By Josh Hillyard
It’s November 15th and I am sitting in my home office listening to some great whitetail minds discuss where they would ideally be set-up to hunt during this exact time of year. I can’t help but wish I was heading into the woods instead of the office today, like I was last week in southern Ohio. But I’ll have to wait a few more days to get back out.
Back in November of 2014, Mark released The Rules of The Rut 2.0. As part of that launch, he also included a bonus podcast where he took excerpts from one of the exclusive podcasts included in the Rules of the Rut 2.0 in which he interviewed six expert whitetail hunters about their ideal tree stand set-ups for the rut. Today I wanted to share a few highlights from those interviews. If you need to make any last minute stand adjustments for your upcoming rut hunts, this advice and full podcast should help!
Bernie Barringer – Bernie’s perfect stand location during the rut would be a pinch point that is leading between bedding areas. This would increase your odds of having the opportunity of seeing a mature buck during the day, as bucks are moving back and forth between bedding areas in daylight looking for does. Bernie explained, “During the peak of the rut, I think it is actually better to be in a travel zone that narrows down the travel pattern. It might be the outside bend of a river that is more difficult for them to cross. It might be some long running barriers with open areas on both sides that would pinch deer down.”
Randy Hynes – Randy’s ideal stand sites are funnels where he knows that bucks will most likely be cruising for does. “We hunt this little strip of property that no one else wants to hunt. I know on the other side of it is a piece of private property that no one else can hunt. It is very thick, so during the “hunter’s rut” (chasing/seeking phase) the does go to that spot because it is very thick and they are trying to hide from the bucks. During that phase of the rut, the bucks are still cruising through a large portion of timber through that funnel to where the does are.”
Scott Bestul – Scott classifies himself as a “terrain hunter” during the rut. He views hunting whitetails as he would fishing. “You look at a lake or a river and you’re looking at structure and water flow. You ask yourself, ok, if I was a fish where would I be laying? And if I was a really big fish and was kind of picky about where he was at and waiting for food and breeding or whatever he is going to do, where would I be? I hunt a lot the same way with deer.” Scott tries to read the different terrain features to pin down where their travel routes may be. He also thinks bucks move much more discreetly than the does. Bucks seem to have a bit more of a covert travel pattern. So when it comes to funnels, Scott tries to narrow it down by focusing on those that lead to the hot food source that is holding the most does, while also offering some level of security.
Don Higgins – In the early phase of the rut, Don prefers to be on the downwind edge of thick bedding areas. Bucks will get downwind to scent check those bedding areas in search of a hot doe, while also being able to check for danger in that bedding area. Don explained, “When I do seminars, I’ve got a video clip that I show of how bucks use the wind. There is one part of that clip where I am sitting the edge of a thicket in the early rut. In one morning, I had 8 or 10 bucks cruise the edge of the thicket and every one of them were doing the same thing, using the wind to check that cover. That is my ideal site, on the downwind side of that bedding cover.” So if you can position yourself in a location where the buck can scent check a bedding area, but can’t smell you, you have yourself a great rut hunting location.
Jeff Sturgis – The last week of October and the first week of November is Jeff’s favorite time of the year to be in the woods and he’s specifically looking for good cold fronts. He loves hunting the cold mornings and sitting in pinch points between remote bedding areas, and doesn’t hunt these stands until the conditions are exactly right. He may scout these areas in the spring and trim a couple lanes, but he stays out of these locations until this time of year. However, these preferred morning stands that Jeff sits in are not where he wants to sit in the afternoon. “I rarely sit in the same stand all day. I take my prime, highly preferred morning stand, and then I will flip back to an evening food source stand so I can sit in a high value stand the entire day.”
Dan Infalt – During the rut, Dan prefers hunting hilly country the best. During his scouting, Dan is looking at topo maps and picking out the funnels that connect large areas of hills. Dan is expecting bucks to be cruising these areas getting back and forth between bedding areas. “Bucks travel the top third of ridges,” explained Infalt. “Where they like to walk is where the wind comes over the tops and the thermals come up from the bottom. Where they meet is what I call the wind tunnel and they can smell above and below them by following that ridgeline. That is where they like to cruise”. Most of the daylight action is going to be in these areas, but Dan likes to take it even further by finding the narrow spots or pinch points within these areas.
For more in-depth analysis on rut hunting stand sites from these six whitetail gurus, give Episode #30 of The Wired to Hunt Podcast a listen. It will be well worth your time.
Good luck to everyone hitting the deer woods during this most epic time of the year. Please wear your safety harness and most importantly, have FUN!
– Josh Hillyard