How to Hunt Deer in the Rut
Derrek Sigler 10.27.20
This is it – the time of year deer hunters wait for. Vacation time is used up and every possible second is spent in the woods. The rut is on, baby! Let’s go hunting! Hunting whitetails in the rut is fun and very rewarding, but what is the best way to hunt them? A lot of advice is doled out and some of it is good, and some, well, not so much. Here are five tips on how to hunt deer in the rut that have worked for us.
Switch to video
If you’re like us, you run multiple trail cameras for every area you hunt. Sorting trail camera pictures is a ton of fun. As the rut kicks in, I like to switch my cameras into video mode. Someone told me to try it years ago and I’m hooked. Video gives you insights into behavior patterns that you can’t get from photos alone. Cellular cameras are the best because you can get it in real time. We don’t, however, recommend using these types of cameras in the field as a way to stalk deer. Learn more about cellular cameras here.
Sit all day
One thing we have learned is that during the rut, deer behavior patterns go out the window. They move more during the day and let’s face it, bucks get stupid. Can’t blame them, though. What guy hasn’t gotten stupid for a girl? My wife is over on the couch nodding her head.
During pre- or post-rut, you may sit for a few hours in the morning or evening, but during peak rut, sit as long as you possibly can. Comfort is a big factor here, at least for me, so I like to use a 2-man ladder stand for long sits. It gives me more room to stretch out and options to move some if I need to. Not to mention, it gives you a little extra room to reposition for a shot. Remember, rutting bucks are stupid and if there’s one coming in on a scent trail, it may not be in the position you planned for. The other bonus to a 2-man is, you can bring someone along. My son is my favorite hunting buddy by far. Check out a deal on a Big Dog 2-man ladder stand here.
Hunt the does
While bucks get stupid, does get smarter during the rut. While you can almost count on a buck to be single-minded this time of year, a mature doe will be on its A-game. You need to be on your game, too, by learning the behavior and hunting the does, waiting for the bucks to come after them. A tactic that has worked great for us is to use a deer decoy. Now, a buck will come in and challenge another buck, but a doe decoy will draw in another doe as a confidence decoy, and that has worked better for us.
Two years ago, I had a doe decoy out, covered with estrous scent. A big doe walking along a ridge well out of range saw the decoy and came right in. The 8-point behind the doe followed her in, and things went according to my plan. Don’t be afraid to try a decoy for the does as well as the bucks. place your decoy just off the path you expect deer to follow and make it so you can see it from your stand. It’ll make a great ranging tool, too. Learn more about Doe Decoys here.
Know the nose
This one is a two-parter, but we’ll start with targeting the buck’s desire for a lady friend. Doe estrous scents are a good way to help draw in a buck. There are several types of estrous scents available, too. Generally speaking, most “cheaper” scents are based on urine collected from multiple does and mixed into one scent. This can be confusing for the buck, but at the same time, it does give off the notion that there are multiple does for the buck to breed.
Single doe scent options tend to cost more but contain the estrous urine from a single doe, which is more natural. Synthetic scents are gaining in popularity because they can replicate the pheromones and increase the potency. Plus synthetic scents tend to withstand the elements and last longer in the field. We’ve tested several synthetic scents and they work pretty dang well. The most important thing with an estrous scent is, it gives the buck something to focus on as he looks for love. Check out Code Blue Screaming Heat Scent here.
Scent part two: You
You also need to cover your own scent as much as possible. There are multiple ways to help do this, and every year something new comes along that changes how we view scent control. If you want a complete plan, you need to consider how you wash your hunting clothing, how you cover your scent in the field, how you handle the air around you, and don’t overlook the notion of a cover scent. Here’s what we do:
- Wash your body and clothing with scent-free soaps. Learn more about these types of soaps here.
- Use an ozone-type generator to help “wash” out any scent left in the clothing. They have multiple types of these units available, including ones for your truck and your stand. Learn more about them here.
- Spray everything you come in contact with using a scent-killing spray. This includes your stand, you bow, etc. I like to use the same brand as I wash with, so there is no chance of any weird reactions. Learn more about Dead Down Wind cover scent deals here.
- Use a cover scent, mostly to cover up the smells you can’t control. You have to breathe, so you will give off odor. There is no fixing that. I have found that calming scents beat out any other type of cover scent. These types of scent have been catching on and I can say that they work. Learn more about Conquest EverCalm here.
Cover image: Shutterstock/Campbell