Exploiting Rut-Phase Bucks

Early Pre-Rut Transition Bucks are sticking to a predictable feeding to bedding pattern and can be found traveling together in bachelor groups. The key is pinpointing an early-season food source and knowing exactly where the bucks are entering and exiting the area. Approximate Dates: September 1st - October 1st Sign To Look For: Look for worn trails leading to early-season food sources along with large concentrations of deer droppings. Hanging trail cameras overlooking travel routes and glassing fields during the late evening hours will allow you to determine what bucks are frequenting the area along with the exact time and location. Hot Stands: Try hanging a stand or positioning a ground blind along the edges of early-season food sources on the upwind side of entry and exit trails. Carefully plan safe routes to these stands that allow you to get in and get out without being detected by deer. The late evening hours will usually be the best times to be in the stand during this transition. Calling Strategies: Soft and muffled grunts along with light rattling will trigger a social response from bucks traveling in bachelor groups. Bucks will often come in to investigate the new guy and the non-aggressive rattling sequences directly mimic light sparring matches that often occur between bucks during this period. Scent Application: Placing straight buck urine around your stand may pull a curious buck within range, especially if combined with non-aggressive calling. However, making sure your body and equipment are scent-free during this early period is far more important. Wearing light clothing and thoroughly spraying down with a scent-eliminating spray will help combat perspiration problems caused by hot temperatures.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Pre-Rut Transition Whitetail patterns will go through major changes during this transition due to increased outside hunting pressure, changing food sources, cooler temperatures and the shortening of days signaling the upcoming rut. Bucks will begin to breakout of bachelor groups and will start becoming more territorial. In most areas, acorns are starting to drop and food sources that were hot a few weeks ago will be visited less frequently. Approximate Dates: October 1st - October 20th Sign To Look For: More buck sign will start popping up during this period consisting of rubs and scrapes. Look for obvious rub lines and even scrape lines connecting buck bedding to feeding areas. These are perfect places to hang a trail camera to determine what bucks are leaving this sign and the key times you should be in the stand. Hot Stands: Try hanging stands close, but safely outside of known buck bedding areas overlooking rub or scrape lines. This will allow you to intercept a buck that is hanging back until dark before entering a food source. Calling Strategies: Buck grunts coupled with rattling can coax a mature buck that is territorial off the bed and into range during this transition. Try calling in short sequences about every half hour and keep an eye out for bucks trying to slip around behind you to get the wind in their favor. Scent Application: Some of the older does may hit an estrous cycle toward the end of this transition making doe in heat scents effective. Dominant buck urine can also strike a jealous nerve among territorial bucks as well.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Cruising and Chase Phase Transition With some of the older does in heat and the rut rapidly approaching many bucks will start cruising and even chasing or harassing does. Bucks are beginning to think more about mating than eating and are becoming more active during the daylight hours. Approximate Dates: October 20th - November 5th Sign To Look For: Scraping and rubbing activity will dramatically increase and obvious buck sign will begin showing up everywhere. Try finding funnels that connect doe bedding and feeding areas that are covered with fresh buck sign. Hot Stands: Hanging a stand or setting up a ground blind near natural funnels or doe travel routes can be deadly during this transitional period. Hunters need to setup on the upwind side of heavily worn doe trails and make an effort to stay in the stand for extended periods of time. You never know when a lovesick buck will cruise through these areas. Calling Strategies: A variety of calling techniques will work during this period consisting of rattling, grunting, and even snort wheezing. Bucks are probably more responsive now to calling than at any other time of the season. Scent Application: Try pulling a drag line with doe estrous scent and dominant buck urine to your stand. Hanging small scent stations with these scent combinations from small sapling trees in a 360 degree circle can also be highly effective.Outdoor Life Online Editor

The ability to adapt and change hunting strategies to meet each transitional phase of the rut can transform you into a big buck tagging machine this season.