Have You Ever Killed a Rutting Buck?
The rut is a crazy time in the whitetail world. It’s a fleeting moment of all-out craziness where bucks that normally don’t venture far from their lairs in daylight, are no longer afraid of the sun. But while the bucks are more careless during this time, they’re still hard to kill. That’s why we’ve asked eight great deer hunters for their top advice when hunting rutting bucks.
Editor's Note: This was originally published on October 28, 2016.
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1 | Art Helin
Art Helin is a Realtree prostaff member who knows big deer. He’s hunted across the country and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to hunting rutting bucks.
“Hunt food sources early mornings and evenings for the first part of the rut, as bucks will be out checking the does,” Art said. “But by the first week of November, move to funnel areas and hunt hard during the midday as the bucks will be up cruising funnels going from bedding area to bedding area looking for that hot doe.”
Pinch-points, saddles, and other terrain features are excellent stand locations during the rut. As Art mentioned, there’s a good chance of mature bucks slipping up and walking through such locations.
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2 | Nate Hosie
Nate Hosie, co-host of HeadHunters TV, has plenty of experience chasing bucks during the rut. It’s one of his greatest pastimes and he doesn’t miss the fall frenzy.
“Pay attention to sign, scrapes, rubs, etc,” Nate said. “Old school tactics of letting the bucks show you through deer sign where they're hanging out [really works]. Areas with a lot of rubs and scrapes are money during the rut because bucks will frequently come back through checking their scrapes. Hunt smart. Hunt hard. And Lord willing a monster buck [will] end up in your pins!”
Solid advice from a solid deer hunter.
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3 | Jason Aldean
Most people know Jason Aldean as a country music artist. But he’s also a big-time deer hunter. He’s a co-host for Buck Commander, ambassador for Field & Stream, and has long been a whitetail enthusiast.
“Don’t overhunt,” Aldean said. “Set cameras up. Don’t wear the spot out. Hit it hard for two or three days and then let it rest.”
In essence, don’t overpressure the places you hunt. Only move in when the conditions are ideal. Then, when they are, slip in quietly and fill your tag.
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4 | Dan Infalt
Dan Infalt of The Hunting Beast is a real-life deer hunter. He chases deer on public land and highly pressured private properties. His advice reflects it, too.
“In hilly terrain, pay close attention to the wind,” Dan said. “Bucks like to cruise for bedded does during the day by walking the top 3rd elevation of leeward (downwind) ridges. Find the ridges that are longest, and have doe bedding areas on both ends.”
Great advice from a deer hunter who understands what real-life deer hunters deal with.
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5 | Mike Stroff
Mike Stroff, co-host of Savage Outdoors, is a big buck killer. He knows deer hunting. Heed his advice.
“The approach you use to get to your stand is just as important as setting the stand in the correct location,” Mike said. “In fact, it can be more important. A large portion of hunters don't think about their approach and how they can get in and out of their hunting area without letting the deer know they are there. Make sure to avoid being seen and the deer being able to smell you on the way to the stand. If you spook the deer before the hunt, it doesn't matter how awesome your stand location is, you still don't have a chance.”
That’s something people forget way too often. Write it down on your palm if you have to. Make sure your entry and exit routes aren’t alerting deer.
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6 | Kevin Knighton
Sometimes we forget how fast-paced the rut can be. Kevin Knighton of Backwoods Life shares advice regarding this thought.
“This may sound like the dumbest tip in the book, but one of the best tips about hunting the rut is to be ready,” Kevin said. “This time of the year, a buck could come running by chasing a doe at any time. Be ready to capitalize. They aren't going to stand around and eat clover for 30 minutes waiting on you to get ready to take a shot. They've got one thing on their mind and it's not eating.”
That’s a very important factor to remember.
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7 | Jake Miller
Jake Miller, co-host of The Hunt, has bagged quite a few rutting bucks. It’s what he does. And his advice is very sound.
“My dad taught me about parallel runways very early on in my hunting career,” Jake said. “They are, without a doubt, my favorite method of hunting big whitetails during the rut. Essentially, a parallel runway is just an in-woods deer trail that parallels a field edge or open area. Bucks tend to cruise these trails during the rut while looking for hot does. This can also be referred to as scent checking, as bucks will often travel on the downwind side of the field or open area. Usually when I find a good parallel runway scenario, I'll make it an all-day sit.”
These locations can be some of the best rut-hunting spots known to man. If you find such locations, hunt them.
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8 | Michael Lee
Michael Lee, co-host of Backwoods Life, is an experienced hunter that has hunted deer for quite some time. He knows his stuff. And he likes to use a decoy.
“Try a decoy,” Michael said. “I arrowed two bucks in three days during early November 2015 [while] using a decoy. [I killed] a mature 7-point in Kansas, then a 169-inch 9-point in Illinois. Put the decoy upwind from you as the bucks will usually circle downwind to scent check the decoy. Make sure to use a scent-elimination spray on the decoy and yourself.”
As mentioned, it never hurts to use a decoy. The added realism can be all it takes to get the job done.