Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week - Peak Rut Deer Hunting

Yamaha Outdoors marketing manager Steve Nessl. Photo by Bob Humphrey

By Bob Humphrey


Early to mid-season deer hunting is often based largely on scouting and patterning deer.  Unless disturbed, they have fairly regular patterns, bedding and feeding in roughly the same areas.  Savvy buck hunters are also scouting buck sign and hunting around scrapes and rub lines.  The rubs sometimes show regular travel routes and the scrapes were set out to attract hot does.  Once the first does start coming into estrus however, the rules of the game change.  Hunters who want to be successful need to change their tactics a bit. 


First and foremost, forget about routines.  Bucks that have been hanging in regular core areas and following fairly regular travel routes may disappear overnight.  They could be five miles or more away the next morning.  On the plus side, strange bucks you haven’t seen all fall suddenly start showing up. 

Target doe groups.  That’s what rutting bucks do and so should you.  The does will remain closer to home, and tend to stick to thicker cover.  Hunt the fringes of doe bedding areas, particularly the downwind side.  Those heavy cruiser bucks have learned how to save time by scent-checking areas frequented by does.


Focus on travel routes.  You can’t get into bedding areas without busting deer.  And feeding routines get blown up during the rut.  But bucks are on the move and will follow travel corridors that offer the best cover and the least resistance.  Look especially along stream and river corridors and narrow strips of timber in agricultural areas.


Hunt all day.  This time of year bucks could be moving any time.  In fact, ask most outfitters and they’ll tell you most of the really big bucks get killed between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when most hunters are out of the woods.


Grunt, rattle and smell.  Calls and scents become especially effective during the rut.  Research shows rattling is most effective in the morning, but can work any time of day.  Aggressive grunts and growls, and mock scrapes may lure passing bucks out of hiding.