Skip to main content

Best of 2023: 10 Popular Stories About Whitetail Hunting

The most popular whitetail stories on gafmag.com last year were focused on the rut.

Best of 2023: 10 Popular Stories About Whitetail Hunting

Articles about the whitetail rut were the most popular stories in 2023 on gafmag.com.

Every fall, American hunters fill their passions—successfully or not—of hunting white-tailed deer, whether it’s to continue a family tradition, manage the deer population or put food on the table. The following are our most popular articles on whitetail hunting in 2023 (based on online traffic).

In It to Win It: Dawn-to-Dusk Tips for Rutting Bucks

  • Staying on stand all day isn't easy, but it's the best way to ensure success during the rut. By Bob Robb
white-tailed deer in woods
GPS telemetry research reveals that most bucks focus on two or three areas intensely—rotating between them—when searching for estrous does. (Shutterstock image)

In the "old days," the dogma was that whitetail hunting during the middle of the day was a waste of time, even during the rut. Both from field experience and scientific research, we now know that's not true. Over the years I've taken some of my best bucks during the middle of the day.

But I have also spent many a day watching nothing but squirrels, songbirds and bunny rabbits; reading paperbacks; and generally killing nothing but time while waiting for the magic to happen. Patience and persistence are both part of the deal.

Staying on stand all day makes sense, though. In doing so, you're not walking to and from a stand, continually depositing scent on the ground, making noise and unintentionally spooking does and bucks alike. This is especially true if you're set up close to known doe bedding thickets. Here are some tricks to help you hunt all day, every day, for a week or more during the rut.

HUNKER DOWN

Shot Placement Tips for Hunting Whitetails

  • Making the shot count isn't easy, especially during the rut, but with the right information it's much more likely to happen. By Josh Honeycutt
deer with target
Bowhunters (or gun hunters) who aim for the heart on a broadside deer should aim for this spot. You’ll hit the lungs, too. (Photo by Honeycutt Creative)

Deer hunting has many different facets of knowledge, and each of these is very important to achieving overall success. But understanding deer shot placement—and knowing where to shoot a deer—might just be the most important of all. Because without that key piece of information, you won’t be prepared to make a well-placed shot and get a clean kill.

SHOT CLASS

Lockdown Logistics: When to Move and When to Sit All-Day During Peak Rut

  • The peak of the rut can mean incredible action or a complete lack thereof. Here's how to know what to do. By Mark Kayser
hunter with rifle in tree stand
If you’re patient, all-day sits in a favorite stand can be productive. Just ensure it’s placed in your target buck’s home range and in an area known to hold many does. (G&F file photo)

There was a time when I planned my most important whitetail hunt of the year to coincide with mid-November. Although today I prefer to target bucks during the pre-rut, my schedule compels me to hunt from October until the snow flies in December. This includes the dreaded mid-November “lockdown” period. Should you be concerned about hunting then, especially if it’s your only window to pursue whitetails? The short answer is no. Instead of worrying about lockdown disadvantages, devise a plan to win during the breeding phase.

PICK THE LOCK

Regional Rut Update 2023

  • Expert whitetail info and advice from each region all season long.
bucks battling
The Game & Fish Regional Rut Update 2023 included weekly reports from thr whitetail woods. (Shutterstock image)

The 2023 edition of our exclusive Regional Rut Update offered hunters a weekly report on rut activity in the whitetail woods across the country.

From pre-rut in October to the peak in November and December, the project was viewed by tens of thousands of hunters each week.

REWIND TO THE RUT

Recommended


Best Days to Hunt the Rut in Each Region

  • Seasoned whitetail hunters detail the days they're most looking forward to being in the deer woods in the weeks ahead.
gaf-rutbestdaze
What are the best days to hunt during the rut in your neck of the woods? Shutterstock image)

Our Regional Rut Update team of Doug Howlett, Daron McDougal and Josh Honeycutt asked experts from each region for their input on when the best hunting days are during the deer rut.

PLAN AHEAD

10 Tips for Late-Season Deer Hunting

  • Don't throw in the towel on whitetail hunting as the final days tick away. By Josh Honeycutt
hunter with buck
The author filled his 2019-20 Ohio deer tag on this great buck. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

The early season comes and goes. The pre-rut blows right by. The rut feels like a blur. And, then, there we are, knocking on the door of the late season. Here's how to fill your buck tags in a time when many hunters are tagged out or throwing in the towel.

AFTER THE RUT

7 Unwritten Rules When Hunting Public Land

  • Tread lightly: Keep these do's and don'ts in mind to increase your odds of success. By Bob Robb
hunting blind
If you come upon another hunter’s unoccupied treestand or ground blind, the right thing to do is leave it alone and set up your own. (Photo by Bob Robb)

American outdoorsmen—especially those of us in the West—are blessed with something often taken for granted but not available in most other places on Earth: millions of acres of public land open to hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation. Those lands belong to all of us, and within the parameters of hunting and fishing seasons, some road closures and very few other limitations, we can come and go as we please all year round. I cut my teeth hunting Western public lands in my home state and many others. Some 50 years later, some of the most productive and fun hunting I do each year occurs on public land.

When utilizing public land, you can be sure that you'll often run into other people. Most of them will be just like you and me—average Joes out to do their best and have fun. However, some of the people you meet will be all-about-me jerks who will crowd you, trash the place and have no respect for anyone else. Fortunately, they're in the minority, but be aware and prepared to deal with them.

With that in mind, here are my top seven unwritten rules for hunting public land. Follow them and you’ll increase your enjoyment factor—and your odds of success.

GREAT TIPS HERE

The Scoop on Deer Sign as the Rut Approaches

  • Decipher the locations and concentrations of scrapes and rubs into airtight hunting strategies. By Bob Robb
whitetail deer buck
Instead of focusing on a single scrape, seek out a primary scrape area, where several scrapes are concentrated in close proximity within thick cover. (Shutterstock image)

In October 2019, National Deer Association (NDA) biologist Kip Adams wrote: "Whitetails don't have cell phones or social media accounts, but they are far more social than most hunters realize. They surf the information highway at rubs and scrapes to stay in contact with locals as well as travelers. During the rut, rubs and scrapes are primary communication locations for deer."

Truer words have not been written. However, it does not mean that scrapes and rubs are great places to set stands. After all, research shows that the majority of buck scrape visits occur at night. And rub lines indicate favored travel routes bucks use regularly between bedding and feeding areas more so than any single rub. Locations where two or more rub lines intersect may also have scrapes, and these areas are great places to hang stands. Here’s how to decipher the important clues whitetails leave behind during their travels to vector in on bucks during the pre-rut and rut period this fall.

FOLLOW THE SIGN

Last-Chance Bucks: How to Punch Your Tag Before It's Too Late

  • In the waning, bitter days of deer season, you can either sit on the couch and pine for spring or get out after them. By Al Raychard
buck and does during rut
Don’t overlook the second rut. Does that were not bred in November will come into estrous again in December. (Shutterstock image)

I've hunted with the same buddy for about 20 years, and thought I knew him pretty well, so it came as a surprise when he told me over coffee how he hated hunting the late deer season.

"Well, ‘hate’ is probably too strong of a word. It’s just not my favorite time," he said. "It’s cold and wet, there are fewer hunters in the woods to help keep deer moving, the rut is long over and after two months of hunting it’s tough to find deer. It’s like they simply disappear."

I took a sip of coffee and replied, “I like tagging out early, too, but those are exactly the reasons I don’t mind hunting the late season at all.”

I didn’t feel I had to explain things further. Hunting the late season can be tough on several fronts, and finding deer can be challenging, but I learned long ago that keying on certain things and changing tactics a bit can tilt the scales enough to make a difference between ending the season with an unpunched tag and meat in the freezer.

PUNCH A LATE TAG

Pro Tips for Hunting Whitetail Deer in the Rain

  • Rain bothers hunters, not deer. Gear up and share the woods with whitetails on rainy days; here's what to do. By Stephen D. Carpenteri
whitetail buck in the rain
Large white-tailed deer buck shaking off rain in an open meadow during a rain storm in Smoky Mountain National Park. (Shutterstock image)

Nothing puts a "damper" on deer camp like the chatter of a hard rain on the roof. Suddenly, no one wants to get up, no one wants to go out, and everyone sits around lamenting the loss of a good hunting day.

I have seen whitetail hunters pack up and go home days early because rain was in the forecast. What's worse is, the gloom outside soon begins to affect the atmosphere inside. Just like that, a precious week of vacation -- and deer hunting -- is lost.

I know how rain affects hunters, but many hunters don't really know how rain affects deer.

In general, rain means nothing to whitetails unless it's pouring cats and dogs. When this happens, all wildlife (and human life) activity stalls until the storm is over. But when rain is light or only a steady drizzle falls, deer just go about their business as if it were a sunny day. The glitch is, "light" rain to a deer may seem like a soaker to a hunter who's worried about his gear, his clothes and his health (don't catch a cold!).

READ THE RAIN




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Offshore Cranking

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Gear

Trika Rods

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Gear

New Shimano Baitcasters

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Hunting

Incredible Turkey Audio: Tommy Allen Punches his Minnesota Tag IN THE SNOW

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Destinations

First Turkey Ever: Perfect Conditions Make for a Short Hunt

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Froggin' Game Plan

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Videos

What to Know Before Going Off-Road

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Learn

Off-Road Safety Tips and Techniques

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Gear

The Right Tires for Off-Roading

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

How to make windy conditions work for you when you're on the water.
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now