Hunting Big Game Hunting Deer Hunting Whitetail Deer Hunting

The Ultimate Rut Handbook

Outdoor Life Online Editor

QUICK-STRIKE SCOUTING: Even with a packed schedule, you can still pattern trophy bucks quickly with these time-saving tips. Make no mistake; during the rut, you still have to do some legwork if you want to make one of the big boys eat dirt. For most of us, work and family obligations cut into our scouting and hunting time. However, there are several ways you can find out where the big bucks roam; it's about scouting smarter, not harder. 1. Scout From Your Armchair You might not have enough time to drive to the woods and scout after work, but you probably do have time to pick up the phone and make a couple of quick calls. Simply talking with people in your hunting area– postal workers, delivery truck drivers and other locals– can tip you off to where big bucks might be hanging out. This important information will allow you to narrow your search and eliminate unproductive areas. In most cases, people who don't hunt deer are glad to share details about places where they've routinely seen giant bucks. And knowing where the big boys live is half the battle. 2. Map Out the Does When you're hunting the rut, finding bucks is simply a matter of locating the does. To pinpoint locations that hold large numbers of does, study a good topo map or aerial photo. Look for potential food sources, bedding areas, natural funnels and possible travel corridors. Many hunters get stuck in pre-rut mode and only look for buck travel routes that connect feeding and bedding areas. That strategy works great during the early season, but once November rolls around, you have to switch gears. Outdoor Life Online Editor
**3. Glass Food Sources Luckily, locating and learning a doe's routine is a lot easier than patterning a trophy-class buck that has spent years escaping intense hunting pressure. The key to locating core areas that hold large numbers of does is to find a food source that is near bedding cover. Does will typically frequent food sources regardless of the season, and glassing these areas from a safe distance during the evening hours can tell you which spots will be hot once the rut kicks into overdrive. 4. Hang Multiple Trail Cameras Without a doubt, trail cameras have revolutionized scouting; they save a great deal of legwork and can provide the exact time a shooter buck is moving. Many hunters, however, make the mistake of using only one camera. Invest in multiple cameras, and during November focus on doe bedding areas, trails leading to food sources, hot scrapes and fresh rubs. By hanging multiple cameras, it's much easier to figure out the daily routine of a heavy-racked stud. Outdoor Life Online Editor
STRATEGIES FOR EVERY RUT PHASE: To tag a mature buck, you have to recognize the various stages of the rut and then adapt your stand placement and hunting techniques to match. Whitetail bucks undergo several distinct behavioral phases during the rut. If you don't adapt your hunting techniques to those changes, you could end up with an unpunched tag at the end of the season. Each phase has key indicators, and by recognizing them you can consistently tag mature bucks season after season. The following signs will tell you exactly when it's time to switch gears and stand locations to meet the challenges of each phase. 5. The Sign Phase TELLTALE SIGNS: In late October and early November, you'll begin to see a sudden burst of buck activity. During this first phase, look for new scrapes and fresh rubs to start popping up everywhere. Bucks that were sticking tight to a nocturnal schedule a few weeks back will start getting off the bed early in the morning and will stay on the prowl through the mid-morning hours. Similarly, strict bed-to-feed travel patterns become less firm as testosterone levels rise and rutting urges begin to kick in with a vengeance. DEADLIEST STANDS: This is one of the best times of the season to hunt over hot scrapes or rub lines and use tactics that will agitate dominant bucks with short tempers and bad attitudes. BEST STRATEGY: Try pulling a dragline doused with a mixture of dominant-buck urine and estrous-doe scent around your stand to challenge any mature bucks in the area. Also, make a mock scrape right in the middle of a big buck's turf or simply add territorial scents to one of his existing scrapes. Make it a point to climb into your stand early and to stay as late as possible. An anxious, fired-up buck might show up at any time during this first phase. Outdoor Life Online Editor
6. The Chase Phase TELLTALE SIGNS: During this phase, bucks quickly transform into ramblers, and will frequently cruise areas that hold large numbers of does. This is when you'll start to see bucks walking through the woods with a dazed-and-confused look or trotting past your stand with their nose stuck to the ground. Massive-racked brutes brimming with testosterone will often harass and chase does that are about to come into heat. This is also the time when you are most likely to see unfamiliar bucks that might be miles away from their home range, but hot on the heels of an estrous doe. Often there will be more than one buck trailing a doe. DEADLIEST STANDS: This second phase signals the time to switch gears and move from hunting scrapes and rubs to ambushing bucks near doe travel corridors, saddles, gaps or funnels that connect feeding and bedding areas. BEST STRATEGY: Things are on the verge of busting loose, and you can almost cut the tension with a knife. Toughing it out and staying out in the field all day will dramatically increase your chances of closing the deal with Mr. Big. However, if you can't hold out until dark, try sitting tight until at least the midday hours, when a lot of the top-heavy veterans are off the bed and in hot pursuit of receptive does. Outdoor Life Online Editor
7. The Guarding Phase TELLTALE SIGNS: Once does hit their estrus cycle, the actual breeding phase of the rut occurs. During this period, a dominant buck will be locked down with a hot doe that is ready to breed. The buck will stay right on her tail even if she decides to strut across a crowded Wal-Mart parking lot in broad daylight. Typically, look for bucks to separate their partner from the rest of the does and to keep her away from other males. DEADLIEST STANDS: Hang a stand overlooking thick cover close to a preferred food source and wait. BEST STRATEGY: Patience is key under these circumstances. A buck might breed a hot doe several times throughout the day, bedding down in heavy cover between times. I have busted several long-tined giants that have followed does out of isolated pockets of cover during the midday hours. In most cases, the doe had left the bed to browse around the thicket or to hit a nearby food source for a snack. Outdoor Life Online Editor
8. The Last-Chance Phase TELLTALE SIGNS: By the final phase of the rut, most does have been bred and things are winding down. Those scrapes that were religiously tended to earlier in the season start to dry out, and fewer rubs appear. However, some of the younger does are just starting their estrus cycle, and the males with a little mojo left will be looking to finish the rut on a high note. You still have time to make something happen during this last phase, if you switch your tactics fast enough. DEADLIEST STANDS: Your best bet during this time is to stake out known doe-bedding areas and not move until after dark. Setting up a ground blind or hanging a stand along the edges of these prime locations can pay off during this last-chance time frame. BEST STRATEGY: Try to ease in and out of these highly sensitive areas without bumping deer, and make sure you have the right wind– mature bucks will often crisscross these areas looking for any remaining estrous does. Outdoor Life Online Editor
A RUT-GEAR USER GUIDE: When big bucks are focused on breeding, use scents, calls and decoys to take advantage of their aggressiveness The November rut is the time to hit bucks with just about everything you can throw at them. Calls, decoys and attractant scents, if used properly, can really fire up a buck during each phase of the rut. By using the following gear correctly during specific phases, you will add realism to a setup and can circumvent a buck's survival instincts by exploiting its nose, eyes and ears when its drive to reproduce is at an all-time high. 9. Attractant Scents Don't be afraid to add attractant scents to your setup throughout each phase of the rut. Lethal combinations of estrous-doe scent, dominant-buck urine and tarsal glands can help coax a trophy buck right into your lap. Pulling draglines, hanging scent wicks and making mock scrapes near your stand can pay huge dividends. Outdoor Life Online Editor
10. Decoy Traps Set up a decoy or two after you've created a 360-degree area of attractant scent around your stand. Using a single basket-racked buck decoy in an area with high visibility during the early phases of the rut can generate an aggressive response from the dominant dog in your neck of the woods. Another option is to place a doe decoy along the edge of a doe-bedding area or thicket to entice a bruiser into range during the breeding or late phase of the rut. Outdoor Life Online Editor
11. Super Calls In order to attack all three of a buck's senses, add aggressive calling to your hunting arsenal. Mix things up with challenge or territorial calls consisting of deep-throated grunts, growls and snort-wheezes. During the actual breeding phase, try a series of tending grunts and estrous bleats. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: MEDALIST SILVERMAX BASE LAYER Designed to prevent odor-causing bacteria from forming, the Medalist base layer regulates body temperature to keep you cool when it¿s hot and warm when it's cold. $49¿$59; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: LONE WOLF PRO-SERIES STAND This rock-solid hang-on stand, with its thin profile, is the answer for hunters on the move. Hanging both the stand and climbing sticks can be done quickly and quietly. $399; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: QUAKER BOY RATTLE MASTER With a mixture of hardwoods and carbon rods, this rattle bag reproduces the sparring and jostling of rut-crazed bucks. Perfect for bringing the dominant bad boy in close. $15; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: PRIMOS DARK HORSE BLIND With a 180-degree shooting window, this pop-up blind is perfect for hunting big bucks from the ground. You'll also like the high ceiling and shoot-through netting. $399; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: CODE BLUE STANDING ESTROUS Each bottle of this attractant scent contains "peak" estrous urine from a doe that's ready to breed. This is a must-have rut tool that can really add to your success. $44; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: HUNTER'S SPECIALTIES SCENT-A-WAY Spray yourself with this to stay scent-free this season. The new formula neutralizes scent molecules to eliminate all odors, and it won't stain or fade clothing. $5; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: CARRYLITE BUCKY JR. DEER DECOY The color scheme on this decoy is incredibly realistic. It sets up in alert, relaxed or aggressive postures within seconds– the Bucky Jr. even has a moveable tail and ears. $189; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: Knight & Hale Rack Blaster Call This call produces everything from growling grunts to estrous doe bleats. The newly designed reed and tone board make it a no-brainer call for every rut hunter. $25; Outdoor Life Online Editor
Essential Rut Gear: STEALTH CAM PROWLER This trail camera captures pictures and digital video while also recording the date, time, temperature and moon phase. Stealth Cam also offers models that start at around $100. $399; Outdoor Life Online Editor

Use these hard-hitting strategies to close the deal on a heavy-racked bruiser with a swollen neck and a bad attitude. By Travis Faulkner.