November 06, 2023
December and the Christmas season may be the most wonderful time of the year for gift givers and getters, but for whitetail hunters, November is preferred.
All across the nation right now, deer hunters are experiencing the most wonderful time in the woods as the whitetail rut nears its peak. The rut-hour action of big bucks throwing caution to the wind can be as busy as a suburban highway at 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon.
Hunters can get a bit rushed, too, which makes gear preparation so important. Who wants to be in the whitetail woods and have a gear dilemma—breakage or outright forgetting something—when a mature buck is within range?
With that in mind, here are a some things to keep handy as you hoist the pack in the pre-dawn hours and head out the door during the peak of the rut:
Clothing and Boots
I have trouble staying warm and can get cold at the drop of a camouflaged hat. That can be problematic in the whitetail woods when November and its full-bore rutting frenzy arrives, because strong cold fronts and even snowstorms are now starting to show up on the smartphone weather app.
I discovered Sitka Gear’s Fanatic line-up a few years ago, and the building cold weather of mid- and late-season deer hunting is never a problem for an all-day stay in a tree stand. The Fanatic Jacket—and the whitetail clothing system's Fanatic Bibs—brings together the perfect marriage of sound-tested quiet fabrics with a Gore-Tex Windstopper barrier, Berber fleece, and PrimaLoft Silver Hi-Loft Ultra insulation, to help keep a thermally challenged hunter like myself from shivering.
Does it work? Having used this clothing lineup for several years now—including on a frigid four-day November hunt in Nebraska a few years ago—and I can without hesitation that the answer is yes. In fact, I was able to hunt from sunrise to sunset in temperatures that hovered between the mid-teens and the mid-30s as the northerly breeze blew, never once thinking about abandoning ship.
Keeping the body warm is one key challenge for November rut hunters, but you’ll also need a good pair of hunting boots that do the same and protect the feet from the elements. One great option to consider there is Dryshod's NOSHO Ultra Hunt Men’s Cold-Conditions Hunting Boot, which starts with a DS! molded outsole and combines six layers of protection including an EVA cold-blocking midsole to give a hunter's feet seven layers of protection from chilly temps. Add in the camouflaged rubber, removable molded EVA sockliner, and a double Achilles heel and instep reinforcement, and this is a great boot for warmth, comfort and moisture protection no matter what the weatherman and the rutting cycle can throw your way.
Calls and Scents
November is the time to empty a deer hunter's bag of tricks, starting with the ability to make some noise. With big old gnarly bucks trotting through the woods with their love-seeking nostrils held high in the air, being able to make a few guttural grunts is a key and the Primos Buck Roar II Grunt Call is a great option. I've used the original version for years, and the new and improved version can make sharp and crisp grunts on a frosty November morning to lure in a buck, stop one in its tracks or even make the hair on the back of Mr. Big's neck stand up and bristle when he hears a snort wheeze.
Rattling antlers are a must in November, and I never leave home without a set of eight-point sheds—or horns, as Texans are apt to call them—that I secured from a hunting camp several years ago. But when I'm traveling by air to a distant deer hunt, it just isn't practical to carry those real headbones onto a 737. When that’s the case, I'll opt for something like Knight & Hale's Pack Rack or Hunters Specialties Ruttin' Buck Rattling Bag to stow in my luggage for the flight out and to store in my pack for a November rut hunt.
One thing that you’ll always find in my hunting pack in November is a brown glass bottle of Tink's 69 Doe-in-Rut Buck Lure. Formulated from 100 percent doe urine collected from live whitetail does during their estrous cycle, this tested product helps lure in big bucks during the pre-rut and peak-rut time of fall.
Does it work? All I can say is that I became a believer in this product early in my whitetail hunting career on a successful hunt in North Texas. And it’s worked many times since then, including one chilly November day when one of the best bucks on my wall came in not once, but twice testing the wind. That gnarly-horned Midwestern bruiser has points going everywhere, was the biggest bodied deer of my hunting career, and rode home in my pickup truck because he smelled something and couldn’t resist looking for a film cannister—remember those?—with a couple of cotton balls soaked in this magic love potion.
Stands and Game Cameras
While stands earlier and later in the season may need to be more precise around food sources, November rut hunts are all about travel corridors. I like that since I’m a simple kind of a guy, so give me a woodsy bottleneck, set up a stand and hope and pray for the best as the rut comes to you. The three best whitetails on my wall came from such methods and there have been opportunities at others that nearly worked out.
In the earlier days of my hunting career, finding such travel corridors—funnels, pinch points, etc.—revolved around laying boot leather on the ground. Today, it’s simpler as you most often start with some aerial photo snooping via mapping apps on your smartphone or computer, products like on onX, Hunt Stand, or the Team Drury Outdoors DeerCast app.
Also an important part of the whitetail Intel-gathering process today is a good game camera—or an army of game cameras silently patrolling the woods—like Moultrie Mobile's Edge Pro cellular trail cameras. These cameras are among the industry’s best, offering not only remote monitoring capabilities, but also industry-first artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities too as you narrow down your big buck intercept points. With amazing advancements of technology, the Edge Pro helps hunters quickly unravel the hottest travel corridor patterns in their whitetail woods.
Bushnell's CelluCORE 20 Solar trail cam combines the reliability and image quality of the CelluCORE 20 with an integrated solar panel to dramatically increase battery life. The Dual-SIM configuration allows it to automatically connect to AT&T or Verizon−whichever offers the strongest cellular network.
Since rut hunting can be something of a "find a hot spot and hunt here now" kind of approach, you’ll also need a good stand or blind option. That can be a hang-on stand, a ladder stand, or even a pop-up ground blind like the time-honored Double Bull blinds by Primos, but sometimes the terrain and cover doesn’t fully cooperate and make such spots easy.
When that’s the case, hunters might want to have a quick-set tripod stand option in their bag of tricks, and one of the best there is the 36-pound aluminum Millennium Treestands T-100 10 ft Aluminum Tripod, one of the lightest, toughest and easiest to set up tripod stands on the market. It’s a comfortable stand, with Millennium’s famous comfortMAX contoured tight sling seat, and a swivel seat that gives a hunter the ability to silently turn and look in any direction. Discover a rut-hour hotspot and carry this stand in on your shoulder, as the woods come alive with run-and-gun action that the peak of the rut delivers every November.
Optics and Accessories
Once you get a stand in place for the rut-hour rush, you might want to have a good pair of optics in hand so you can observe what’s happening up and down the bottleneck you’re guarding like a radio traffic reporter hovering above in a helicopter.
One good option is Bushnell's Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars, a rugged choice that is built on a lightweight magnesium chassis, feature fully multi-coated ED prime glass that will make the dim woods come alive with bright, razor sharp images during peak rut action at first and last light. Add Bushnell's EXO Barrier, and these optics remain trouble-free and hunter-friendly no matter how muddy the swamp is that you're guarding or how heavily the November rain, sleet or snow may be falling from leaden November skies.
Bushnell's Prime 1800 is the first rangefinder with a display that "fluidly morphs from black to red for ideal contrast against your target." The tripod adapter allows for fast, steady ranging to over one mile.
In addition to all of the above, you’ll want a good flashlight to get into and out of the woods, up and down a stand in the dark, and to follow a blood trail in the final whispers of light after a successful shot slams home. Streamlight’s ProTac 2.0 Headlamp is a great hands-free option that offers 2,000 lumens of light that runs 2.25 hours on high, 25 hours on low, and has a beam length of 241 meters.
Once you find that buck, you’ll need a good, sharp knife in your pack to notch a hunting tag with the date of a kill or to field-dress Mr. Big before you haul him out of the November woods. For that chore of rut-hour success, I’ve got numerous hunting knives in my collection, and sometimes I opt for time-honored consistency and nostalgia, putting into my rut hunter’s pack the Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter, a long ago Christmas gift from my late grandmother.
Another good choice is Knives of Alaska Featherlight Hunter Suregrip. American-made in Denison, Texas, and proven on the rugged tundra of Alaska in company owner and CEO Charles Allen’s hunting and fishing camps, this is a drop-point blade style folding knife that is lightweight, comes in a variety of color options including Hunter Orange and makes quick work of field-dressing a deer thanks to its surgical sharpness and tough D2 steel construction.
With all of this rut-hour gear talk in mind, it’s time to stop reading and head for the woods, because right now is the best time of the year as the deer hunting action hits a frantic pace with all kinds of grunts, bucks chasing does and deer movement all day long.