by Tyler Hinner
Hunting the rut is the best chance of shooting the big buck you’ve been waiting for all year. Food and sanctuary have dictated his every movement until now and all bets are off. This time of year he is thinking of only one thing, does.
The rut is a deer hunter's favorite time of yearDoe numbers on your property are one of the most important factors in planning for your set-up. Depending on who you talk to, their age, and their general management philosophies you will get various answers as to what is the optimal buck to doe ratio for your area. Personally I like a ratio of 1 buck to every 2 does on our property. If you hunt public land, you will not likely have the convenience of managing the herd, but you can still score a big buck. However, keeping and managing the does in your area greatly improve the amount of activity you will see during the rut. When a buck finds a receptive doe, he will normally “lock down” with her for around 20 hours. If you have a ton of does on your property, the amount he will have to travel to find a doe will be greatly reduced. The flip side of this is if you have very few does on your property, more than likely he will be traveling to the neighbors for some action.
The key to hunting the rut is movement. You need to find out where the does live, what their food source is and where they bed. This isn’t always an easy task. I try to make a minimal impact on our property and do an early season scouting trip every year. Finding out what oaks are producing and maybe even bumping some deer can tell you what areas they are in. If you are on new property, look at some aerial images of the land to get an idea of where to start. I like to use Google Earth which is a free program and can be downloaded in about 5 minutes. If you have the time and opportunity to manipulate your property, some companies are producing a seed blend designed to improve bedding cover. This can create movement and hopefully keep that buck on your property longer during shooting hours. Once you have the bedding areas figured out look for travel routes from one bedding area to the next. This is where you will want to place your stand. If you can find some type of a funnel, saddle, or pinch point you will be in business. If your not fortunate enough to find a spot like this, sitting down wind of a known bedding area can also be very productive. Bucks will often travel just down wind to check if there is any hot does in there. Getting in and out of these spots quietly and effectively can be a bit trickier however.
Once the rut hits, there is no telling when he will move past you. It could be your first morning sit or not at all. The great thing about the rut is that most nocturnal bucks forget about their need for safety and move at all hours of the day. Bucks will often go on an excursion once a year off of their home area and look for does, so you truly never know what will walk under you. The more time you spend in the woods, the better chance you have of killing that big buck!