By Bob Humphrey
As October yields to November we approach that magical time for deer and deer hunter alike - the rut. It’s the time when even the wariest old bucks temporarily drop their guard, come out of hiding and wander about during daylight. But it won’t last long and with time of the essence, you’ll want to make the most of yours.
Hit the Peak Week - According to deer biologists across the country, peak breeding occurs at roughly the same time every year. Over much of the northern half of the U.S. that’s just shy of mid-November. Peek rutting activity - including seeking and chasing - occurs roughly a week to 10 days before that. And that’s when you want to be in the woods. Peek dates may be later, and in some cases even earlier in the south, but they also won’t vary from year to year.
Spend the Day - Even during the rut deer are crepuscular - most active at dawn and dusk. However, the window widens a bit now and they may move a little later in the morning and early in the afternoon. And while it’s the exception, odds of seeing a buck out and about almost any time of day go up. In fact, many a veteran deer hunter and outfitter will tell you the best time to be in the woods is from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Others prefer mid to late afternoon. The simplest and best solution is to spend all day on stand so you don’t miss a thing.
Hit Prime Areas - Bucks are on the move now, seeking out hot does. The best place to find them is where they’re most likely to travel. Look for terrain or habitat features that funnel deer movement, particularly between bedding areas.
Don’t Abandon Pre-rut Stands - Moving to your prime rut stands is fine, but don’t give up on stands you used earlier in the season. You used them for a reason - there were deer in the area. The does won’t leave, and they’ll attract bucks. And contrary to what you might have been told, even bucks remain fairly close to their core areas during the rut. They may take a brief excursion, but they’ll be back home within 24 hours.
Don’t Give up too Soon - Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away, if you miss the peak or if warm-weather subdues rutting activity. Once the lock-down occurs - when most does and bucks have moved off to secluded areas to breed - activity will taper off considerably. But as the number of receptive does drops off, older bucks redouble their efforts and may travel even more. And if you still miss it, there will be another, less intense flurry of activity in about three weeks.