There’s no better time of year than the whitetail rut. It’s the holy grail of the hunting season and provides the best chance for fulfilling our hunting dreams—or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy we’re led to believe. Because of these high expectations and the inevitable let downs, I’ve come to find that nothing is more important during the rut than mental toughness.
If you can mentally prepare for what the rut eventually will throw at you, you’ve got a terrific chance of filling a tag. On the other hand, if you easily cave in the face of adversity, your rut hunting dreams will remain just that; dreams.
Here are three pieces of advice to keep in mind to help you mentally prepare for this most exciting time of year.
1. Things Will Go Wrong
We’ve dreamed of the rut all year long and our hopes are sky high. But if there’s anything I can guarantee you about your upcoming rut hunts, it’s this: things will not always go as planned. A treestand will be stolen, you’ll miss a buck, a neighboring hunter will trespass, the forecast will change, or one of a million other potential things could go wrong. So with this being the case, a key to hunting the rut is simply preparing yourself for these inevitable setbacks. With expectations so high leading into the rut, it’s easy to get disappointed if those dreams aren’t coming to fruition – but you need to mentally prepare yourself for those moments and make an internal pact that you’ll push through them. Things will go wrong, just plan on it, but also plan on rising above the problems.
2. You Will Be Exhausted
If you hunt the rut at all like I do, you’re likely going to be hunting for days on end, with wicked early wake-ups and full days on stand. And while we love the rut, it can get to be a grind. Let’s be real, seven straight days of 3:30 AM starts and 13-hour sits is just plain exhausting, and after a few days of that it’s pretty easy to want to give up. But don’t. Again, this is something you need to mentally guard yourself for. Realize ahead of time that the fatigue will eventually set in, but have a plan in place for pushing through it. Simply put, this will be a test of your internal fortitude, so know this is coming and steel yourself for it.
3. Stick With the Basics
After a few uneventful hunts during the rut it’s easy to panic. There should be bucks everywhere! There should be chasing, and grunting, and fighting. Right? Well, unfortunately the average hunters actual hunts during the rut don’t often end up going like they seem to on TV. With this being the case, it’s key to properly set expectations before your hunt begins and to have a rut hunting plan in place that you’ll stick to. It’s understandable that after a few unsuccessful hunts you might want to start trying new things, but remember to stick to the basics. Bucks are interested in finding a hot doe, so they’ll be visiting doe bedding areas, food sources and funneling in between those types of locations. Keep your focus on these areas, stay in the tree, and good things will eventually happen. Keep it simple.