7 Ways to Get Ready for the Rut

The best two weeks in deer hunting are right around the corner. Are you ready?

When we’re getting ready for those two magic weeks in November, there are the things we never forget. License. Trail camera batteries. Broadheads. Then there’s the stuff we always mean to do, but never quite get around to: the new stand set, the honey-do list, etc. So, with plenty of time before sweet November arrives, here are seven reminders to help you get ready for the rut.

Two whitetail deer circling each other during the rut in an open field.
Prepare for the marathon that is rut hunting well before the action heats up. John Hafner

Prep Your Vacation Days

Make sure your days off at work are secure. To be safe, casually bring up how excited you are to be off, and how you’ll be truly off—without great internet or cell coverage. Take it from us, many a great deer hunt has been ruined by getting asked to do that “one more thing” the day before you’re off, or an “emergency” work meeting halfway through PTO. Prime the well so you can comfortably leave the work phone at home come November.

Attack the Honey-Do List

Marriage is a compromise, but for whitetail hunters there’s no compromising around the first two weeks of November. Communicating that to your partner, in the nicest possible way, isn’t always easy. One pro-tip: Spend as much time as possible helping with their projects. Maybe that’s a new bathroom vanity or tile in the kitchen. Well, get to work. Investing in your partner now will pay dividends when the big deer start moving in daylight.

Scout Funnels and Other High-Traffic Deer Routes

The rut is a slot machine. Bucks you can pattern in late summer and late winter go love drunk and run through country in almost unpredictable ways—almost. Even the most rutted-up bucks still tend to cruise obvious high-traffic deer routes. Spots with lots of does are no-brainers, of course, but also look for funnels and other pinch points that does will run through when chased by Mr. Big.

Disturbed leaves creating a trail deep in the woods.
Spots with lots of does are no-brainers, of course, but also look for funnels and other pinch points that does will run through when chased by Mr. Big. USFWS

Set That Stand Now

“I’ll do it next year.” How many times have we said that about hanging a treestand in a spot that has potential? We plan and plan all spring, then summer rolls around, the stand still doesn’t go up, and all of a sudden, it’s hunting season and we don’t want to muss up the woods by making a racket and hanging and set. Then it’s, “I’ll do it next year.” Well, do it now. The nice thing about the rut is deer are way more tolerant of intrusions because their minds are tuned to love. Go ahead and set that funnel or field edge stand, even if you’ll blow out some deer doing it. When the rut gets raging, they’ll be back.

Make Your Stand Right

They say war is 90 percent boredom punctuated by 10 percent terror. The rut is kind of like that: 90 percent boredom punctuated by 10 percent action. Hours, and even days, can go by without a deer sighting, only to have the whole world crash down as a bruiser storms through the hardwoods. Prepare for this by making your stand comfortable but also quiet, with quick access to your bow or rifle. Every stand and set is different, but look at seat cushions, rubber mats, hockey tape for loud pins, and bow and rifle hangers to customize your treestand for maximum hang time, and fast deployment.

Caption: Hours, and even days, can go by without a deer sighting, only to have the whole world crash down as a bruiser storms through the hardwoods.

A whitetail deer feeding in the woods.
Hours, and even days, can go by without a deer sighting, only to have the whole world crash down as a bruiser storms through the hardwoods. USFWS

Catch up on Sleep

If there’s any time of year to pull dawn-to-dark treestand sits, it’s the rut. Mature bucks are up and moving at all hours, so you’re as likely to see one at 11:30 or 3:30 as you are at first light. Sitting and standing confined to a 3-foot platform for 14 hours may not sound exhausting, but it is. Never mind the early alarm wake-ups and suppertimes well after the sun goes down. Prepare for the marathon that is rut hunting by banking as much sleep as possible. Go to bed early the weeks leading up to it, if you can. Take a lazy weekend, if possible. You’ll need reserves come November.

Plan for Boredom

One certainty of all-day treestand sits: You will be bored. Some guys will say, “I can sit all day, every day,” but they’re mostly full of beans. It’s easy to get frustrated three days into a week hunting if you don’t see any good bucks. The mind wanders. Enthusiasm breaks down. Soon, it’s out of the tree and back to the truck. Knowing this, plan accordingly. Bring an extra-large bottle of coffee. Bring snacks. Bring a book. The smartphone can keep you sitting, yes, but it’s dangerous. Those little black boxes have a power to hold attention like an iron fist and it’s easy to get caught with your pants down—or phone up—when a bruiser cruises by. Use it wisely.