5 Can't-Miss Keys for Hunting the Peak of the Rut
Photo by QDMA/Quality Deer Management Association
I'm not sure what the rut activity is looking like in your neck of the woods, but I can tell you that it's currently rocking and rolling here in the state of Ohio. So much that I am even seeing bucks chasing does through my rather suburban neighborhood during my morning workout. It's on, folks.
I won't go ahead and call it the "peak" of the rut just yet, but we're definitely approaching that peak of the bell curve that is the whitetail rut in the Midwest. Within the next 7-10 days, that peak will arrive. It's the time of the year that we dream of more than any other. Action is intense, the possibilities are endless, and the pressure is turned up on all of those hunters who have yet to fill a tag.
I've recently found myself wishing that I had a hypothetical second Ohio buck tag in my pocket, but the rules are the rules. So, I guess I'm just here to help you guys find success during the rut. That's just fine with me. Let's get to it.
Pull the Long Hours
My top pillar of success in the peak of the rut is always going to be extended stand or blind time. There's no substitute for being there and ready to go. You can look for every perfect weather window, watch the moon and chart the barometric pressure all you want. When it's mid-November, get your butt into a treestand or blind. Unless it's absolutely pouring down rain and so warm that deer are chasing only at night, get out there. You also have to extend those sits once you're out there. No more jumping down at 10 a.m. to grab a biscuit. I would advocate sitting for as long as you possibly can. If that means packing a lunch and never moving, go for it. Nothing is out of bounds at this point in the season. Hunt for as long as you possibly can and as much as you possibly can.
We have been advocating for edge hunting all year long. Sticking to the edges of a property during the early-season to avoid messing up your best hunting opportunities. Well, this is now your best hunting opportunity. The time when you can really get aggressive and forget about all of the walking-on-eggshells that we do during the earlier portions of the hunting season. Mid-November is a great time to trudge into the timber and get close to those coveted bedding areas. As big bucks are scent-checking those bedding spots for a hot doe, you can position yourself right next door. This is the point in the season when things can get truly magical in the timber and thickets that are usually off-limits.
I cannot advocate for calling enough after the turn of events on my November 4th hunt. After digging feverishly into my pack to retrieve my grunt call, a couple of grunting cadences lured a 5.5-year old 10-pointer into the very edge of my archery range. I wound up going home with that old warrior in the bed of the truck. The moral of the story is to utilize your calls. Much like the point above, this is the one period in the season when it's a smart play. While I'm less of a fan of simply blind calling without seeing the deer first, you can definitely have success stirring one up when it's out of distance. Just beware of that big buck circling down-wind. I'm a much bigger fan of calling on contact once you lay eyes on a buck. Something that can clearly turn a hunt in your favor in a hurry. Rattling is also a dynamite tactic right now, so don't hesitate to bring the horns or rattling bag. The peak of the rut is a great time to make some noise.
If we're pulling out all of the stops by going deep and getting vocal, it's also time to break out the scents. Some high-quality doe estrous can go a long way. While I typically utilize estrous more as a cover scent than anything else, it only makes sense to use it. If the big bucks are on the hunt for that scent, we would only be smart to deploy it. I'm not sure if it did anything for me in terms of drawing this buck in, but I deployed a lot of Estrus Max from the good folks over at BuckBaits during my successful November 4th hunt. I'm a big fan of putting out several scent wicks on my down-wind side. I am also a big fan of using some kind of a estrous drag or spraying it directly on the soles of my boots while walking in. Creating a scent trail that leads right into my wheelhouse.
I am usually a huge advocate for hunting field edges and food sources, but my tone changes during the peak of the rut. My focus shifts on over to those coveted travel corridors where deer are doing most of their moving. These corridors can look very different regionally, but the typical rules apply. Look for landscapes that funnel deer in a certain direction. Pinches, funnels and draws have long been favorite topographical features for big buck slayers. Don't ignore them. Start hitting those natural funnels really hard. As bucks begin to push does out of bedding areas, you can be sitting pretty in those nearby travel corridors.