Hunting the Rut: How to Take a Buck During the Chasing Phase

Photograph by John Hafner

Regional Chasing Phase Dates
When can you expect to see bucks start ­cruising? Our Rut Reporters researched fetal-­aging, fawn-drop, and other data to determine a range of dates when each rut phase is most apt to be active in seven regions.

✖ Northeast: Nov. 2–9
✖ North-Central: Nov. 2–9
✖ Great Plains: Nov. 2–9
✖ West: Nov. 6–13
✖ Mid-South: Nov. 7–14
✖ South-Central: Nov. 14–21
✖ South: Nov. 20–27

Trophy Tactic: Hunt the Hub
The Action: First comes the doe, panicked and panting. Then the bucks—one, two, three—on a conga line weaving between the trees, with a colossus bringing up the rear. You'd better be ready. The chasing phase is, hands down, the most exciting week of the deer season. Bucks will run at almost every doe they see. No wonder many hunters confuse the chasing phase with the peak of the rut. While the breeding apex is actually several days off, this is when you want to be in the woods.

The Hot Zone: When bucks start chasing, does start hiding, and they go where they feel safest: their bedrooms. As a result, bucks spend this phase bombing from one doe bedding area to the next, looking for a receptive mate. If you don’t know the specific sites where does bed on your property, look to ridge ends, low benches, CRP, brushy cover on gentle terrain, and dry areas in swamps or marshes. Doe bedding areas themselves can be hotspots now, but even better are terrain funnels that connect several such sleeping quarters.

The Hunt Plan: A perfect example is a main ridge that splits into two or three ridge-end bedding ­areas. Sit at the split—or hub—and you’ll see any buck coming in or going out. These types of terrain funnels are critical now because of the chaotic nature of the chase phase; both fleeing does and chasing bucks will often ignore trails, but terrain features force them to move through specific spots. Set up on the downwind side of the hub and prepare to sit all day.

Tip: Any spot that funnels bucks in from multiple directions is apt to have one or more trails to the downwind side. To prevent bucks from using these trails and busting you, drop some large branches over them, forcing bucks to take a route that gives you the advantage.

Any-Buck Tactic: Sit for a booted buck
Dominant bucks zealously guard the zone surrounding a close-to-estrus doe, often running off subdominant rivals, including some pretty good bucks. In order to find another doe that hasn't already attracted a giant's attention, these booted bucks cruise areas where they can see, hear, or smell other deer. One of their favorite spots is a perimeter trail surrounding a main food source.

To find this hot run, start at the food and walk any good entry trail back until you find an intersecting trail that parallels the field edge. This runway will likely be faint compared with the entry trail and marked by rubs and possibly scrapes. Subdominant bucks will cruise a circuit of these perimeter trails throughout the day, searching for other deer. Hang a large, comfortable stand just downwind and stay put as long as you can.

Tip: This is a great time to get aggressive with bleats, grunts, and loud rattling. Any buck that’s been run off by a rival will be eager to find other deer and apt to run right in to your setup. And if that dominant buck is aggressive enough, there’s a chance he’ll break off from his doe for a moment to investigate the commotion you’re making.