Outdoor Life Online Editor

The latest research from noted whitetail biologist Dr. Mick Hellickson advises that the peak of the rut is the best time to rattle in bucks. You can sit in a stand and rattle or you can take your game to the deer. Try the aggressive approach, which is more fun and more likely to put a big rack in your sights this week. This technique works best in semi-open country where you can see rutting deer and go to them-brushy river bottoms out West, timber-company land laced with clear-cuts back East, farmland anywhere…you get the idea. Try it on private property that has light hunting pressure, or on a public tract where archery season is still on. For obvious safety reasons, you don’t want to sneak around and sound like bucks fighting where a lot of guys are hunting during a firearms season.

This plan requires a radical change in thinking. Instead of climbing into your best stand before sunup every day during the peak of the rut, drive out to your hunting area, take a vantage on a field edge or hill and glass at first light. Look for an 8- or 10-pointer chasing a doe or nudging a gal back into a section of cover. When the deer disappear into a ditch, thicket or patch of timber, make your move.

Make sure the wind is right, blowing from the deer to you. Hide behind terrain and foliage and sneak quietly to the downwind edge of the cover that the big boy is in. Set up in a makeshift ground blind where you can see off to the sides and behind, because most bucks will circle downwind. Break out your antlers and rattle like crazy for a minute or two to mimic a couple of bucks fighting over a doe. Pick up your bow or gun and get ready. The wild-eyed buck might be in your face before you know it, but give him 30 minutes; he might circle in slowly, or a satellite buck that heard your racket might crash the party.

If your first set doesn’t pan out, move to a new area and glass some more. It’s unlikely that you’ll spot two shooters to rattle to in one morning, but when whitetails are rutting hard in open country, you never know. Even if you don’t find another buck, no sweat. Hit a second and maybe a third brush-choked draw or block of timber where the wind is right, and where you know from past experience that does bed. If the gals are in there, a buck probably will be too. Crack the antlers together and stay sharp.