Hunting the Rut

Looking for a mate

BUCK DOEThe rut, or the time of year when bucks will leave their late-summer/early fall home territory to seek a prospective mate, is an exciting time of year. Some bucks will stay close to home but be more active looking for challengers, others will scope out other areas time and again and others will roam around and make a one time appearance. This means the buck you’ve been watch since August may have moved on but on the other hand, other visitors may be showing up in the area to check out the local does. What ever the case, it means more deer on the move and more chances to bag one. We are in the heart of the rut now on Cape Cod and most of Southern New England. Here are a few tips to help you understand the process and get a leg up on the other hunters.

Hunt the Does to Find the Bucks

Many of the bucks will be roaming around to find as many does as they can. If you see does, chances are, if you wait long enough, bucks that are native to the area or even new challengers will show up. Keep an eye out, watch your game cams and be ready to the new boys paying a visit.

Phases of the Rut

As most hunters know, the best times to hunt are just before and during the rut, but there are many phases to the rut. Helping understand them and how the deer behave during the different stages with help you be a better hunter.

Look to the Moon

111017-MOON DEERThere are two schools of though concerning what signals the start of the start of the rut. The Photoperiod Theory, which is back up by the most data, is considered to be the most accurate method of determining when the rut starts and varies little from year to year. The deer have been moving for the past week or so and should be for the next few. We are just past the “Rutting Moon”, or the second full moon after the autumn equinox, which hails the beginning of the “intense rut” period. This will be stretched out a bit this year due to the warmer weather we’ve had. Look for the deer to still be on the move now that cooler temps have moved in. Moon rises occurring in the mid afternoon mean the deer will be moving around in the early evening. Late or midnight rising moons mean early mornings in the stand are the way to go. The peak period for this phase is Nov. 4th-14th, so get out there.

Taking care of their ladies

The Tending Phase, which will run for a couple of weeks after, is the time the some hunters call the “lock-down phase”. This is the time that most of the breeding is happening and the bucks are laid up with the does in thick cover. This phase requires more walking on your part. The deer are bedded down so you will have to get into their “bedroom” to flush them out. Call and rattling will still work to draw the deer out. They are pumped with testosterone and will provoke easily if they think a competitor is in their area.

Thank you, ma’am

The Post Rut is usually the end of November when the most of the does have been bred. By this time, there has been quite a bit of human interaction in the area and the bucks are going to be more skittish. Because of this, you will want to use more subtle tactics. You will have to work the thicker cover as they will be looking for areas to hide.

Second time around

In some areas there can be a Second Rut. This is the time when any of the older does who were not bred, will enter into a second estrus. This will cause the bucks to make mistakes and deviate from their current work of finding food. This is the time most bucks will be stocking up on grub for the winter, but the scent of the willing female will make them act erratically. This is the time to work the food source areas in search of them.

OOPS! Common mistakes when hunting the rut.

Here are just a few things to try doing during the rut to make you chances of bagging a deer better.

Sit Still

Deer AwayMany hunters will think “if I get out of my stand and cover more ground, I’ll see more deer.” This is not a guarantee. If the deer are moving; checking out new areas or chasing does, you could miss them. Stay put. Let the deer come to you. Set your stand up in “know travel areas” such as funnels or food sources and wait for them.

Be ready to move

The deer are on the move so you should be ready to. If you are not seeing deer, or signs of deer, think about moving to another area. Ask you buddies, set up other cams and find out where the deer are spending their time. This can change daily so be flexible. Once you have scoped out a new spot, set still and give it some time.

Don’t ditch the decoy

Many hunters will pack away their decoys after the rut starts and concentrate on other methods. This can be a mistake. If the bucks are in the “chase” mode and they are following moving does, they can be tempted to check out a doe that is standing still.

Don’t let the weather stop you

If it is rainy or snowy and you don’t feel like going out there, get over it. The deer are out there and they will use the cover of bad weather to move around. If they have been bedded down all night they will be itching to get up and stretch their legs with the sun.

This is the time of year every deer hunter has been waiting for. Now is the time and the weather is cooperating so get your gear together and get out there.