for your rattling antlers that are hung on the tree next to you. As you grip each antler at the base you brace yourself for the action that is sure to come.
5:11 PM: Staring ahead at the buck in the distance, anticipation welling up within you, you draw your arms apart wide and then smash the antlers back together with all the intensity and force you can muster …. “Son of a *****!!!”
5:12 PM: Your right thumb is bleeding. Your rattling antlers are now lying on the ground 23 feet below you. And the buck that once was, has now ran a country mile away.
6:00 PM: You retrieve the antlers from the base of your tree and begin the long hike back to your truck. In another hour or so you’ll be home just in time for a quick dinner and a shower. From there you’ll spend another 30 minutes looking through trail camera pictures and then it’s off to bed, with eleven more days of the same thing ahead of you.
8:00 PM: It’s been a hell of a day and finally you’re drifting into a deep, comforting sleep. As you slowly fade, you chuckle thinking about the last sixteen hours. The ups and downs. The successes and failures. The long hours, hardships and struggles. And yes, the thrill of the chase, big bucks appearing out of nowhere, and your first time witnessing consensual ungulate intercourse. The rut is a time like no other. And maybe that’s why it’s so hard for other people to “get it”. Words can’t really describe how all these little experiences, observations and moments in the wild can all come together into such a magical time. But they do.
8:01 PM: The image of the 10 pointer from earlier materializes into view and you imagine pulling your rattling antlers back out for a second try. You know what to do. This time it will all come together. Redemption will be yours. And then CRASH! Your wife’s commotion in the kitchen jolts you out of your dream state just enough to realize that your thumb still hurts.
And you yell, “Stop making so much noise. You’re waking me up!!”