The rut is in full swing in the Northeast through the mid-Atlantic. Here are five tactics that are working right now as we begin the second week of November.
Well, that is not entirely true. It’s not just the rut. As we look at this time to hunt, we usually think deer are running all over the place and bucks fold right into our laps. This may be true, if all other conditions like weather, barometric pressure and the moon’s rise and fall are where we want them to be. Regardless of those conditions, we have put together a list of tactics that should help increase your chances at finding that buck you’re after.
1. Hunt the downwind edge of the bedding areas.
Last year at this time, I was pulling all-day sits, just as I am today as I write this. My main focus was and is to go back to where the does are. The does are beginning to come into estrus, and the bucks are looking to find that first doe in heat.
The bucks have already spent their past few days on their feet, looking to find where the does are. They have traveled to new properties, they’ve marked their own with rubs and scrapes, and they’re constantly seeking out potential areas as well as keeping an eye on the competition. Finding a bedding area and making your way in can increase your chances at finding a buck circling the area during daylight hours.
Remember to try to stay downwind of the bedding area. Even more importantly, do not enter the bedding area, as this is their sanctuary; once you enter, they may never return.
2. Hunt the creek bottoms.
3. Be mindful of the wind and your scent.
I don’t remember the last time I used a cover scent or attractant scent with positive results. That is not to say that they do not work; however, personally, I have been busted more times than not using scents.
I get my best results using scent elimination while keeping mindful of the wind. Your worst and best friend is the wind.
Long before technology, and when hunting was done with plaid shirts and wool pants, the same tactics were used: keep the wind in your face and the deer upwind of you. If at all possible, avoid locations where the deer will be moving downwind of you.
4. Extend your time in the stand.
I will hold off hunting mornings until mid to late October. As the daylight hours decrease and the rut slowly approaches, I move to hunting the mornings near travel corridors from bedding to secondary food source areas. Many times, I will sit the evenings in the oak flats or corridors to them. As this week comes in, my sits are extended quite a bit.
My first priority is getting in and out of my stand without being noticed. When hunting the mornings, the deer are often feeding, and if you hunt fields, as I do on some of my private farms, getting in and out can be difficult. This needs to become a priority if you want to be successful. Find a way to sneak to your stand, and do it with plenty of time before legal shooting light. I like to be in my stand fully set up with a minimum of an hour before sunrise.
Normally, I will sit until 9:00-9:30 a.m. (post daylight savings), but during this week I will sit until at least 11:00 a.m. I will also begin sitting in the evenings, fully set up and ready no later than 1:00 p.m. with a 5:30 p.m. sunset.
5. Call and rattle.
This week always produces well for us as we use our rattling horns and begin calling. The most successful rattling and calling sequence I have found is beginning to rattle just ten minutes before legal shooting light. I start off soft, careful not to scare off any deer that may be immediately surrounding my tree stand. If I get no response within thirty minutes, I will grunt, wheeze, and then perform a louder rattling sequence. My rattling lasts 30-45 seconds, and I always focus downwind. Stay alert if you do not get an immediate response: mature bucks will spend time downwind before coming in to the sound.
Rattling will not always work, and quite honestly, I have the hardest time being successful with small plots of land where I know there are not great numbers of deer. If the bucks are in a good buck-to-doe ratio and their testosterone levels are just right however, rattling can be one of the most intense ways to bring in a buck.
Nothing is guaranteed and we strive to find that perfect combination to make us successful in the woods. If you spend enough time hunting and take notes year after year, you will eventually be successful.
Keep in mind that there are many factors like unusually warm temperatures, weather and strong winds, that can change a deer’s normal patterns. This week can be one of the best weeks to hunt, as the bucks are on their feet looking for hot does.
Always be mindful of the wind and use these tips, along with what has worked for you in the past, to set yourself up for success.