The rut (deer mating season) can be the most chance worthy time of year to tag a deer. Bucks are frantically searching for a mate, and in doing so slightly lower their guard on the potential presence of a hunter. However, do not expect this time in the open season to be a cakewalk. Below are some tips to help you while hunting deer during the rut.
Track a Doe in Heat
If you are unable to locate any good buck tracks, try and spot a doe trail. Find the right doe, and the bucks are sure to follow. The key thing to look for when searching for doe prints is a rose-coloured urine stain. The rut is typically in late fall, so with snow on the ground, the specific colour of stain should be easy to detect. This is how you know the deer is in heat. On either side of the doe tracks, look for bucks who may also be on her tail. Be patient and careful not to spook the doe. If she is in heat, male suitors are sure to follow.
Another good tactic with does, when hunting deer during the rut, is to look for their bedding areas. Start at a prime food source, and travel into the woods from there. Concentrate on brushy knolls, overgrown pastures, pines, and tall grassy cover. Look for groups of oval depressions which will often vary in size. During the rut, if you can find a doe that has come into her estrus cycle, chances are you will soon spot a buck.
Use the High Wind
A stiff wind is typically non ideal when hunting. However, when hunting deer during the rut, high winds means the deer are likely moving. Pre-estrus doe like the high winds, because they feel it covers their movement and noise, allowing them to flee from the harassment of bucks. The stiff winds will carry the doe’s scent, causing the bucks to carelessly prance about in search of a female. High wind conditions make it harder for the deer to hear, and thus a hunter is able to travel easier without being detected. Windy day bucks spend their time in predictable places to seek refuge. Any alleys, bowls, creek bottoms, or dense brush are good places to find deer seeking shelter from the high wind.
Join the Chase
If you have identified an area with chasing activity, you can expect that spot to stay hot for several days. It is important to stay put and set up for an ambush. Use a treestand or blind to up your chances of not being detected. When in a panic, does will often travel in a circle. So, if you have missed the original activity, wait to see if they return to you. If you see or hear a chase happening near you, don’t be afraid to hurry over and get involved. It is easier to approach when hunting deer during the rut, because their minds are definitely elsewhere for the time being.
SEVEN KILLER RUT TACTICS. (2014). Field & Stream, 119(7), 46-51.