Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hunting the rut

© By Othmar Vohringer

Many hunters view the rut as the magical time to kill a big buck. But is it? Not if I go by my 30 plus year experience and the many requests for rut hunting advice I get on Ask Othmar. If I say rut I am talking about the actual breeding period, when big bucks seem to loose all common sense and caution.

The breeding phase is a two-week period, give or take few days, when bucks are actually breeding the does. As I said this is the time most hunters long for. Some hunters I know will not bother hunting at any other time of the season.

If the truth were known the rut is without question the least promising time to kill a mature buck. Unlike during any other part of the hunting season buck movement patterns become highly unpredictable during the actual breeding phase. The buck you see today might be miles away the next day. Oh sure there are many reports of hunters that kill a buck during the rut. But lets be honest about it. Most of these bucks are young immature, speak stupid deer. The mature and smart bucks seldom make the mistake to hang out with does in an open field during daylight hours.

To kill a big buck during the breeding phase forget hunting woodland and crop field edges or sitting over a trail. Instead do as the bucks do and become mobile. Stick to the thick stuff where big bucks hang out until dark. The only places where you get away with looking over open fields is if you live in open country like Alberta and Saskatchewan where bucks have no other choice but to cross large open fields to get from one woodlot to the next.

My favourite tactics during the breeding period is to scout several stand sites connecting near trail intersections in the thick stuff, preferably downwind of doe bedding and feeding areas. Often I don’t bother with treestand and instead use available vegetation, dead fallen trees and the like to hide behind. I might sit in a particular stand for an hour or so and if nothing happens I get up and move to the next location. As I move I do not just hike to the next stand, I still hunt. Moving slowly along cutlines, ridge tops and other terrain features where bucks travel and that provide me with cover and yet at the same time good vision of surrounding terrain.

While on the move I frequently stop to observe the surrounding area with my binoculars for any movement. Bucks travel constantly without rest and to get a chance at shooting a buck I move around too. The key to success is to be on the move all day and try to cover as much territory as possible. Always be alert, a buck in search of a doe could appear literally from anywhere at any time. This is not very scientific but I have found over many years of trying different tactics that this is just about the only way to get a chance to encounter a traveling mature buck.

Related Article: What’s The Best Time To Kill A Big Buck?

Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
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