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8 Mistakes Hunters Make Every Year During the Rut

The rut requires unconventional tactics to bag your deer. Your old methods will leave you disappointed.

It’s that magical time of year, where bucks let their guard down and hunters capitalize on the breeding-centric distractions.

Make sure you follow these tips when the rut arrives to avoid failure.

1. Not Staying Put

The number one reason for deer hunting failure during the rut is leaving the stand too early. This is a time when bucks are off their usual patterns. They are searching wildly and widely for does. With one thing on their mind, bucks will be seen wandering throughout the day.

A combination of rut tactics resulted in this buck. Photo by Brandon Riekers
Brandon Riekers

2. Not Being Flexible

Why do hunters refuse to move to another location even after days of seeing no game? Unless you have credible, fresh information that a buck is using the area near your stand, you need to be willing to move.

Game cameras, tracks and sightings from neighbors or landowners will provide additional information. You must act quickly. Bucks won’t necessarily stay in one spot for long during the rut. Move to a high traffic area where you can see a lot of real estate.

3. Not Using the Right Calls

Quit using your doe bleat call. At this time, bucks are only interested in does they can breed. Use a “doe in estrus” call. Keep your call on the deer’s level. If you are in an elevated stand, rig your can or square call.

Tie a line around the bottom of the call with two tails coming off of it. Anchor one to the ground and tie off the other to your ladder. Tie a second line to the top of the call and take it up into your stand. Make sure you tape over the hole in the bottom of the call. From the stand you pull the line that turns your call upright. When you let it go, the can turns over and you get a nice “bwwaaah.”

4. Ditching the Decoy

A lot of deer hunters quit using a decoy after archery season or early gun season. You need to lure a buck away from real does. If one will stand still, he may abandon those he’s been chasing all day to check her out.

Screw a real deer tail onto your decoy in a horizontal position, imitating a doe ready to breed. Now the “Ms. November” decoy has a realistic breeding posture.

Ms. November Decoy - Photo by Joe Riekers
Joe Riekers

5. Forgetting the Buck Grunt

Wandering bucks that are not on a hot doe’s trail have little tolerance for competition from other bucks. A much bigger buck may be intimidating and a yearling buck may not be a threat.

Use two grunt calls—one of a young buck and one of a more mature buck. Hit the young buck four times as often as the mature buck call. This will really piss off your target deer.

6. Letting Weather Stop You

Don’t stay home to avoid early morning rain or snow. When the bucks have to hold up overnight they are itching to get after does as soon as the sun comes up. Get your waterproof gear on and wait them out.

This blacktail was taken from a stand set up that morning. Photo by Joe Riekers
Joe Riekers

7. Misusing Scent

Don’t bother dribbling some doe-in-heat scent around your blind. Put it in a clean spray bottle. Spray vegetation and surrounding foliage about waist high—where the doe would emit scent.

If you can, use two different brands and spray some of each all the way to your stand. A buck will think he has a couple of hotties figured out and he’ll follow that scent.

8. Showing Up Late

You can no longer get to your stand half an hour before daylight. Rut-crazy bucks can’t wait to get back in the chase. They will start wandering well before dark. Does will head out to avoid them.

If you bump the deer out of your area, you may be done. Get settled in the stand at least two hours before daylight and wait it out.

Hunting during the peak of the rut requires a change in tactics. If you continue to hunt using conventional methods, you’re doing it wrong. You may get lucky but your chances improve greatly if you are lucky and hunting smart.

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8 Mistakes Hunters Make Every Year During the Rut