How to Avoid Screwing up the Rut

Scott Bestul |

scott_ne_buck_1-nov_08At first glance, the rut should be the easiest, and certainly the most exciting part of the deer season. But if I hear one complaint more than any other each fall, it can be summed up like this; “the rut just stunk for me this year. I didn’t see near the buck movement I thought I would. I’d have sworn the rut didn’t happen this fall.”

While it’s tough to paint with a broad brush, if the rut sucks, it’s often our fault.   Here’s how we can sabotage some of the best hunting of the season:

*Know your does: One of the most important mistakes hunters make is thinking  the rut is all about knowing the favorite hangouts of bucks (which we do by finding their rubs and scrapes). Wrong. When the rut kicks in, knowing where does eat, sleep, and walk trumps anything you know about individual bucks. Think about this; if you were serious about finding a girlfriend, would you hang out in a men’s locker room, or a chick bar on lady’s night?

*Ignore midday: Whitetail hunters are dialed into the morning-and-evening movement that typifies most deer travel. During the rut you can throw that “pattern” out the window. If anything, midday movement is more normal—especially for bucks—than the usual dawn-and-dusk routine. In one of the best rut hunts I’ve enjoyed, I saw six bucks during the 11:00-1:00 period…a time when most hunters are happy to be hanging in camp.

alyssa_buck-nov_2015*Failure to talk: If you had hunting mentors like mine, the Cardinal Sin was making noise. Blowing a grunt call or whacking rattling horns flies against all those “stay silent” lessons we’ve been taught. And then there’s this; too many of us worry about “saying the wrong thing” when we call to deer. While it’s possible to alert a buck with a call (for example, making an aggressive snort-wheeze to a timid buck, or one that’s just been in a fight), I’ve called in far more deer than I’ve spooked with a call. Get those horns and grunt tubes out this fall….and USE THEM!

*Overblown Expectations: I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I settle in a stand or blind and immediately expect someone to cue the buck action. My worst enemies are memories of rut hunts that rocked, and I’m ready to experience one again. Worse yet, if the action is slow, I think “I must be in the wrong spot. Surely it’s happening somewhere.” This is the kind of thinking that forces us out of good spots to search for better ones, and in most cases, patience is the key. This is real deer hunting, not a highlight reel. We pick our spots for a reason, and it only takes the right 10 seconds to change your life.


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