Field Skills: Go Mobile to Tag Rutting Bucks
November 22, 2019
Master the hang-and-hunt strategy to unravel the deer rut.
We allknow we’re supposed to find a pinch point or a funnel and park our butts there in November. It’s a given that the terrain will force those rut-crazed bucks to cruise past us eventually, and then it’s off to the taxidermist. If only...
The reality of the rut is that randomness often rules, especially on public ground. Bucks are survivors. They might take more risks when searching for mates, but they won’t be consistently foolish.
When they do risk it for the right doe, she might lead them away from your can’t-miss funnel. If you’re not using a hang-and-hunt strategy, you might ride a dead program into the ground. So, go mobile.
Familiarity is key to putting up and taking down multiple stands in a week. If uncomfortable with your setup, you’ll find excuses to abandon the plan. The best way to get comfortable is by using your stand and sticks, or saddle system, a lot. Also, go as light in weight as you can.
Many stand manufacturers tout lightweight choices, but that definition varies. I want one I can carry and set up quietly. While lightweight stands are small, it’s worth it to be able to easily hang them.
For sticks or steps, again, go light. My favorites weigh 2½ pounds per section and attach via one simple strap. For 7½ pounds, I can get up about 15 to 17 feet. Then, up goes the stand. It all takes 10 minutes. Whatever your system, go as light as possible and get familiar with it.
THE ONE-TWO RUT PUNCH
By all means, set up in that killer pinch point, but pay attention. If you see deer crossing a wide-open pasture and chasing through a small island of trees, be ready to move. Even little bucks can say a lot about where deer corridors.
They cruise spots for a reason, one of which is terrain. But that’s not the end-all to their travel decisions. They’ll also usually put the wind in their favor, which means they’ll be working a crosswind blowing over a potential doe bedding area or heading straight into the wind.
If you get it right the first setup, great. If you’re off by 50 yards or 500, be happy if you see something worth relocating. And if you do, move. Most of my best bucks, especially those on public land, were arrowed after an observation suggested where I should be. That’s often all the fine-tuning you need.
IGNORE THE TEMPTATION
If you hang a stand and are seeing bucks at a distance, the first temptation will be to call or use a decoy. I’m not saying they won’t work; they might. But a better bet is ignoring the thought to try to draw the deer to you. Instead, go to the deer.
That’s the key to a mobile strategy. Put yourself where deer want to be; you win.
Even if you’re off by 50 yards, calling a buck a little bit closer is much easier than calling him across a quarter-mile of cornfield. The goal is to be on top of deer action first. Then, you can work a little extra magic if needed.
TIME & TIMING
How much time should you give a setup with this strategy? Personally, a day. I like to see what the morning, midday and afternoon hours send my way. If it’s not much, I move. This is a lather, rinse and repeat strategy that is a lot of work.
But you might go for a few days striking out and find yourself on top of a grunting, chase fest that makes it all worth it. I’ve witness this a few times on private land, and a few glorious times on public, and it always made me forget the days where I was skunked.
You can ride out a program throughout the rut and have a buck eventually cruise by. Or you might spend a week watching forkies and fawns, but nothing else.Instead, put yourself in the action by adopting a hang-and-hunt strategy. It might take a few days, but with a mobile mindset, you should be able to unravel the rut travel and get on a good one.