Well, that magical period during deer season is upon us- the Rut. With the exception of few areas in the Southeast, I think most of us look forward to the rut being triggered sometime between the first through the middle of November.
Here are a few things I've learned about hunting the "rut" during my years of deer hunting:
1. The pre-rut can get exciting. I consider the pre-rut to be that period when young bucks (1 12 to 2 12 year old) begin to harass does. You might see them in food plots, around acorns does are feeding on, or just generally moving through the woods. They are excited, but I'm not sure they know what is going on. Does generally ignore them and I've seen some actually chase them off. This tells me the true breeding season is just around the corner.
2. You won't see true rutting activity unless you are in the woods. Chases can occur at any time during the day. When the true rutting activity is actually on bucks will seek out and chase at any given time. If you are used to early morning and late afternoon sets you may be missing the boat. I've tried over the years to commit to my longest stand sits as soon as I see good rutting activity pick up. I prepare myself by ensuring I have snackslunch in my pack and have something to help pass the time away (a book). I will periodically move from my stand and just to get my legs stretched, but am sensitive to moving away where I might leave my scent. While the bucks may get crazy, the does are still on their toes and unnecessary movement or unwanted scent can make them quickly move from your area.
3. Calls are most effective during this period. I've had great success, as I've noted before, in using a grunt call to make tending grunts. This has been the most effective call for me in luring in good bucks to my area. I also keep an estrus doe can call close by and have had deer respond. I usually wait until I see a buck in the distance and try to lure him in for a closer look.
4. Scents canare effective. I've sat many times close to scrapes that are fresh and appear to be regularly worked during the rut. I've had good luck seeing bucks scent check scraps where I've placed a doe in heat urine scent. I can't say that the scent has actually pulled in bucks, but its either worked that way or I've been very lucky to have been in the right spot at the right time.
5. Be selective if you see a buck following or chasing. I had a great experience a number of years ago during what I consider to be a secondary rut. I watched a doe pass through my area and as I had an unfilled tag waited until she was quartering away behind me to put her on the ground. If wasn't 5 minutes later that I heard another deer moving through the leaves in the same area the doe had come from. It was a nice, but young 8 point buck. He followed her trail until he was about 30 yards from her and then apparently realized things weren't quite right and quartered away from me. To my amazement another 3-4 minutes went by when I heard another deer approach. This was a much nicer buck, but we had a minimum 130" rule and I wasn't convinced he would pass the muster. He only approached to about 50 yards from where she was lying on the ground and backed out like his earlier predecessor. No more than another 2 minutes passed and I heard another deer. I was ready as I was convinced this would be a bruiser. Turned out to be a young 5 point that followed her trail to where she lay then proceeded to spend 45 minutes circling her, prodding her with his horns and feet. He actually licked up some of the blood she left on the ground. Several times he started to move away, only to return and start the same ritual again. It was exciting and I wished I had my video with me on that hunt.
Hunting the rut can be exciting and frustrating. When you sit long hours and see nothing you often may ask yourself is it worth it? However, when the chase is on, and the bucks are chasing does in circles around you it is worth every minute of the wait. Plan to be in your stand when the rut gets hot.
Happy hunting and great success.