If you’re a diehard rack-addict like me, then there’s a good chance that November is probably one of your favorite times of the entire year to be in the woods. For good reason, this magical month represents a unique period when hard-to-hunt monsters with massive antlers start to feel it, and become increasingly active during daytime hours. In fact, it’s one of the very few times that mature bucks aren’t acting like shadowy ghosts, appearing to be a little vulnerable for once. At this point, they’re basically fired-up, swelled-up, pumped-up and ready to rock-n-roll! For hardcore deer hunters, the whitetail rut is like Christmas, the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July all rolled into one big action-packed party.
In other words, it’s primetime to turn up the juice and see what shakes loose! The heavy-antlered bucks are going to be on the prowl, which means you better be prepared to spend every spare second in your treestand or ground-blind. Raging hormones, high levels of testosterone and the aroma of doe estrous and musky tarsal glands in the air are about to make things interesting. That being said, here are eight deadly tactics, strategies, and setups for the ultimate rut-hunting guide that will help you knock down more wall-hangers this season.
Tactic 1: Pattern Does
Strategically setting up along the edges of known doe bedding and feeding areas like this small ambush plot can be deadly when big bucks are in the cruising, chasing, and actual breeding stages of the rut. (Travis Faulkner video)
All bets and previous patterns are off once the big boys start thinking about the ladies. Right now, it’s all about the does, which means you must make some critical scouting, patterning and hunting adjustments. The best way to stay inside of an antler-rich environment and killing zone during the rut is to focus most of your attention on the does. Monitoring popular doe hang-outs with game-cameras and establishing predictable daily patterns will put you exactly where you need to be once the action kicks into high-gear.
Tactic 2: Hunt High-Traffic Zones
Concentrate on doe high-traffic areas such as current feeding locations, bedding zones, primary travel routes, and transitional spots once the chasing and breeding phases of the rut kick into full swing. (Travis Faulkner photo)
Focusing on the does and hunting high-traffic zones is always a good strategy during the rut. With love in the air, it’s a safe bet that mature bucks are not going to be too far away from the girls. Targeting doe bedding areas, current feeding sites, major travel corridors and natural funnels that connect these key locations is a very productive hunting strategy. The trick is to stay right on top of the does as much as possible during the actual chasing and breeding segments of the rut.
Tactic 3: Pick A Fight
During the rut, bucks are anxious, keyed-up, agitated and very confrontational. They’re pretty much ready to rumble at the drop of a hat, and sometimes you don’t even have to drop the hat. You can expose this vulnerability by implementing aggressive calling strategies that consists of dominant buck grunts, snort-wheezing and even rattling. Constructing mock scrapes or working existing scrapes with intruder buck urine is another great way to send a swelled-up brawler straight into seeking mode, right in front of where you’re waiting in a stand.
Tactic 4: Attack His Nose
A buck’s number one defense is undoubtedly his keen sense of smell, but it is possible for a savvy hunter to transform this strength into a weakness that can be exploited. A drag-line soaked in estrous doe urine that is pulled through and around your hunting area can coax a shooter into close range. Adding tarsal scent and dominant buck urine to the mix can also be extremely effective when running a drag-line.
Tactic 5: Sweet Talk Him
Make no mistake; mature bucks basically have a one-track mind once the rut is in full-swing. This is exactly why a little sweet talk consisting of alluring estrous doe bleats can be just what the doctor ordered. Receptive does often make this sound when being pushed by another buck, or when they’re ready to breed and actively seeking a possible mate. When done correctly, a series of estrous doe bleats has the potential to bring mature bucks in from long distances and can dramatically expand the overall coverage area of any setup.
Tactic 6: Exploit His Eyes
With the right safety precautions, a well-placed intruder buck and receptive doe decoy setup is a highly effective strategy and can be long-tined shooter’s Kryptonite. (Side Note: If you’re not hunting private land, I recommend using this strategy just before or after your state’s gun and black-powder seasons for obvious safety concerns.) The key is to position the decoys inside of high-traffic areas that offer good visibility and add calling along with scent application strategies to the mix. This enables you to attack and exploit all three of a buck’s primary senses simultaneously.
Tactic 7: Escape the Pressure
During the rut, the woods have a tendency of getting flooded by a sea of hunter orange. In order to escape intense periods of outside hunting pressure, try to focus on hard-to-reach locations that lack easy access. Overlooked areas such as small tracts of land, overgrown clear-cut thickets, and wooded islands off lakes and rivers can be killer spots to avoid hunting pressure. Mature bucks will routinely push receptive does to these locations as well to put some distance between themselves and other hunters.
Tactic 8: Go Early and Stay Late
Planning and executing all-day hunts during the whitetail rut can pay huge dividends, especially when utilizing high-impact strategies that allow you to exploit lovesick bucks that are extremely vulnerable at this point in the season. (Travis Faulkner photo)
When the action really starts to pick up, you’re likely to see rut-crazed bucks on the move, off and on throughout the entire day. Periods of cold weather, rain or overcast conditions make it very tough for whitetails to remain locked down. If possible, try to stay in your treestand or ground-blind from before daylight until a few minutes after dark. Some of the biggest bucks in the woods have learned to move during the mid-day to early evening hours when most other hunters are grabbing a bite to eat or a quick nap. Going early, staying late and sticking tightly to your setup can be the best move you’ll make all season.
Let’s face it; the whitetail rut can be super intense, chaotic, and full of excitement. However, it’s also very brief, which is why you really need to take advantage of every single opportunity you have to close the deal on a monster whitetail. This means you need to go hard, push the envelope and attack dominant bucks with high-impact strategies and setups that really work. If hunting conditions get tough this November, be sure to breakout these eight killer tactics from the ultimate rut guide and make something happen!