The hunters rut, a term we use to describe the time when hunters see the most deer rutting activity, is upon us. Want proof? These are the trail camera photos we captured over the last week from our property in northern New York and from our contacts across the country. Perhaps the most intriguing shots are a series of photos of a mature buck breeding a doe. See how whitetail expert Neil Dougherty (my son) used these photos to set up on this buck and kill him.
Mature deer were on their feet last week. This buck has been sporadically showing up over the past six weeks. Now that the hunters rut is upon us, he is on his feet and a lot more visible checking does in known social gathering areas. All these photos were taken in food plots. To find a buck like this during the hunters rut, target known doe gathering areas. Concentrate on bedding areas or feeding areas.
Another signal that the hunters rut is upon us. This yearling is walking laps around the food plot scent checking tracks of does that used the plot over night. He is oblivious to the two fawns in the back of the field. When bucks walk like this they can become oblivious to their surroundings seemingly only to singularly focus on scent checking. Grunt at him and he might just keep going without deviation from his path, heck he’s likely to walk right into the side of an eighteen wheeler without stopping.
Tarsal staining on active bucks is very evident. As a general rule of thumb the darker the tarsal staining, the more aggressive the buck. If you encounter a buck with heavily stained tarsal glands over the next week, try and challenge call him. A snort-wheeze call just might bring him within range.
We noticed a measurable increase in the ratio of fawns using food plots this past week. As buck pressure mounts, does make themselves scarce and stay away from fields full of bucks. Fawns on the other hand, continue to feed in social gathering areas. Button bucks are a little more bold than their sisters, you are likely to see more button bucks roaming the woods alone over the next two weeks.
For the last three weeks, this three-year-old has been walking a perimeter about 40 yards in the woods around a standing cornfield. Up until this point, he had been nocturnal. The transition from nighttime photos to daylight photos usually coincides with the hunters rut. This photo is an excellent example of what to look for when determining when its time to get more aggressive.
This guy isn’t sporting much rack, but what he lacks in size he is making up in attitude. Over the past week we have seen a transition from bucks grooming one another to hard core tough guy attitude like this buck is showing.
Talk about a one in a million series of photos. We have looked over more than a half million deer cam photos over the past years and only documented one other breeding event. This buck was covering the doe for eight seconds. Not much explanation required here, when you see this type of behavior in the woods coupled with the previous pictures, it’s time to hunt and hunt hard. The bulk of breeding will take place over the next three weeks.
Buck breeding
Buck breeding
Buck Breeding
Buck breeding
Buck breeding
Concentrating hunting efforts around doe areas during the initial stages of the hunters rut is a good bet. See Neil hidden in the tree within the background of this photo. Neil used the previous pictures to develop a game plan for the big 10. He concentrated his efforts on areas where the big deer had been photographed over the past six weeks. In an effort to limit the pressure, this stand had not been hunted until the night this photo was taken. Results for night one six yearling bucks, four does and a pile of button buck fawns. Results for night two in the same stand …
Success! We have been tracking this five-year-old ten pointer for the last six weeks. Yup, he is the same buck that was breeding the doe on October 30th. Estimated age 5.5, live weight 215, score 151. The hunters rut will be quickly fading into biological rut when the majority of breeding takes place. If you’re in the hunters rut now get ready, things are going to slow way down soon. See my latest report on whitetail rut activity.

The rut has deer on the move. Want proof? Check out these trail camera photos from last week and see how our whitetail expert Neil Dougherty took this love-struck buck.