Do you enjoy hunting whitetail deer? If so, you will probably know all about the rutting season and its benefits.
If not, essentially the rut is the best time of the year for a hunter as the bucks are out and looking for mates. This makes them easier to hunt as they are more vulnerable.
When hunting for whitetail deer in the rut, it is always a good idea to have a good understanding of how the rut works. Let’s take a look!
Generally speaking, rutting season takes place between mid October and early December. This is when deer mate and when their behavior changes.
It is a great time of the year to hunt a buck as they are more active during the day. If you see a doe out in the open, chances are there is a buck close by.
There are different phases to the rut that you should be aware of. The behavior of whitetail changes throughout the rut in phases.
The first phase is the pre-rut, usually starting in early October. This phase ends by November when they enter the second phase.
With pre-rut happening in October, the seeking phase occurs during late October or early to mid November. After this, chasing takes places which is considered the peak rut. This happens in the early to middle of November.
The next phase is tending and this usually happens from mid to late November. The post-rut will then be from late November, and then the second rut (which doesn’t always happen) will be during the first 2 or 3 weeks in December.
During the pre-rut phase, you will see the bucks beginning to perform their rutting rituals. Telltale signs are wallows and scrapes on trees that the bucks have made by digging and urinating.
The deer spend a lot of time in the woods at this stage and this can be a fun way to venture out into areas where there are more trees to find an elusive buck. If you want to target one, be sure to know where they look for food and where they like to sleep.
If you see signs of rutting, there are probably nearby bucks. Your best bet would be to set up near bedding and food areas and try to avoid hunting in the mornings.
Using decoys and calls to lure them in is not a good idea in this phase as this only scares them away.
The seeking phase is when the bucks know where the females are. Now is the time when you will see mature bucks out and about during the day.
This is an excellent time to hunt as the whitetails are very prevalent. If you are having difficulties spotting prey, try to seek out their food spots and sleeping areas.
The chasing phase is the main phase of the rut and this is when most whitetail hunters get most excited. The bucks should now all be out in full force looking for females to mate with so you should find it easy to get your target.
This is the time that bucks have lowered their guard and are less careful. We recommend setting up next to trails alongside fields or open areas. Whitetail bucks often use these areas to seek out females and are known to look for females in doe bedding areas.
You might want to consider doing everything you can to attract the bucks at this point. Doe in heat grunt calls that you can play might attract a buck or two, as would decoys.
Scents also work amazingly well at attracting large bucks. However, be sure to use the scents properly by placing them at waist height in the leaves and trees in your hunting area.
The next phase in the rut is known as the mating phase. Now is when the whitetail deer will breed and mating couples will now cover themselves up in thick foliage. This can make it very difficult for hunters to find the deer .
Of course, it is not impossible to find good deer at this stage. All you need to do is just be patient and wait for the buck to emerge from the foliage when looking for food, etc. Time is of the essence at this stage of the rut.
Try to seek out the bedding areas during the tending has. If you notice narrow transit areas that the buck use, set up near there as both the does and the bucks will use this path to get food, etc.
A great idea during this phase is to use every tool you can think of to lure the deer in. Don’t hesitate to use cameras, listen to local sighting reports and identify deer tracks.
If you find that you are unsuccessful, try to move on as you will be more likely to find a deer elsewhere.
Using calls to attract the deer can prove to be effective but do so carefully and so as not to frighten them away. The buck are still quite active at this point and will still defend their females against other male competition.
The final and post-rut phase is the most difficult phase in which to hunt a whitetail doe or buck. By now, the breeding has definitely died down but it is still possible that one or two deer couples will mate.
You should still be pulling out all the stops to find a buck at this stage, but you may to be as successful as in the peak rut phase. You can still check deer bedding areas for a quick and easy kill, so be sure to check out all thickly covered foliage at this time.
Finally, when hunting in the rut, it is easy to become excited at the thought of an easy and excellent target. It can be highly rewarding to bag a buck with very little effort. Just make sure that you are always camouflaged and quiet, and you should be successful.