35 Ways to Rule the Rut

Tips on rattling, laying scents, hunting rub lines, locating the right scrape, finding where to hang your deer stand and more: Together they add up to one awesome plan for hunting the rut.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Sometimes you have to think small to shoot a big buck. After all, it's the details that count in the deer woods, right? We can help. Provided here are 35 tips on rattling, laying scents, hunting rub lines, locating the right scrape, finding where to hang your tree stand and more. Together they add up to one awesome plan for hunting the rut. ** 1. Words of Wisdom**
Legendary Montana archer Gene Wensel, whose intuition about whitetail deer is unmatched, says, "When a big, undisturbed buck is looking for a doe, he'll try to cover as much ground as possible. If he walks into a nose wind, he can only cover what's directly in front of him. If he cuts crosswind, he covers a lot more olfactory ground but his rear is unprotected. The safest, most logical direction for that buck to walk in is quartering downwind. That way his eyes are protecting his front and his nose is covering what's coming in over his shoulder. And that's what a mature buck does-he quarters downwind until he smells a hot doe; then he makes a J-turn and follows his nose right to her."

**2. Who's That Gargling? **
If one morning you hear loud, deep-pitched gurgles in a thicket, get ready! A buck has cornered a doe, and he's talking to her with what I call "gargling grunts" (biologists call them tending grunts). If the gal is not quite ready to stand and breed, she'll soon bust out of the cover with the crazed boy on her heels. Shoot quickly if you can.

3. Whitetail Mating Call
If you were a buck in rut would you run to the clatter of antlers, a grunt or the "meeaaa, meeaaa, meeaaa" of a doe ready to mate? You won't hear the estrus bleat very often (I've heard it only twice), but it's worth a try during the peak of the rut. Try Primos's new "The Great Big Can" call. Simply turn the can upside down to fill the woods with sexy bleats. ($12.99; 800-523-2395; www.primos.com)

4. Need a Drink?
Dan Perez of PSE Archery likes to hang out at a local watering hole. Not Pete's Grill or Molly's Irish Pub, but a small, secluded pond or slough in his hunting area. "When deer run and chase they get thirsty," he explains. While hunting over water is an obvious tactic for a hot, dry rut, try it during cold weather as well. "A few years ago in mid-November it was cold and all the water holes in my area were frozen over," says Perez. "One afternoon I busted a hole in a pond and climbed into my stand. Just before dark a bunch of does and three good bucks trotted in for a sip."

**5. Still Steaming? **
Is that $10 bottle of eau de doe you bought last October still steaming? If you didn't open it and stored it in a cool, dark place over the summer, it should be okay. But you probably carried the lure in your daypack and used it a few times. Chances are light, air and heat broke down and ammoniated the urine. Toss it and buy a fresh bottle.

**6. Signs of a Stud **
Only a stud with a big rack and a neck like Mike Tyson's can gouge, thrash or even snap trees several inches in diameter. "Violent rubs" are the sign of not only a good buck, but also an aggressive buck. A brazen, dominant deer will prowl far and wide for does and with unbridled energy, which means you have a pretty good chance of seeing him on his hooves in daylight hours.

7. Click, Click, Click
"I once spotted a 140-class deer in a thicket, tending a doe and trying to run off two smaller bucks," says Mark Drury, founder of M.A.D. Calls. "I picked up my rattling horns and clicked them lightly three times. The big buck charged within 12 steps of my stand and stomped his feet. He winded me, but I was at full draw and took him. Sometimes just clicking together a pair of antlers once is all it takes."

**8. Ooh, That Smell **
One November morning I dropped an eight-pointer with my muzzleloader. His hocks were black as clumps of coal and he reeked sbadly I choked as I field-dressed him. While completing the job I heard a deer walking in the leaves and looked up to see a 10-pointer bearing down on me, eyes wild and tines held low. The intruder marched to within 20 yards; I feared an attack and all I had was an unloaded rifle. The buck stopped, studied the dead deer I was crouching behind, detected no threat and turned and walked away. It was my coolest hunt ever and it taught me something: Dominant bucks are drawn to the musk of one another late in the pre-rut. Play off that and set a mix of buck urine and tarsal gland scent near your stand. And stay on your toes. A 200-pound buck homing in on the smell of an intruder is one bad dude.

9. No Dead Scrapes
If a scrape isn't topped with a snapped, overhanging limb, it's not worth your time. It's not a primary scrape a buck will return to check or rework. Focus on scrapes with "licking branches."

10. X Marks the Spot
Follow a rub line to a spot where it cuts a doe trail. There you should find a cluster of thrashed saplings, as well as a fresh scrape or two. Play the wind, hang a stand and look for the buck working the intersection.

**11. Decoys must Stink **
If you're going to bowhunt over a decoy, it ought to stink just right. Smear estrus lure on a doe, or hang a scent wick nearby. If you stick a plastic rack on your fake, smear buck urine or tarsal on its hind end. After setting an "intruder decoy," climb into a tree stand and grunt like a market hog every 30 minutes or so. A buck might stroll by, hear your grunts, come to the conclusion that your rank imposter is talking trash in his domain and saunter over to kick some whitetail booty.

12. Heckuva Fight
"Five- or six-year-old bucks lock antlers and try to kill each other," says Gary Roberson of Menard, Tex., one of the best rattlers in the country. "There's awesome pushing and shoving, with dirt and rocks flying everywhere as each deer tries to flip the other. The loser typically runs off hurt, with the victor hooking him in the rear." While the battles are vicious, they are usually short-lived. "Most big bucks fight for 30 seconds or less," notes Roberson. "That's why I rattle in short, hard bursts."

13. Cover Your Back
When rattling or "grunting blind," set up with the sun at your back and against thick cover. You'll be hidden in the shadows, and an incoming buck will be easy to see if sunlight hits his antlers.

**14. Wake-Up Call **
A hot time to rattle is during the last 10 days of the pre-rut (before the peak of the rut), when bucks are stoked to come to the sounds of two rivals fighting for the favors of a doe. In my experience, rattling works best in the morning near doe-bedding areas or in funnels that lead to these places. A still, frosty dawn is perfect.

15. Keep on rattling
While you probably won't rattle a big buck away from a hot doe, you should still whack horns periodically throughout the peak and last throes of the breeding season. You might catch a good buck between does, and he might come to check out your ruckus.

16. Where'd they go?
It's November 10 and the weather is perfect-overcast, calm and with temperatures in the low 30s. You hunt all day and see neither hide nor hair of a good buck. Well, it's likely the big boys are holed up in thickets having their way with does. Keep hunting your best stand back in the timber. In a day or two the bruisers will start cruising for new gals again.

17. In the Mood
In his book Way of the Whitetail (Voyageur Press, 2000), noted whitetail photographer and researcher Leonard Lee Rue III writes: "I have found that most deer breed about every four hours, and you can almost time it. As a doe is in estrus for twenty-six to twenty-eight hours, the buck will breed her on the average of about six times." What this means is that a buck may be with a doe one day and on his own the next.

**18. Baby Talk **
One November afternoon Harold Knight, the call-maker and deer-hunting authority from Cadiz, Ky., heard a fawn bleating forlornly. "The little deer must have bawled fifty times," he says. "I figure a doe that was just about ready to breed had just kicked out the young 'un. You don't hear fawn bleating a lot, but listen for it. It can tell you the does are just about ready to come into heat."

**19. Scrape Foolery **
To bag an old, nocturnal buck along his scrape line, try this great trick, courtesy of Don Bell of Code Blue scents. "One afternoon around 4:30, sneak in and freshen a few of the buck's biggest scrapes with tarsal scent," he says. "The buck might come along at midnight, get mad as hell, rip up the scrapes and urinate in them. Go back the next afternoon at 4:30 and doctor the scrapes again. The buck might come back that night and rip 'em again. Keep it up for several days, freshening the scrapes at the same time every afternoon. Pretty soon the buck will want to see or encounter the intruder, so he starts coming to the scrapes earlier and earlier each evening. The earlier he comes, the stronger your tarsal scent is, and that will really fire him up. One afternoon the big deer might show up at the scrapes you're hunting at last light."

20. Night Owl
A grizzled 8- or 10-pointer is a night owl. He generally waits until after dark to go on the prowl for does, and he tends to stay up late into the wee hours. Some mornings, however, sage old bucks find themselves a mile or more from their bedding area with the sun rising. As a buck in this position frantically sneaks back to his sanctuary, you might get a crack at him on a ridge or in a funnel. That's another reason I think mornings are best for busting big bucks during the rut.

21. Hunt Close
If you hunt in the East or South you can generally hunt a buck within 500 acres of a crop field where you spotted him back in September. Contrary to what many hunters believe, that holds for the big, open West as well. "In late summer I watch big bucks every day," says Luke Strommen, who hunts and guides along the Milk River in Montana. "I find that when I spot a 160-class deer in an alfalfa field, that buck is usually in that same area come November. Even if a buck leaves a ranch for a couple of days, he'll be back. So why hunt anywhere else?"

22. Best Rut Stand
Find a swamp, clear-cut or other cover where does bed. When archery hunting, play the wind, move in tight and hang a tree stand in a fringe. Back 75 to 100 yards off the cover when using a muzzleloader or rifle. Hunt that stand enough and you will see bucks prowling around the gals.

**23. Back Off **
To reduce the cs." What this means is that a buck may be with a doe one day and on his own the next.

**18. Baby Talk **
One November afternoon Harold Knight, the call-maker and deer-hunting authority from Cadiz, Ky., heard a fawn bleating forlornly. "The little deer must have bawled fifty times," he says. "I figure a doe that was just about ready to breed had just kicked out the young 'un. You don't hear fawn bleating a lot, but listen for it. It can tell you the does are just about ready to come into heat."

**19. Scrape Foolery **
To bag an old, nocturnal buck along his scrape line, try this great trick, courtesy of Don Bell of Code Blue scents. "One afternoon around 4:30, sneak in and freshen a few of the buck's biggest scrapes with tarsal scent," he says. "The buck might come along at midnight, get mad as hell, rip up the scrapes and urinate in them. Go back the next afternoon at 4:30 and doctor the scrapes again. The buck might come back that night and rip 'em again. Keep it up for several days, freshening the scrapes at the same time every afternoon. Pretty soon the buck will want to see or encounter the intruder, so he starts coming to the scrapes earlier and earlier each evening. The earlier he comes, the stronger your tarsal scent is, and that will really fire him up. One afternoon the big deer might show up at the scrapes you're hunting at last light."

20. Night Owl
A grizzled 8- or 10-pointer is a night owl. He generally waits until after dark to go on the prowl for does, and he tends to stay up late into the wee hours. Some mornings, however, sage old bucks find themselves a mile or more from their bedding area with the sun rising. As a buck in this position frantically sneaks back to his sanctuary, you might get a crack at him on a ridge or in a funnel. That's another reason I think mornings are best for busting big bucks during the rut.

21. Hunt Close
If you hunt in the East or South you can generally hunt a buck within 500 acres of a crop field where you spotted him back in September. Contrary to what many hunters believe, that holds for the big, open West as well. "In late summer I watch big bucks every day," says Luke Strommen, who hunts and guides along the Milk River in Montana. "I find that when I spot a 160-class deer in an alfalfa field, that buck is usually in that same area come November. Even if a buck leaves a ranch for a couple of days, he'll be back. So why hunt anywhere else?"

22. Best Rut Stand
Find a swamp, clear-cut or other cover where does bed. When archery hunting, play the wind, move in tight and hang a tree stand in a fringe. Back 75 to 100 yards off the cover when using a muzzleloader or rifle. Hunt that stand enough and you will see bucks prowling around the gals.

**23. Back Off **
To reduce the c