From a whitetail hunter’s standpoint, mid-November is what you live for.
As I pointed out in this space last week, the peak of the annual whitetail rut is scheduled to happen in the local woods over the next several days. That comes from the scientific studies of biologists on both sides of the Red River, studies that have marked the middle of November as the can’t miss time to be in the woods.
While November’s full moon cycle probably isn’t helping to keep all of that rutting activity confined to the hours of daylight, there’s literally no telling right now when a deer hunt can go from the proverbial zero to 60 mph within a matter of seconds.
Because of that, cash in all of your kitchen passes, take a few days of vacation from work — heck, call in sick if you have to since you’ve got a severe case of Big Buck Fever — and get into the woods. Because for the next several days, this is a “Can’t Miss!” time to be in a deer stand since the biggest whitetails in the region are throwing caution to the wind and looking for love anytime and anyplace they can find it.
With that in mind, here are a few rut hunting strategies to keep tucked away in your hunting pack over the next week or so, woodsy tricks that might help you punch a deer tag as you sit and wait on the buck of your dreams.
All-Day Sits — I’ll be the first to admit that sitting on a deer stand for hours on end is not easy to stomach. First, you’ll be bored 95-percent of the time. Second, you’re backside is liable to get sore from sitting on a stand’s small seat virtually all day long. And third, if it’s chilly and/or damp, you’re going to get cold and wet…and stay that way.
But the tradeoff is that big bucks are cruising at all hours of the day and night, scent checking the breeze and looking for the next doe that pops into estrous. Put simply, because of this peak rutting action, you’re as likely to encounter a big bruiser in the middle of the day as you are early and late.
Years ago in my time with ESPNOutdoors.com, I dutifully packed a lunch early one November morning, hiked in the pre-dawn darkness to a stand tucked away on the edge of a nearby patch of Midwestern woods, and climbed in for the long haul as the November rut raged in the rolling hills around me.
As lunchtime approached, I fought the sleepy urge to climb down and head back to camp. Instead, I reached into my Badlands pack to grab my lunch, ate it, and went back on high alert. Less than an hour later — in the middle of the day — I was glad I was sitting there in my stand on a November all-day sit. The reason? Because I was able to suck my Mathews bow back to full draw and unleash an arrow on one of the best bucks of my bowhunting career.
Hunt Bottlenecks and Funnels — I’m not the brightest bowhunter in the whitetail woods, a fact that I’ll readily admit to. But I do think I know how to find bottlenecks and funnels that pinch down deer movement from one corner of a hunting property to the other. And when you can put a stand in such a spot for the height of the rut, it can be pure deer hunting gold.
Take another Midwestern bowhunt I went on a few years ago, one where I sat in a tall ladder stand placed in a bottleneck area between two patches of woods and an agricultural field that adjoined the area.
Early that morning, only a couple of deer — a doe and a young buck if memory serves correct — came through. But later in the morning, a gnarly non-typical I had nicknamed Morph came sauntering through, squeezed down by the terrain and available cover until he passed within bow shooting range of my stand.
My wife isn’t too fond of the mount that hangs on my wall, but his strangely formed rack remains one of my favorite all-time deer hunting trophies. Not to mention the fact that the big, burly corn fed Midwestern buck that it took three men to load into my truck tasted mighty good at the dinner table for months to come!
Calling All Bucks — Halloween may have come and gone, but this is the time of year for a deer hunter to empty his or her bag of tricks.
First, never be in a deer stand right now without a deer call. From the standard grunt call that simulates a buck trotting through to a doe bleat call that can get a big boy’s attention to a snort wheeze that simulates an aggressive buck warning another buck to back off, now is the time that deer calling techniques work best.
Another thing to never go into the mid-November deer woods without right now is a set of rattling horns, antlers that simulate a buck fight over a winsome doe. Whether your rattling gear is real antlers or something synthetic and factory made, the Texas-born art of rattling can lure in even the biggest whitetails when the autumn urge to breed is coursing through their veins at its peak intensity.
Scent Strategy — A final strategy to put into place during the November rut is to use doe-in-estrous scents that can lure in a testosterone crazed buck from a long ways away.
Such products include Tink’s 69, Wildlife Research Center’s Special Golden Estrus, Code Blue’s Screamin’ Heat Enhanced Estrous, Mrs. Doe Pee’s Buck Lures, ConQuest Scent’s VS-1 Estrus Scent, or Hunter Specialties’ XTRUS Certified Doe’n Estrus Buck Bomb to name a few.
In the spirit of full disclosure, there is currently a debate ongoing about whether such urine based scent products can help to contribute to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) — with a few states even banning such products — although the practice remains legal in most places including Texas and Oklahoma.
And where the products remain legal, there’s little doubt that they work. Not all of the time, mind you, but enough.
All I have to do to know that is to remember back to a film canister stuffed with cotton balls, soaked in the scent product, and placed on the ground in bow shooting range.
That, and remember the successful bow shot I made when a rutting November buck came through, looking for love.
In all the wrong places, it turned out, as my arrow and taxidermy bill ultimately proved.