Top 10 Rut-Hunting Mistakes

The rut brings on big deer and potential for errors.

rut mistakes
Timeless advice from the F&S archives.Courtesy Jeremiah John McBride/Flickr

David Hale and Harold Knight are legendary hunters. With a combined 80-some years of experience between them, they have made all the mistakes. Here is their list of Top 10 Rut-Hunting Mistakes. How many of them do you make each season?

1. Hunting the same sign too long. "Are you willing to bet your season on a single fresh scrape or rub?" Hale asks. "Most hunters forget that some scrapes are visited only at night, some are rarely if ever visited after they're made, and very few are worked on a regular basis."

2. Hunting where you saw bucks a month ago. "During the rut, forget about where you saw bucks last month," Knight says. "Now it's better to hunt where the does are, because that's where the bucks are, or are going to be shortly."

3. Hunting in places that are too thick. "Thickets are great places to find deer, but you have to be able to shoot them when you see them." Knight recommends hunting the edges of the thicket so that you can see-and get a shot at-deer when they move past.

4. Not clearing enough shooting lanes. Hale asks, "How many times have you heard someone say, 'He came in behind me and I didn't have a shot'? I make sure I have a cleared shooting lane in at least three different directions during the rut."

5. Not eliminating scent. "Bucks may get dumber during the rut, but they're not stupid," Knight says. "And big does never are. You have to maintain cleanliness and complete scent control at all times in the deer woods."

6. Not hunting doe pockets. "Preferred food sources concentrate does in pockets," Hale says. "And sooner or later, one of those does will come into estrus. When she does, I want to be there. That's when the action will get fast and furious."

7. Not using deer calls enough. Knight says, "The rut is the best time of year to call a buck in, especially using a grunt call, but also a doe bleat. This is the time of year you need to be calling a lot, because there is a high probability that a buck will respond to your call."

8. Not paying attention to equipment. "Because it's the rut, more people hit the fields running, but too many of them pay too little attention to their equipment," Hale says. "Be sure to sight in your rifle or bow, and make sure all the stuff in your daypack is in good working order."

9. Not making an effort to find different places to hunt. "Most of us get very comfortable hunting places with which we are familiar. Heck, that's half the fun of a deer hunt," Knight says. "However, your old faithful stand site this year just may not produce. I always try to have at least two backup locations I can go to when my favorite stand site isn't working. Stay flexible and hunt where the deer are, not necessarily where you want to hunt."

10. Not hunting all day long. Hale says, "People tend to forget that during the rut a big old buck can be seen roaming just as easily at noon as he can at dawn and dusk. This is probably the No. 1 mistake rut hunters make. Forget about going back to the lodge for lunch or a nap. Instead, get ready for action between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That's when I've taken many of my best bucks."