Still-Hunting the Rut

Tired of sitting? Hit the woods.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Plenty of folks will tell you that when bucks are on the move during the rut, you've got to get on your stand and stay there. Well, not all of us have the patience for that. In fact, by the time the rut rolls around, many of us have already spent countless hours bored senseless while perched in a tree. We're darn sick of it. And that's just fine. Turns out, there's a very good argument for giving your butt a break and still-hunting during the rut. It's true that the rut marks the peak of daytime buck activity and therefore improves your chances of seeing a buck from a stand. But it equally improves your chances of seeing a buck from your boots.

Too many hunters think still-hunting is the thing you do when the deer stop moving and there's no longer any point being on stand. But walking up on a bedded buck is only slightly less difficult than putting your elbow in your ear. Truth is, the best time to still-hunt is when bucks are moving, especially when they are preoccupied with chasing does and chasing off other bucks.

Moreover, stand hunting requires that you pick one spot and stick with it. Rutting bucks, however, tend to range widely and wildly, making it hard to predict the right spot to kill a deer. Still-hunting lets you cover more ground; if you're wrong about one spot, just move on. You may be right about the next.

The key to still-hunting during the rut is knowing where does feed and bed. Work the edges of feeding areas around dawn and dusk, when bucks often cruise the downwind peripheries of cornfields, greenfields, oak stands, etc., sniffing for receptive does. During the rest of the day, still-hunt the downwind side of doe bedding areas. In each case, if you see or sense that does are nearby, or if you just get the feeling you're in a hotspot, find a good tree to lean against and wait. Often, the most effective part of still-hunting is standing still.

If after a while the spot seems cold, move on. Any large tract is bound to have several promising doe feeding and bedding areas. Another good option is to work several small tracts in a day or a weekend. Carefully still-hunt the most likely spots, then get in your car and drive to the next area.