Nothing beats putting in time on a stand and this week was no exception. We saw the best bucks of the season this week and they were doing everything a buck in rut should be doing. My son, Neil, picked up a mature long-tined shooter ( maybe a four or five year old) cruising along a ridge looking for does. That, combined with multiple sightings of younger bucks chasing, grunting, and harassing does is a sure sign that it's time to be out there. I watched a fine shooter four-year-old hang with a doe all evening on the food plot I was hunting. Being the old experienced gentleman he was, he didn't harass her or make any moves, he simply escorted her along, never moving more that 20 yards from her side. It always amazes me to watch how carefully an experienced buck works a doe. Two weeks ago, that buck would still be on his belly during daytime hours. Now he is out in the open making my knees knock. The closest he got was 41 yards; 10 yards too far for me. The soft signs of the upcoming rut (rubs, scrapes, sparring etc.) have been with us for weeks. Now we are seeing the actual hard signs, (does getting scarce, older aged bucks out and about, older bucks with does) and that means it's time to hunt hard.
How to Hunt**
The trick to hunting this weekend and the next 10 days will be to get in the woods and stay there. This time of year can be the best of times and the worst of times (all in the same weekend). If you get in the middle of a chase or wind up in an area with a hot doe, you will never forget it. If, for example, all the bucks in your area are chasing the same doe and they are all over the hill, it can be a pretty quiet morning. In spite of what we all like to believe, you can have some pretty quiet sits during the rut. The smart hunter packs his lunch and hangs tough. You are just as likely to catch a good buck at 11 in the morning as at dawn or dusk. Forget the rules and hunt.