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.
During this stage of the rut, you can ignore almost all outside factors. Temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, and moon phase aren’t going to deter a buck 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 for a bit, if your property has does, then you can expect some bucks to stick around and some new ones to show up.
Here’s how each region breaks down for the coming week.
According to my contacts in the East, we’re in the middle of the chasing phase of the rut. Young bucks have been moving at midday for the last week or so, and mature bucks are about to follow suit.
Sign making has started to slow down, which is to be expected. That doesn’t mean you should ignore rubs and scrapes all together, though. Clusters of rubs will be a dead giveaway that you’re in a buck’s bedroom, and a line of scrapes will show you how the terrain funnels deer. These are two good places to tag a buck during chasing and peak rut.
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. 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.
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 around 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.
Want more rut reports like this? Make sure you subscribe to the Wired to Hunt Podcast, where each Wednesday in the fall we release a Rut Fresh episode breaking down buck movement across the country.
Feature image via Matt Hansen.