As the rut cranks up, so should your efforts in the field.
Don Kisky of Garden Grove, Iowa, once watched a shooter hook trees and fling dirt high into the air at the far end of the weed field he was hunting. When the deer finally moved on and the morning hunt was over, Kisky yanked his stand, walked over to the smoking scrapes and rehung the perch.
Just after sunrise the next morning, the same 150-incher skulked past the scrapes just out of bow range. Kisky was bummed, but not for long. Minutes later he spotted a rack bobbing across the tall weeds. The sight almost caused him to fall out of the tree.
“I’ve hunted across the Midwest for more than twenty years, and it was the biggest deer I’d ever seen,” he says. He rattled, the buck approached and the arrow sailed on target. The monster buck sported 19 points, had a 10-inch drop club and grossed 213 non-typical inches.
My friend did it right. Rather than waste time in a so-so stand, he moved to a spot where he knew a buck was blazing rubs and digging scrapes that very day. In most regions, from November 1 to around November 20 is the time for hunters to get aggressive. Although bucks are crazed on testosterone and virtually out of their minds, you still need to play the wind and hunt smart. But you can get away with a little more noise, movement and even human scent than usual as you move to the middle of the action.
Here’s the best part. As Kisky’s hunt reveals, where there is one big boy there are often others. One or more hot does keep the studs right there. Here’s a couple more ways to move in for the kill when the rut is right.
Lurk Near the Bedroom
Roll out of bed and check an online hour-by-hour weather forecast to confirm that the wind that morning will be blowing out of a cedar thicket, a tangled cutover or some such spot where you know a bunch of does bed. If so, sneak in and set up about 100 yards downwind of the gals’ bedroom. To obtain the best visibility, run a climber up a straight tree.
When the sun comes up, watch for bucks circling downwind of the bedding area and checking for the scent of does in estrus. If you see a brute, he should already be in easy gun range, and maybe even within reach of an arrow. Sit tight until noon. Every November a number of gigantic bucks are killed as they poke around doe bedding quarters in the midmorning hours.
[pagebreak] Follow Your Does
You can hunt your best cornfield or green plot on a prime, cold rut day and not see anything. Why? Because the local does have grown tired of being chased by bucks until their tongues hang out. Until they’re ready to breed, many gals avoid the fields and keep to thicker cover to hide from the boys. You should pitch in there, too.
Check an aerial photo or work from scouting memory and sneak to the downwind edge of the nearest cedar thicket, weed field or the like. Hang a stand and keep alert. You might hear deer crashing in the cover, a deer grunting or maybe two bucks sparring. A bedraggled doe might even pop up in an opening with one of those annoying bucks glued to her tail. If he’s got 8 or 10 heavy points, shoot straight.
Make Rattles and Grunts Work for You
The tighter you move in to where bucks rub, scrape and prowl for does, the better your rattling and calling will work. Remember:
- Bucks are most vocal now; you should be, too. Blow loud, deep, gurgling grunts.
- Doe bleat on a can-type call and follow up with buck grunts to simulate a breeding scene.
- When you’re done with a sequence, put down your horns or calls, grab your bow or gun and sit still for 15 minutes. Once in a while a wild-eyed dude with his hackles up will charge right in, but most old bucks take more time and circle downwind. Watch close and be ready.