Finding Success During The Rut

hunting the rut

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There’s Nothing Like The Rut

It’s what dreams are made of. Well, at least for a deer hunter. I don’t know what everyone else is dreaming about. Some hunters prepare for it all year long – scouting for the best cruising spots, trimming back lanes, nestling stands back in the timber, staying out until the time is right. A lot of stock is put in the rut because of the potential that it offers. A season that starts out offering only limited sightings at dusk and dawn hits its climax around the beginning of November with all-day buck movement. And many a hunters’ seasons have been made in one day during the rut. Even an inexperienced hunter has the potential to arrow a giant during the first couple weeks of November. But what makes a successful rut hunt? I think three of the biggest contributing factors are the location, the setup, and the amount of time on stand. Sure, there are countless other contributing factors, with luck even making the list, but in the interest of time, we’ll dive into the three that I believe hold the most weight.


On October 22, I walked down a two track road, heading toward a ladder stand that I killed a buck out of last year. This ladder stand sits about 10 yards off the top of a hillside that runs down to an oak bottom, butting up against a creek. Where the stand sits is the least-steep area of the hillside, offering an easy route for does to make their way to their bedding area on the other side of the creek. It’s a great rut spot because of the amount of does that travel from food to bed in the mornings. Every time I’ve sat there, I’ve had a lot of good action.

The 22nd consisted of seeing 11 deer – four does in the bottom, one nice buck trailing a doe, two bucks chasing a doe, and one really nice buck that chased a doe to within 10 yards of me. It sounds like a great spot, and it was, but even though two of the tree bucks were within bow range, I couldn’t get a shot off. I needed to be 10 yards further down the hill. If I had been, I would have had an opportunity at all three of them. That is how important location is. Knowing not only where the does are bedding and where they’re traveling through, but knowing which specific trails they’re using so you don’t find yourself watching them through  tree limbs at 20 yards.


When I climbed down, I walked 10 yards down the hill and marked a tree. One month later, on the morning of November 27th, the 2nd rut had begun and I was hanging from my saddle in that tree when two bucks came within bow range, one of which I missed due to rushing the shot. Even though I wasn’t aging venison in a cooler at the end of that day, I had chosen the right location and the right setup. Having a mobile rig on standby – in this case a saddle and sticks – allowed me to adapt and move as the action dictated. Whether a saddle, a hang-on, or a climber, it’s important to have a mobile setup available, so you’re always in the game.

Time On Stand

Now, let’s back up a little to the second week of November. Remember the tree I had moved to with my saddle on the 27th? Well, the 27th was actually my second sit in that tree. My first was the morning of November 10th. I saw nine does that morning and six were within 20 yards or so. No bucks. It really was the right location and setup that morning because I had the does. They just didn’t bring any bucks with them. Around 10:30AM, I decided to move to what I call the “swamp crossing.”

The swamp crossing is where a stretch of grassy land runs out into a marsh like a runway. I get a lot of pics of bucks and does crossing from one side to the other, so I took my saddle and sticks to a tree I’ve sat in before and got ready. Nothing. Not one deer came passing through. I gave myself until 1:00PM. I needed to get back home to help take care of my boys, but I wanted to sit through lunch. Last year, I was sitting that crossing and I left at 10:30AM to get to work. Two hours later, I very nice buck was caught on camera walking right in front of the tree I was in. The rut is no time to leave the woods before lunch. So I stayed put. Well, 1:05PM rolled around and I began to pack up. I pulled my hanger, put my pack on my back and lowered my bow down using my rope. About that time, I heard a splash out in the marsh. I looked out and saw a buck maybe 125 yards away, walking at a 10 o’clock angle away from the crossing. Had I decided to head back a little early because of a lack of action, this story would have a very different ending.

The Way A Rut Hunt Should End

As quickly as I could, I climbed down. On the ground, even though the leaves were crunchy and very loud, I knew he couldn’t see me from where he was. I thought of staying on the ground and bleating, but knew he would likely spot me as soon as he hit the crossing, if he even showed up. In a hurry, I put the bow rope in my mouth and started climbing. As soon as I got to my platform, I hooked my tether back to my saddle, took the 30-foot rope off my bow, draped it over my shoulders, pulled out my Primos Original Can and turned it over twice.

A couple minutes passed, and I began to wonder if the plane I had heard was overhead during my bleats. “Maybe he couldn’t hear it,” I thought. “Maybe I should hit it again.” I knew that if he had closed the distance and I hit the bleat again, it would likely scare him off, so I decided against it. A minute or so later, just like that, I saw a head peak through the trees into the crossing, looking straight in my direction from about 20 yards away. He walked out at a very fast pace in search of what he thought was a hot doe. I had about 2 seconds before I had to stop him. I gave him a “meh” at 13 yards, put my pin on him and let it fly. That day, I was aging venison in a cooler. It was an amazing end to an amazing rut hunt. 


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