Yes, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. You’ve been waiting on it, dreaming about it, even living for it; it is the whitetail rut! It’s kind of like the wildlife version of girls gone wild, only this time it’s the boys; this is BUCKS GONE WILD! I’m sure this conjures up images of giant bucks just running wild through the woods. And, while the bucks might be running wild, it does not mean you are going to see them. Don’t worry, there are still strategies and tactics that can help increase your odds. So, here are my top 7 tips for finding and killing that big buck during the rut:
- Find The Does. This is my absolute #1 for hunting the rut! If you know where the does are, this is where you need to be. And, if you don’t, you need to find them. Bucks are looking for does right now; it’s all they are thinking about! So, it only makes sense that if you sit over a bunch of hot does, the bucks will show up!
- Hunt All Day. Bucks are on the move. Their normal routines and patterns are thrown to the wind. They are searching and chasing. And, they are doing it all day! So, pack your lunch, some munchies, and plenty of water. Just be prepared to sit all day if you really want to get that buck.
- Use Scents. Now is when you want to utilize your scents. While you can still use dominant buck urine, I would recommend using doe estrus. Bucks are looking for hot does and they use their great sense of smell to help locate them, so take advantage of it and get the scent out there. (Be sure to check laws in your area; it is illegal in some states to use natural deer scents. If this is the case, you can still use synthetic doe estrus scents.)
- Call. Again, bucks are looking for does. Now is the time to use that doe call, but you can mix it up and throw in some grunts, too. (For more on how to use your calls properly, read Knight & Hale’s, Put Down the Grunt Call.) Just remember, don’t overdo it! Too much noise is not a good thing; it could actually scare the bucks off. Keep it as natural as possible. I mean, have you ever heard a doe just walking around bleating non-stop? Probably not, and that means the bucks haven’t either.
- Rattle. Yes, it’s still time to rattle. However, you can be a little more aggressive at this point. Bucks are fighting over does, and they are going at it hard. Whether you are using a rattle bag, synthetic rattling antlers, or the real thing, rattle long and rattle hard. Don’t get too carried away, though. Try to keep your rattling sequence somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes. To make the rattling more realistic throw in a few grunts during the rattle if possible; if not, put them at the end. Another great tip is to scrape the tree or mimic the sounds of the bucks thrashing on the ground. Make a little noise, just keep it as realistic as possible.
- Hunt The Winds. Normally, we whitetail hunters spend a lot of time worrying about the wind and where we should sit. Well, now is the time where you can worry a little less about wind direction. Hunting windy days can actually be good during the rut. Why, you ask? When the wind is blowing, scents are blowing; this means the bucks are going to get a whiff of all those does in heat, and that’s going to get them moving. But, this also means that you need to be extra cautious with your scent! Go as scent-free as possible. Put a little doe estrus scent around your tree. I like to use Nose Jammer; I have had great success in fooling a deer’s nose with this product.
- Hunt Water Sources. While food sources are not quite as hot during the peak rut, water sources are still essential. Bucks are doing a lot of running and chasing and they are going to need a drink every now and then, especially if the weather is warm. So, if you have access to a water source this is a great place to set up.
Well, there you have it! Remember, just because the bucks are running wild right now, it doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to see them. Following these tips and tactics can help improve your chances during the rut. So, get out there and hit the woods! Even if you don’t bag that buck of a lifetime, you’re sure to enjoy the show during Bucks Gone Wild!
Do you have any other favorite strategies that you use during the rut? If so, I would love to hear them! As always hunt smart, and even more importantly, hunt safe!