November 06, 2013
How to Hunt Whitetails this Weekend: The Rut is On! - 0
We’ve waited all year for this weekend and we’re making the official Outdoor Life call: The rut is on! Reports are rolling in from whitetail watchers across the country and most are pointing to rut-on conditions. The rut (or peak chase-phase) precedes actual breeding, or the biological rut, by about a week as testosterone-charged bucks are on the move. What it all means, however, is that the whitetail hunting should be pretty exciting this weekend.
Scouting Cameras Don’t Lie
Another sure sign is a change in the age structure of the bucks we are photographing. We are now seeing significantly more mature bucks on camera than in week’s past. A month ago it was yearlings everywhere—you couldn’t find a racked buck. Now we have a more even age-class distribution. The racked-out bucks are running about even with the little guys. This is a great rut marker providing you have some age on the bucks in your hunting area.
Finally, we are picking up many more daytime sightings of older bucks. Our old guys are plenty smart and seldom show during daytime hours. Right now, they are out and about all times of day and night. If your cameras are showing any or all of the above, pack a lunch and start putting in some treestand time.
Reports from the Field
Big-woods hunters are reporting less activity. This is more than likely due to the huge abundance of fall foods that are still in the woods and spreading the deer out. Many hunters who have been seeing deer on isolated food sources (often food plots) all summer and fall are reporting quiet sits. However, keep in mind that this happens every year with the onslaught of the rut as doe/fawn concentrations get broken up and forced off their feeding areas by bucks on the prowl. Chances are does are back in the woods working acorns and browse and the bucks are in there with them. It’s harder for big-woods hunters to keep track of deer activity when the deer they hunt are spread out all over the countryside not concentrated in a few known feeding locations.
One thing for sure, a bunch of good bucks got shot over the past few days and a whole lot more will be shot this weekend and next. Our emails and texts are loaded with hunter success shots and most of them on good bucks that they have been after all year (and the year before). When the tough bucks start showing up in hero shots, something is going on in the woods and you had better get in on the action.
The trick this weekend will be to hunt does because where the does are will be where you find the bucks. Not where the does were mind you, where they are. Many of the does we have been watching all summer have relocated to quieter, safer, areas to avoid the onslaught of buck pressure. They are still on the feed, but not in the same old feeding locations. One of the biggest mistakes of hunting the rut is hunting where the does were last week or the week before. Many does have been relocated by marauding bucks; if you know where they are now, hunt them. If you aren’t sure set up on crossing areas, neck downs and anywhere else you are apt to catch a buck as he marches about patrolling his turf, moving from one doe group to the next. If antler rattling works in your area (it does not work everywhere) give it a whirl, a grunt call or snort wheeze will often turn an old warrior in your direction. But don’t over do it; each buck is different and what works with one, might not work with the next one.
And one more thing, weather matters. Cold crisp days are what you are looking for. Temps over 50 means quiet days and wild nights.