« The Great Outdoors

'Rut' typically has a negative connotation... unless you're a hunter

by Jason Hillery

It's getting to be that time of the year... your best chance at bagging a monster buck. Why? They're out looking for 'action'.

Since white tail deer breed during a select few weeks throughout the year, the periods tend to bring the big boys out during the day, and into areas where you may not have seen them before. They are cruising scrape lines, making rubs, grunting, fighting, and trying to pair up with a hot doe. These big bucks will move heaven and earth to 'hook up', and that means they throw caution to the wind.

That's your cue to get in the woods as much as possible.

Let's talk about determining when the rut is going to happen:

One long-held idea is that the rut happens during the 10 days surrounding the second full moon after the Autumnal Equinox. This year's equinox happened on September 22, so that would place the rut somewhere in the vicinity of 11/13 and 11/23, give or take a couple of days.

The other school of thought is that the rut is triggered by the weather. Once you start getting cold snaps in your area (where temps fall down into the 20's and 30's at night, and stay in the low 40's during the day), it sparks the deer to get moving... and to get busy.

Now, I've found them both to be somewhat accurate, in fact, I typically judge the rut based on Halloween. From Halloween to mid-November, I try to be in my stand as much as possible because that's when I tend to see chasing and lots of deer movement.

Quick tips for hunting the rut:

1. Use scents and calls to up your game: I've found rattling during the pre-rut to be super effective, just make sure you start lightly. Bucks are just testing each other right now, so no need to rattle a war. Keep it simple. I've successfully turned bucks around using a grunt, but like rattling, don't overdo it right now or you could spook your trophy. If you do grunt, do something light and short, hang onto the aggressive calling for a couple of weeks until you know the boys are in full-on rut. Bottom line: use them sparingly, no need to constantly call or rattle, it'll do more harm than good.

2. Check for scrape lines: look for trails with scrapes along them, especially spots with multiple scraps and licking branches in a small area, that typically is a sign that you are in a buck's home territory. Those areas are where you want to be, as bucks will be cruising by to check those scrapes.

3. Look for the does: you've likely been bow hunting for several weeks, where are you seeing the does? Follow the does and you'll find the bucks.

4. Get out and hunt: it's like the lottery, you can't win if you don't play. Try hunting during the midday. Bucks won't care that it's 11am, if they're cruising for does, time is a non-factor. Get into the woods as much as possible, but try to mix it up. The last thing you want is to do is get patterned.