In most parts of the country, whitetails are more active and aggressive the first three weeks of November than during any other time of the year. You should be, too. Stay on the move and glass every nook and cranny of your area. The minute you spot a gnarly 8- or 10-pointer trailing, nudging or flat-out chasing a doe in one of your best spots, throw the caution you’ve been exhibiting all month to the wind and move in for the kill. Adapt these tree stands or the blind to your farm or woods to make it happen.
Observation Post: Best View To get a sense of where deer are moving, set up on a ridge or similar vantage point and glass, glass, glass. On this property the brushy hillside to the north and the field and timber edges to the east and south are particularly good places to spot a buck dogging a doe from sunrise to mid-morning.
Ground Blind: Brushy Point If you see a shootable buck push a hot doe into a draw or pocket of timber, gain the wind and march in on a pointed ground attack. Chances are the deer will stay in that copse of cover for a few hours, possibly even all day. Set up on an edge where you can see well down into the brush and trees. (Any wind except due south, which you rarely get in mid-November, would work on this edge.) You might spot the buck nudging the doe around in circles or back and forth across a draw; if you’re carrying a muzzleloader or modern firearm, that will be the break you need. If you can’t see the deer, try a burst or two of hard rattling. The old boy might think a couple of rivals smell his doe and are moving in. He might leave his girl and bolt 50 to 100 yards in your direction, giving you a shot. If you’re bowhunting, kneel, lean your bow upright against a tree and keep whacking and grinding the horns every once in a while. Mix in some deep, gurgling grunts. The buck might run up and into bow range.
Stand 1: Hillside Hide
A stand works better than a blind here because it provides the elevation we need to see deer moving in the brush and between the thickets on the hillside. On a cool, clear November day, we’ll likely have a west to north wind, which is perfect. We’ll come in from the east and across the pasture, jumping few, if any, deer. A spot like this is awesome during the peak of the rut.
A 4- or 5-year-old titan will often herd a hot doe away from major feeding and bedding areas and other deer and lock her up in an out-of-the-way thicket. (Note that there’s not much sign on the hill because not many deer typically stay here.) Until the hour she’s ready to breed, the doe won’t like being cooped up. She’ll try to escape by darting to the other small thickets nearby; the buck will follow her to the next cover and the next and the next. From this perch we can see all that, and maybe get a shot with a firearm. If the doe pops into the thicket 30 yards in front of our stand, we’ll get a rush–and maybe even a bow shot at the monster.
Stand 2: Woodsy Strip
With the pasture to the north and the cut corn to the south, this strip of woods is a classic “pinch.” From late in the pre-rut (around Halloween) to the first days of the post-rut (November 20, give or take a few days), many of the bucks moving from east to west in search of does will run this funnel, which will stay pocked and blazed with fresh tracks, rubs and scrapes for weeks. We won’t think twice about sitting in this stand morning, noon and evening; we might spot a giant or three coming through anytime.
A southwest wind that blows our scent out over the pasture would be perfect, especially since we hung the stand on the north side of the trail/scrape line. Next best would be a northwest breeze that floats over the corner of the corn. A north wind would work for a morning vigil.
Stand 3: Cutover Edge A month ago we tucked this stand deep in the woods a couple hundred yards off the cornfield, figuring it might pay off big one morning or afternoon once the rut got kicking. It’s another pinch–an especially fine one for bowhunting–between the edge of the clear-cut and the creek and slough 50 yards to the east. We hung the perch on the cutover’s edge for a few reasons. We’ll have a west to north wind most days–which is perfect, since we access the spot from the south. From the 20-foot platform we can see any bucks that feed, bed or push does out into the open cut. We can also easily cover any animals that come or go on the trail through the pinch. If one of those critters is a tall-racked buck, the shot will be broadside or quartering-away at a sweet 20 to 25 yards.
Stand 4: Cornfield One evening when we get an icy wind out of the north, we’ll sneak up the west side of the cornfield and climb into this setup. Some deer will pour out of the big bedding area and into the corn on the three main trails. When the animals pop into sight, they’ll be 50 to 60 yards away–a great range if it’s muzzleloader or slug-gun season. We’re betting that some deer, quite possibly a smart old doe with a good buck in tow, will walk west and south, circle back into the wind and then move into the field through the corner, within a “gimme” bowshot of our stand. If the deer continue south and hit the heavy trail that runs from the slough pinch, that’s okay too. We’ll just have to bust a buck if we can before he and his doe get downwind of the stand and bust us.
MAPPING OUT THE RUT: PART 3
Observation Post: Best View Spend time glassing from a distant ridge to determine where deer are moving, and then make your game plan.
Stand 1: Hillside Hide Ideal for a west wind, this stand covers all the deer moving between the thickets on the hillside.
Stand 2: Woodsy Strip With corn to the south and pasture to the north, this stand offers a classic pinch point.
Stand 3: Cutover Edge Located at another great pinch point, this stand lets you see any bucks that feed, bed or push does into the open cut.
Stand 4: Cornfield Deer pouring into this field from their bedding areas will provide plenty of action from this stand.
Ground Blind: Brushy Point Any wind except due south is okay to cover this point. You might catch a buck working up either side.