As the rut approaches, many hunters fight to find the most effective ways to draw in the big bucks during this vulnerable time of year.
During the rut, most bucks are more active and reckless. However, don't let their lack of caution fool you for stupidity. Keep these few things in mind when you're trying to trick your buck into sticking around for that perfect shot!
1. Find your spot.
Rubs and scrapes on trees are a tell-tale sign that the rut is kicking in. Bucks become territorial and want to let others know what's theirs. Scout your land hard to look for areas with these markings. This can help you pick a better spot for a stand or blind, understand deer patterns, and confirm that your bucks are still around.
2. Setting the scene.
The rut means that bucks have only one thing on their mind: finding the does. Because the buck is so focused on finding a doe, it may be a bit easier to use optical illusions as a way to deceive your prey. Doe decoys are a great avenue to pull in that buck that may not be heading towards your stand. With advances in design, many stores offer cheaper, more basic, fixed decoys while others provide a more life-like experience with moving parts.
3. Did you hear that?
Bucks become much more aggressive towards one another during the pre-rut and into the rut, often sparring with one another. The sound of two bucks sparring may be an attractant to older, more mature bucks looking to push them out of their territory and show them who's in charge. The sound of antler-on-antler is a fairly distinct one and not terribly hard to imitate.
Consider a rattling technique to mimic the sound of fighting bucks to draw in that wall-hanger you've been waiting on. Rattle bags, typically a draw string bag filled with wood, or imitation deer antlers can be bought at most outdoor retailers and are fairly inexpensive.
For another audible attractant, consider a fawn or doe bleat. A fawn bleat will be beneficial as it sounds like a fawn in distress which will attract does. Once the does show up, you're much more likely to see that big buck looking for companionship. A doe bleat may be all you need to trick that buck into thinking he's getting closer to what he's after. Finally, a grunt call is a great way to antagonize the bucks in the area and draw them in looking to prove themselves.
4. What's that smell?
Two things should be considered when it comes to scents during the rut: your scent and the scent the deer are attracted to. Deer have a remarkable sense of smell which can be both a benefit and a disadvantage.
While covering your scent during any hunt is extremely important, it becomes even more important during the rut as deer are less predictable and you want to seem as invisible as possible. Be sure that you wash your clothes in scent-free detergent when possible and spray down from head to toe before entering the woods.
What is arguably one of the most effective ways of luring in a big buck is the use of doe urine. Found at most every outdoor store, doe urine can be bought and disbursed near and around your stand, corn pile, etc. The urine of an estrus doe, or a doe in heat, is the exact scent that bucks are in search of this time of year. The best part, the buck will likely be confused by the time he follows the scent trail and finds no doe, giving you an even better chance at the perfect shot.
Hunting during the rut can be one of the most exciting times of the season for many hunters. So do your research, prepare, and be ready for the buck!