Photo by Lance Krueger
This day will kick-start the rut. With dropping fall temps and peak breeding just a couple of weeks away, bucks will be on their feet and laying down sign within their home range. My first P&Y buck came on this very date nearly 30 years ago, and with the moon rising early this morning and not setting until late afternoon, conditions should be identical this year. Assuming the weather cooperates, today can provide some of the rut’s most productive hunting, especially if you know the core area of a particular buck. He’ll not only be active, but he’ll be walking rub lines and hitting scrapes established weeks earlier.
Default plan: Get Aggressive
Photo by Mark Raycroft
Morning hunting has been a dicey venture up to this point, because a midseason buck is usually settled in long before sunup and you run a great risk of spooking him. But now he’ll be out running scrape lines and harassing does, which makes a morning hunt ideal. Slide into a stand situated between bed and food, cheating toward the former, well before dawn. Plan an entry that gives a wide berth to feeding deer. If your buck doesn’t appear 15 minutes after the start of shooting time, tickle your rattling antlers—the simulated sparring will make him think he’s missing out on some action.
Remain in this spot until midmorning, then hustle to the truck for a short break. Your afternoon plan includes doing some speed-scouting to find a hot scrape line in the timber. Check old logging roads, clear-cut edges, and interior corners close to food. Set your stand in the most promising area and get settled. Your buck could move long before dark.
Optional Plan: Be Passive
Photo by Charles Alsheimer
If you can only hunt for part of the day, play the waiting game and kill your buck when he’s very active. A mature buck is now checking for estrous does feeding in fields and food plots near his core area in the afternoon. Walk the edge of that dining hotspot beforehand to check for the hottest scrapes (they’ll be close to a slim entry trail and directly underneath a limb that hangs over the field edge). Hang a stand downwind and within shooting distance of this trail. Ideally your scent won’t be blowing into the field, so feeding does won’t nail you and ruin the hunt; those females will be your living decoys and should suck in your cruising buck. The rest of the mission is simple: Wait for that wall-hanger to walk out.
X-Factor: Small-Game Hunters
How waterfowl and upland hunters affect deer movement largely depends on where you hunt and how those hunters behave. A sudden influx of hunters will cause deer to act spooky (or just lie down) for a day or two, then return to normal patterns. But if your area is hunted on a regular basis, chances are high that deer have learned to live with the intrusion by simply shifting to dense security or escape cover. Do the same and you’ll stay on deer.