Sure, the rut offers some great hunting. But every day isn't full of magic
I’ve hunted almost every day of the whitetail rut for the past 29 seasons. After all these years, I believe the opportunities we have during the rut for mature bucks comes down to less than a handful of events that trigger one really good day of hunting each. Young bucks are much more visible. But mature bucks are not easy to kill, even during the rut.
A Late-October Cold Front
The first opportunity for a mature buck during the whitetail rut generally occurs during the last cold front in October. Bucks are covering ground to keep tabs on the estrus status of nearby doe groups. You’ll see them enter a field, nose a few does around and then leave – without ever eating. Hunting feeding areas in the evening works really well at this time. They may also check bedding areas in the mornings.
The First Hot Doe
The second opportunity for a great day of rut hunting occurs when the first doe in a particular buck’s core area enters estrus. He’ll be on his feet looking for her. The best way to take advantage of this behavior is to just be out there when it happens. Put in the time and pray for a little luck. Almost any stand that makes sense will work, but funnels near doe bedding areas are ideal.
Any Hot Doe That Comes Past Your Stand
The next great day will occur anytime a hot doe comes past your stand. Since there are often a number of does entering estrus simultaneously, you won’t see much cruising during the heart of the rut. However, one doe can bring multiple bucks past your stand. If you’re lucky, this will happen at least once during your whitetail rut-hunting vacation. Hunt near doe bedding areas morning and evening to capitalize on this opportunity.
The Last Hot Doe
The fourth opportunity is the last hot doe. This occurs at the end of the primary rut. The action will be similar to what you saw with the first hot doe, just fewer bucks involved. The mature bucks aren’t locked down now, and they’ll spend more time on the hoof looking for that final receptive doe. While younger deer are already spent, older bucks know the ropes and conserve energy for the last round before shutting it down and focusing on food. Hunt near doe bedding areas in the morning and doe feeding areas in the evening.
There is a lot of chaos and luck involved that play large roles in success, but the four events I outlined are game changers. The problem? You never know which four or five days these events will occur. You have to hunt as much as possible — in the best spots you can find — and then be where the action is when it breaks loose.