Every week this fall, I’ll be providing updates on whitetail buck movement for the entire country. These reports are based on intel from whitetailers in each region and my own observations as a traveling deer hunter. For more info like this, subscribe to the Rut Fresh Radio Podcast and Whitetail Weekly Newsletter. No one covers the rut like us.
This is it—the rut is here. If you whitetail hunt in the East, Midwest, or West, these next couple of days will be the best of the season. Don’t want to take my word for it? Last year, I asked 10 of the best big buck killers I know what their favorite day of the rut is. November 7 was the most popular answer and 70% picked a day between November 7 and November 10.
During this stage of the rut, you can ignore almost all outside factors. Temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, and moon phase be damned; nothing will deter bucks from moving this week. The most important thing is that you’re in the field as much as possible.
To kill a buck during the rut, just keep it simple. Focus on doe bedding, pinch points, funnels, and travel corridors. This is the time of year when bucks will be most visible and active during daylight. Although the buck you’ve been watching for the last few months might disappear, if your property has does, then you can expect some bucks to stick around and new ones to show up.
Here’s how each region breaks down for the coming week.
An extended warm spell is hitting most of the East right now. As I said above, it won’t keep the rut from happening, but the wind is worth monitoring. Consistently mild weather means lots of south winds—some portions of the region might not see a north wind for the next two weekends. Don’t let that catch you off guard.
The East will be in the chasing phase of the rut within the next few days. Mature bucks might not be moving at midday right now, but they will be soon. Plan on getting in close to a buck’s bedroom, which can be easily identified by solitary beds that are surrounded by rubs.
The South is a bit behind the rest of the country, with much of the region in some form of pre-rut. Hunters should only be making calculated strikes for the next week, waiting for perfect conditions to get after a nocturnal buck.
Focus on food sources and sign making. Acorns and scrapes in cover will provide natural staging areas where you can arrow a mature buck right now. They’re good places to hunt anytime but will be especially productive during the last hour of daylight. If you hunt in a portion of the South where deer are further along in the rut, like parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia, then refer to the rut reports for the East and Midwest.
Historically, these next couple of days are the best days for bowhunters to kill a rutting buck, and this year is no different. Like the East, mature bucks are moving later in the morning and earlier in the evening, and they’ll be visible at midday by the weekend. Scrapes are going really cold right now and will likely remain that way for a bit. Deer will still visit them, but won’t go out of their way to freshen them up at this stage of the rut.
Be really aggressive right now. Hunt your best stands and plan to stay all day. Although I prefer to be in cover where deer movement will be funneled, some hunters are limited to field edges. If that’s the case, then bring a doe or one-antlered buck decoy with scents to match.
The whitetail rut in the West always seems to be just a few days behind the Midwest, which means deer left of the Missouri River are just entering the chasing phase. Bucks are going to be dogging does all weekend, but don’t expect to see much interest from the females.
If you’re rifle hunting, field edges in the evening will be hard to beat. Does will file into the food early and excitable bucks will show up well before sunset. For a morning setup, get some place high and glass deer coming off of the food. Bucks will travel nearby draws, creeks, and CRP late into the morning in search of willing does. Plan on spotting them at sunrise and making a stalk to get within range.
Feature image via Matt Hansen.