Don’t overlook isolated cover as North Texas rut peaks

By Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat
Sometimes, where you'll find a big buck during the November rut is where you least expect him to be.

Working on a story the other day for my day job at Outdoor Sportsman Group (, I interviewed a fortunate bowhunter who had just tagged a monster non-typical whitetail.

As he told his story, he mentioned that the multi-tined freak of nature came from a place that had little in the way of cover.

“It didn’t look like much,” he confessed as I dutifully took notes for North American Whitetail, where the story will eventually appear.

As I thought about his words in the days since, it dawned on me that my recent interview isn’t the only time when I’ve heard such sentiment as the peak of the rut approaches in the Red River Valley and elsewhere.

Because when a big old buck finds a doe that he falls in love with out in the deer woods, he’ll often want to find a patch of isolated cover, and most of the time, he’ll want to do so pretty quickly.

Meaning that sometimes, it pays for a deer hunter to focus on small patches of timber and cover, even if they really don’t look like much.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead, take the words of Realtree Outdoors TV veteran David Blanton, one of the most successful deer hunters over the last 30+ years with dozens of big bucks on his wall from all over North America.

As I visited with him during the Bass Pro Shops Fall Hunting Classic a number of years ago, I asked him for his best rut hunting tips for a story I was writing on deer hunting success in the middle of November.

When I asked Blanton if he had a favorite November rut story, he thought for a second and said yes, yes, he did. Then he kind of laughed and recalled that the deer hunting story was kind of humorous and was a hard to make a good television episode from.

More on that in a moment.

As strange as it might seem, Blanton told me that fall afternoon at BPS in Grapevine that he believes that during the height of the rut, one of the best ways to hunt a dominant alpha buck is to find the areas on the property that you hunt where deer seldom go.

"In the rut, big, mature bucks will take that doe coming into heat and cut her out of the herd," said Blanton.

"He will physically force her to go to an area away from the deer herd. This is something that I've seen in Montana, the Dakotas and Canada. I'm sure that it happens in other places, too."

Such behavior actually led Blanton to take the famous “Blue Jean” television buck mentioned above, a big whitetail seen on a previous "Realtree Monster Bucks" video, from an area where few, if any, deer were normally seen by hunters.

"It was Nov. 14 and the rut was really cranking up there," Blanton recalled of his Canadian hunt. "At midday, a guy came back into camp and said he had seen a buck chasing a hot doe into several hundred acres of brush."

An impromptu deer drive was quickly organized and Blanton was soon in position—wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt, no less.

Did it work? Blanton’s taxidermy bill proved it when the buck suddenly popped out of the brush chasing a doe in estrous.

After Blanton unleashed a successful shot, the monster whitetail was down, his tag was spent, the TV footage was in the can, and Blanton began to put two and two together about what had just happened.

"What really struck me was that this was an area that (the outfitters) hardly ever saw deer in," said Blanton, his face beaming with his trademark Georgia grin.

"That buck had taken that doe to an area where there wasn't a high number of deer so he wouldn't have to fight to keep her."

In other words, when the rut is in full gear across whitetail country, including right here in Texomaland this weekend, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a big buck will be where it looks the most promising.

Because when testosterone is coursing through his body, odds are, a big buck isn’t thinking properly and just wants to get away…from hunters, from other deer, from everything.

Except you, of course, because you’ll be waiting where he least expects to see a hunter as he pushes a doe into the cover for a woodsy encounter.

And if you’re there when he tries to slip through the backdoor of that patch of cover, all that’s left to do then is make good on the shot…and figure out which pose you’ll tell the taxidermist you want for a mount to hang over the fireplace.

Even if you're wearing blue jeans when you make that shot.