Every successful hunt has one thing in common, time. The more time you spend perfecting your craft, the more successful your outcome is likely to be. The whitetail rut is no different. Time in the stand can be the great equalizer, increasing your odds of intercepting a cruising buck. The problem is, time is an ever-fleeting commodity.
The truth is, most working-class guys and gals don’t have a week’s worth of vacation time to dedicate exclusively to hunting rutting whitetails, yet everything we read from diehard whitetailers is catered towards a bowhunter who has time on their side. This article is for those of you who strive to get it done in November on a tight schedule.
Because time is generally our biggest hindrance to success, it’s imperative we capture the time that we have available and make the most of it. Even though we’re talking about the rut, success in November sometimes begins in January, April, September, etc. The key is to be intentional when you find yourself with a free weekend. Any time you invest in deer hunting during the offseason will undoubtedly have a compounding effect on your deer hunting success. If you’ve done your homework, the test should go smoothly.
Our time is short, and the rut is short. To maximize the likelihood of success, we can’t spend our November sitting stands that are burnt out. If you find yourself hunting the same treestands every weekend, unless that stand location has bulletproof access, the does are going to notice your habits and begin to shy away. The buck you’re after is after does, so keeping the local doe herd unsuspecting will increase your odds of seeing the buck you’re after.
If abundant hunting access is an issue (it is for most of us) you don’t likely have the luxury of dozens of stand locations. Therefore, how you’re accessing those stand locations might be the most important factor to consider when hanging them. I truly believe that sitting a B-grade spot but never spooking a single deer leads to more success than an A+ hunting spot that’s difficult to access without educating the deer. Consider your visibility upon entry, how much ground scent you’re laying down, how many productive deer areas you’re walking through, and lastly how consistent your wind is at that location. Each of these factors has a compounding effect.
You’ll notice a theme of being well-prepared. Not only will you benefit from having an inventory of good spots, but you’ll benefit equally by having spots that are catered towards the different phases of deer season. Places that the deer inhabit on October 1 usually vary from the places that bucks will find themselves in November. This is due to many factors, food source availability, hunting pressure, herd dynamics, and breeding cycle, to name a few. To be successful during the rut, you’ll want to prepare your stands with the rut in mind. The bean field that you watch bucks in during early fall probably isn’t your golden ticket come November. Alternatively, diving into the bedding cover in early October may result in a punched tag, but it can also result in a dull November.
If you go the extra mile during the offseason, obtaining access to new properties, learning the properties, prepping stands, etc., you’re doing yourself an injustice by not hunting the midday hours, especially considering the fact that you have three sunrises and three sunsets to hunt. It’s no secret that midday hunts can be productive during the rut. The hard part is finding the willpower to pull off a dark-to-dark hunt. Rest assured you’ll be hooked the first time a Pope and Young bruiser breaches your shooting lane at high noon.
If given three days in the heart of the rut to punch your deer tag, which I’ll admit is much easier said than done, you don’t have time to sit back and spectate. If you don’t have the utmost confidence in each setup, you’re likely not hunting aggressively enough. Ideally, you’d find yourself hunting your best spot every hunt. Hopefully, you have three “best spots” or one “best spot” with undetected access, in which you can volume hunt without fear of burnout. It’s also important to distinguish hunting aggressively from hunting recklessly, as one of the two guarantees a blown opportunity. Make calculated decisions, weigh your options, control the variables that you can, and invest wisely.
While there’s no such thing as a sure thing, especially in the whitetail woods, there are a few things you can do to tilt the scales in your favor. As they say, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Here’s to seeing a white belly at the end of a blood trail in your future.
Feature image via Matt Hansen.