Deer hunters live for the rut.
Deer hunters live for the rut.
Especially in the whitetail rich state of Texas.
But talk to deer hunting experts across the country and you’ll find out that while they all enjoy seeing the frenzied movement of bucks chasing does in November, it’s not always the easiest time of the fall to hunt.
Because it becomes nearly impossible to predict when, where, and how a big buck will travel through the woods chasing a doe coming into heat.
"It’s not necessarily my favorite time to deer hunt," admits Oklahoma deer hunting expert Greg Koch of Tulsa.
"To me, the best part of hunting a deer is locating one I want to kill first, then going after him and figuring out a way to get it done."
Given the random nature of mature bucks during this phase, that chore becomes a bit more difficult when the breeding season is on.
"When does aren’t in heat, I find that time to be more valuable to me as a hunter because a buck is a bit more predictable and I think I’ve got a better chance of figuring him out," said Koch.
Still, the rut can be an exciting time to hunt, predictability or not.
And that’s one reason long-time deer hunting expert and Outdoor Channel television personality Jay Gregory is always in the woods when the rut comes to town.
As you might expect, he’s also got an idea or two for where to hang a stand.
"What I usually like to try and do is to find a draw that narrows down, or a fence row or a hedge row that connects two big blocks of timber, or any area that the deer is going to use to get from one area to another and it bottlenecks down to where a hunter can get a deer to pass by," said Gregory, who hosts "The Wild Outdoors" along with his son Wyatt.
Does this strategy work?
You be the judge. Living in the Midwest, Gregory travels to a number of other states each year filming whitetail hunts and he usually ends the season with several Pope & Young qualifiers and the occasional Boone & Crockett buck.
Interested in applying this strategy? Then think of a bicycle says Gregory.
"It’s basically like a wheel and spokes," he said. "Of course, you have to keep the wind correct, but if you can get into the hub, the better your chances are.
"As many spokes, or travel corridors, as you can get coming into the hub that you’re hunting, the better."
Another strategy Gregory employs is to get high up on a ridge to catch a Big Boy sauntering by.
"When we’re hunting timber, I like to hunt the top of ridges. It always seems to me that the bucks work along the top edge of a ridge where they can see down into the timber and they can cut as many doe trails as they can while working along the top edges."
Ronnie Cannon, a guide and big buck hunter for Hopewell Views Hunting Club in Pike County, Illinois also likes to use terrain to his advantage as the rut kicks in.
"One place (that I like) is a big deep hollow with sage grass growing on top of it," said Cannon who annually arrows a bruiser buck and puts clients on the same.
"The bucks (will walk) the ends of those hollows with the wind blowing down to them. Some of the bucks will check the hollow and keep on going. Others, they check, disappear into the hollow and a few second later run out a doe."
Fellow Pike County deer hunter Butch Stanley says to not forget food, water, and sleeping spots during the rut…because the does certainly won’t.
"(I like to look) at the downwind side of a bedding area, although you might have to change stand locations as the wind direction changes," Stanley said.
"The bucks are going to check those bedding sites for does in estrous, but of course, they’re going to use the wind to their favor and you’ve got to set up accordingly on the downwind side of the grassy field, thicket, or other bedding location."
Stanley also keys on corn fields and soybean fields, high caloric food resources that deer turn to when native browse and acorns begin to play out and chillier temperatures arrive on the November landscape.
"Does are still feeding during the rut and that’s where they’ll be heading for on a daily basis," Stanley said. "That will draw bucks in, either by following the does into the field or by simply knowing that the food source is there and checking the downwind side of the field."
One spot that Stanley likes to look for is a point that juts out into a feeding field.
He should know how well such a location works, having killed a massive typical buck on an Illinois hunt a few years ago.
"Not only are you able to observe what’s going on around you, but you also have a chance to call that deer (that you do see) in," Stanley said.
"You increase your odds tremendously of seeing something in such a location. You should be able to figure out where to relocate your stand if necessary from such a point. But you also just might call that big boy into your hip pocket."
Just like Stanley did.
So what’s the bottom line here?
Hunting the rut might be one of the most difficult times of the year to actually figure out a big buck’s daily pattern.
But it is also one of the best times of the year to be out in the deer woods.
Getting up early to see normally secretive monster bucks throw caution to the wind is certainly worth the price of admission.
What a hunter must do is choose the best seat in the house to watch the show from.
And with the right choice — and a little luck — the autumn woods biggest attraction just might take center stage right in front of that seat.
Meaning all that’s left for the hunter to do is to let an arrow or a bullet fly true and bring the curtain down on Big Daddy once and for all.