Secrets for success from guys who chase big bucks for a living
Few people log more time in the deer woods than hunting guides. Knowing their craft is a necessity to their livelihood. Bad deer guides don’t last. That’s why we asked some of the country’s most established outfitters for their best rut-hunting secrets. Here’s what they said.
No. 1: Hunt on History
Guide: Mike R. Mineer
Outfitter: North Fork Outfitters
Mineer thinks past year’s trail-camera photos are nearly as important to the plan as this year’s. “If chasing a mature buck, and you have tracked his movements for a couple years, we’ve found it’s likely to return to the same area close to the same time as during previous years,” Mineer said. “Be there (in that area where it showed up in the past). Take close notes to what buck movement you see, remember it, and make plans accordingly.”
No. 2: Time Your Calling
Guide: Gary Harpole
Outfitter: Harpole’s Heartland Lodge
Harpole prefers aggressive tactics, like calling and decoys, during the rut. But he says timing is important. “I enjoy rattling during the rut,” Harpole said. “I like to use a doe bleat followed by a tending grunt, too. But before you call, wait and see if the buck is going to pass by within bow range on his own.”
No. 3: Don’t Obsess Over the Wind
Guide: Brian Lindberg
Outfitter: Soap Creek Outfitters
Sometimes when it’s on, it’s on. And you may never get that perfect wind for the stand you want to hunt when the conditions and rut are rocking. So you just have to take what you can get and prepare as best as you can. Don’t stress. Just go hunt and have fun.
“Some hunters will come in from a morning hunt and take another shower even though they showered before their morning hunt,” Lindberg said. “OCD issues much? Play the wind if possible, especially near bedding areas. But otherwise, the deer often come from all directions, and playing the wind is impossible for certain stand locations."
No. 4: Pee Squared
Guide: Larry Porter
Outfitter: Kenn Tenn Hunting
Think it’s a smart play to drag a line of deer scent through your boot tracks, all the way to the treestand? Sure, it could work. But chances are high that your ground scent will turn off that buck. But there are ways to limit the ground-scent factor.
“I’m a handicap hunter,” Porter said. “So, I use a buggy going to my stand. I spray doe-in-estrous scent on the front tire and buck urine on the back one. It’s like a buck chasing a doe.”
For those hunting public land, or without access to an electric UTV, bicycles work great for this trick, too.
No. 5: Get High
Guide: James Burnett
Outfitter: Cimarron Valley Outfitters
Bucks often push estrous does to bedding areas. And generally, in hill country, bedding areas are located at higher elevations. Also, it pays to be able to see vast amounts of ground during the rut, especially if you have a gun in hand.
“Definitely go where the girls are,” Burnett said. “Get up high, watch a ton of country, and hunt all day long.”
No. 6: Terrain Talks
Guide: Darrin Bradley
Outfitter: IMB Outfitters
Deer generally follow the path of least resistance, especially during the rut. Hunt spots where multiple travel routes come together. This increases the odds of seeing a good buck in search of a hot doe.
“Hunt topographical advantages on all-day hunts,” Bradley said. “Time in a treestand located in a funnel is your best chance at taking down a monster whitetail. One such place is where three or more funnels intersect at one location that can be covered with a bow and arrow.”
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.