The rut is the Olympics of deer hunting. Bucks usually behave like ghosts because you would rarely see one, which makes chances of bagging one close to zero. The rut is the only season you can quickly bring deer meat home. Therefore, you should do your best not to make the annual breeding season a guaranteed flop. Start by avoiding these mistakes, and everything else will fall in its place.
1. The pre-rut period
Before the increase of deer activity that precedes the pre-rut phase, bucks spend most of their summer in gender-defined groups that have three or more members. The groups are known as “Bachelor clusters.” They are common in summer evenings, and they feed together. When the autumn season draws near, the velvet starts peeling off from the buck’s antlers. Their hormonal levels also spike, and the group’s general collective tolerance starts waning. It is during this period that the antlers stop growing, and they start calcifying. Since they want to vie for hierarchy, they usually break off to look for their turf.
Mistakes to avoid:
Many hunters are of the idea that they must wait until things get good. They end up hitting the woods after they see a buck running after a doe. If you wait for the peak season, you will end up pursuing the action instead of enjoying it. That is why you should start at least two weeks before the peak breeding season.
Hunting along ducks’ perimeter
Although you may want to use this period for target practice, you shouldn’t waste your chances of bagging a deer. So, if you come across a fresh rub, look around to see if there is more. If there are more rubs in line, it is likely to be the deer’s perimeter. Rubs in a cluster are an indication of the buck’s bedroom.
Not carrying rattle calls
Many hunters fail to recognize the importance of rattling. In the early season, bucks are usually doing a lot of sparring. Rattle calls mimic the sounds of two deer fighting, which help in drawing them to battle. By doing so, you increase your chances of making an early kill.
2. Peak-rut period
You are likely to make a kill during this phase. Animals stand for mating and don’t run away, which means that does are usually standing. As the peak of the rut nears, bucks will spend their time near does. A buck and a doe will spend time together for a day or more before he moves on to another receptive female.
Mistakes to avoid:
Not paying attention to food
When the breeding season kicks in, many hunters focus on bucks and forget about the does. Although mating is at its best, remember that females are focused on food. So, you should take note of what the does are likely to be eating and chase after it.
Forgetting the buck grunt
Wandering bucks that are trailing a hot doe have minimal competition tolerance for other bucks. Big bucks intimidate small ones. That is why you should use two grunt calls; one from a young one and another from a mature buck. It will piss off the rutting buck.
You keep moving
When you kill a deer from a stand, it is common practice to ditch the spot for a while. That rule is a misconception that you shouldn’t trust. Bucks move a lot during the rut, such that they don’t remember where you were standing yesterday.
While it’s a good idea to stick to your blind spot, why would you stay in the same place you haven’t been successful for a while? You shouldn’t refuse to move to other locations after days of seeing zero achievements because time is running out. You must act fast because this opportunity will not be available forever.
You are too aggressive
Big bucks make the stupidest moves during the peak rut period. However, you cannot bank on their actions, unless there is a hot doe in its vicinity. He will still believe his nose, eyes, and ears when they warn him of danger. Therefore, avoid cutting corners. The best rut stands should be calm and positioned correctly. Otherwise, if you allow the wind to blow away from you, the bucks will catch your scent.
3. Post-rut period
Peek breeding season doesn’t last forever, and soon all the hype will cool down. All the trailing, cruising and chasing comes to an abrupt end. The big bucks that you would see during the last two weeks disappear. You wouldn’t even come across fresh scrapes and rubs that would lead you towards the bucks’ direction.
Mistakes to avoid:
Putting away hunting gear after the peak of the rut
Bucks return to their home territories to recover their energy after such a physically demanding period. The animals prioritize feeding and resting and do so in a secluded area that wasn’t affected by hunting pressure. That is why you won’t see a lot of bucks in public land with heavy hunting pressure. However, deer don’t go too far from their original homes. They are likely to hang around secluded spots where they resided before the rut.
Watching football because of the extreme cold
Many hunters think that the horrible weather after the rut won’t allow them to catch a deer. Unlike popular opinion, this is the best time to get your hunting deer because bucks feed every four hours. So, all you’ve got to do is to find a secluded feeding area and hunt there.
Ditching the peak-of-the-rut techniques
Although most does are bred during the rut, some bucks maintain contact. Does that weren’t bred at the peak of the season will come about a month later to seek mates. This movement causes increased activity, although not as high as during the rut. Use the same tactics and tools as you did during the peak phase to bag a deer.