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Do you hunt whitetail deer? Do you hunt whitetails during the rut? Would you like to know how to hunt whitetail deer during the rut? Hunting whitetail deer during the rut is one of the best times to hunt deer. However, if you don’t know the strategies to use in each phase of the rut, you will not be as successful as you could be. In this article, we discuss the strategies to use in each phase of the rut when hunting whitetail deer.
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How To Hunt Whitetail Deer During The Rut
The rut is the mating season when does are in estrus and bucks searching for a doe to mate with. There are three phases of the rut. The first is called the pre-rut which occurs in early October when mature does about four and five year old does first come into estrus. The second is called the primary rut or the peak which runs from late October to the last week of November. It is in this period of the rut that most does come into heat.
The third phase of the rut is called the post-rut or the late rut which takes place about 28 days after the end of the primary rut when does that were not bred during October and November come back into estrus. These three phases of the rut do not last long. There will be an explosion of buck activity during the rut and you can use different hunting strategies and techniques to capitalize on the increased buck activity and aggression.
The pre-rut phase usually starts in early October, sometimes it starts in late September. During the pre-rut, deer are primarily concerned with feeding to put on more weight before winter arrives. Does want to also add more fat before pregnancy and the bucks want to be ready for the demands of the mating season.
Additionally, during the pre-rut season, bucks being rubbing their antler on trees during the night to leave their scent on the trees and mark their territories. The rubbing of antlers on trees also works and strengthens their neck muscles before they fight with other bucks for the limited number of does.
Buck also starts to create scrapes during the night in the pre-rut season. They expose the soil using their hooves and then mark the soil with urine and scent glands. This is another way to mark their territory. Scrapes can often be found under overhanging tree branches that bucks will also mark as their territory by licking and rubbing their forehead over them.
Does and other bucks are also attracted to scrapes and will urinate on them to leave their own scent. The rivalry begins to build up during the pre-rut as bucks begin to spar with other bucks in a bid to establish dominance.
How To Hunt The Pre-Rut Phase
1. When hunting whitetail deer during the pre-rut phase, look for scrapes and rubs and target those areas as they attract other deer. Look along trails from bedding areas to food sources, field-edged, and along ridgetops for rubs and scrapes.
2. Glass for does and observe where they go, how many of them move together, when they move, etc. Also, look for the water and food sources they go to. Then set up a number of treestands in different wind directions based on the doe activities. Bucks will be frantically searching for does and you want to have treestands in place.
3. Set up trail cameras near scrapes to collect information on the movements of bucks.
4. Look out for areas with mast crops. Keep on the lookout for areas with a lot of acorns.
5. Set up your treestands between bedding areas and food sources to get the best results. During the pre-rut, you will be more successful sitting and waiting for deer during the evening than in the morning hours. Bucks will exhibit erratic patterns in the mornings as their patterns change to their fall ranges and patterns.
The Peak Rut
During the peak rut, bucks become very active as they try to establish dominance over their territory. There are antler fights between bucks. Bucks become more distracted and less cautious and they drop their guard as they become preoccupied with finding does to mate with. You will find bucks scent-checking scrapes and checking food and water sources for does. They don’t follow their usual daytime habits as they are in full throttle mode of finding does to mate with. Usually, the peak rut runs from late October to late November.
How To Hunt The Peak-Rut Phase
1. During the peak rut phase, find does and you will see bucks. The bucks go wherever does are present. Set up treestands near bedding areas and on trails in between food sources. Buck usually moves on established trails when they are in hot pursuit of does. Additionally, set up along trails that run parallel to fields, open areas, and food sources.
2. Continue to collect information on the activities of bucks from your trail cameras. You will learn the trails they are using and see which bucks are most actively searching for does.
3. Make calls like a doe in heat to bring in bucks. At this time of the rut, bucks will throw caution to the wind and respond to calls of does in heat as they don’t want a rival buck to mate with the doe.
4. You can also rattle antlers to give the impression of brawling bucks and get the attention of deer that might be close by. Doe-in-heat and buck grunt calls can attract bucks during the peak phase. You can also use decoys to attract bucks to the doe decoy, or male decoys that may be seen as competition for the limited number of does.
5. To cover your scent, use a cover scent product. Additionally, you can use a deer attractant to attract bucks. Deploy the deer attractant at waist level in the foliage to attract bucks.
The Post-Rut Phase
As the rut winds down in early December, male and female deer turn their attention once again to finding food. Bucks lose a lot of weight during the rut with their activities and try to regain the weight they lost. The activities of the deer during the daytime decrease as the rut comes to an end. However, bucks are still interested in chasing and tending late-estrous does that are available.
How To Hunt The Post-Rut Phase
1. Similarly to the pre-rut phase, target food sources early in the morning and late in the evenings.
2. Set up your treestands between bedding areas and food sources.
3. You can drive deer from their bedding areas by walking through the woods. Have a hunting partner take a good position to take down deer and they run from your movement.
The Bottom Line
Hunting during the rut can be very rewarding as the buck becomes very active and drops down his guard as he goes in search of does. There are three main phases of the rut, and understanding the phases and what deer are doing in each phase allows you to know which hunting strategies to employ to yield the best results. If you are interested in improving your deer hunting skills, then the best whitetail deer hunting tips will give you information to be a better whitetail deer hunter.