Crunch, crunch, crunch were the sounds of oak leaves beneath the old bucks feet as he quickly approached my line of sight after what had seemed like an eternity of listening to him walking around in the darkness before daylight. Brrrrppp, brrrrppp he let out two long, deep grunts as he paused to check a nearby scrape only a mere 25 yards away. I can still remember the steam coming off of his glands and the musky smell of rutted buck that lingered in the frosty morning air. Drawing my bow back I couldn't help but think of all the trials and tribulations that had lead me to this point. The ups and downs of November had consumed me, but after 15 long days I was finally, about to seal the deal on a mature buck.
The rut is the time that we live for as a bowhunter. Mature bucks are on their feet and the anticipation of what may walk by has never been higher! My goal here in this blog are not to explain the rut, as I'm sure that most of you have already read, watched and experienced the rut and it's concepts. But in this blog I want to help keep YOU out of your own rut in November and by RUT I'm referring to the act of doing something over repeatedly even if it's not the right move.
I hear the stories and see this scenario year in and year out from hunters all over the Midwest, "I chased this buck around all November and hunted the same 2 stands, but he never showed.” Now immediately you may be thinking, "well Clint what's wrong with that philosophy that you just mentioned?" Well, the problem is the people telling this story got into their own "RUT" and it probably cost them a filled buck tag. Hunting the same stand or stands day in and day out if you're not seeing bucks, is a great way to NOT fill your buck tag and here's why.
During the rut their are several stages that the does and bucks will go thru and a good bowhunter will evolve and adapt to these changes. This means that a stand which was super hot in the pre rut stages during late October, necessarily isn't going to be worth a damn November 6th. The smart hunter will realize this, but some will keep hunting this same stand or spot. Naturally we as humans don't like change. "We saw deer here 2 weeks ago, so why wouldn't it be good now?" Well, I'll tell you why! Constant human pressure, educating the local doe population and different stages of the rut will all lead to this stand or spot not producing anymore. At this point it's time to move and get back into deer!
In my opinion the rut is a magical time to hunt, BUT it's also one of the hardest times to try to kill a specific buck because you have no clue where he's at or where he'll head. Patterns for bucks are non existent now, so the best bet is to try to keep tabs on the does. Staying up to date with what the does are doing and where they are bedding will keep you out of your own rut and back into the bucks. Find the does and you'll find the bucks. Period!
New areas, different stands etc will keep you fresh mentally and your hunting ground fresh as well. Burning out a spot only educates deer and burns you out as well, remember the rut is a marathon, not a sprint. It produces highs and lows, as well as fast paced action and super long, slow days. With this being said, it's very important to mentally stay in the game, so changing scenery is mentally a great thing to do for our minds and to keep us from going insane.
So how do I avoid falling into a "Rut" during the Rut? Simple- I try to stay ahead of the deer by using trail cameras to do my homework and by going off of MRI- most recent information! What I mean by this is when I start seeing a spot burning out, OR deer starting to do something else I make a move and stay with them. Maybe it's a cornfield nearby that's just been picked and drawing all the does in, or maybe I see bucks chasing like crazy, which tells me a good funnel or saddle would be a great all day sit. Either way, I'm moving! I want to stay with the deer herds and especially the does because where the ladies are is where Mr. Big is going to be as well. This is basically YOU making educated guesses on what the deer will be doing or are doing instead of being a step behind them.
The rut moves rather fast and although a 10-14 day window sounds like a lot, it realistically isn't. For a bowhunter this means that being a day or two behind can cost you seeing the buck you're after. It's very important to have the courage to move when necessary and not be stubborn and just "stick with it" in the same location. Many times this philosophy will end up leaving you steps behind what deer are doing currently and that takes a bowhunter out of the game.
Go hunt that ridgeline or saddle that you've been watching deer use the last two days. Hunt that creek crossing that's 300 yards away from you where you've witnessed bucks crossing on recent hunts. Pack that climber in and go after the buck that your trail camera had pictures of two days ago in a new location. Climb into the stand you've never hunted on the new piece of property you just got last spring. Etc. Etc. My point here is don't be afraid to try something new and change up your tactics if they're not producing what you're looking for. It's that simple. Would you keep driving a car whose engine blows up every week? No! So why are you hunting a farm or area that's been dead for three days in a row? MOVE! Do it now, you'll be happy you did.
I wrote this blog because in years past I fell into this "rut" trap and it cost me tags. Flat out there is no other excuse or way to put it besides myself being stubborn and dumb to not move spots and change tactics. Learn from my mistakes and avoid this costly behavior!! As a November bowhunter you must learn to adapt quickly and strike when the iron is hot. If the iron isn't hot in your woods after a day or two it's time to move on and find the hot farms or area. It could be days until this recent area heats up again because does will cycle later on for the second time if they weren't bred the first go around, but this could be weeks from now. Stay in the game and stay with the does and i guarantee that youll stay out of a "rut" and punch more tags during our favorite time of the year -the whitetail RUT! As always we appreciate the support and feedback from both the podcasts AND the blog. Tag us with your trophy pics and make sure to update us on how YOUR season is going. Don't forget- chase your dreams, not your liquor and GO SHOOT YOUR BOW