The Best Days of the Whitetail Rut and How to Hunt Them

How and when to hunt the biggest bucks in the woods.

best days of the rut
F&SLance Kruger

You know that the biggest bucks will be tearing up the woods, smashing heads, and running does everywhere. The only questions are: how will you hunt and when? We’ve got the killer tactics for every rut phase, plus the seven days you must be in your stand.

Top Tactics

Click the headline or picture to read each piece in full.

whitetail rut
Take a Buck During the Seeking PhaseF&S

Ever watch a zoo lion pace the perimeter of his cage in an endless circle? That’s how bucks are behaving right now; they’re prowling the confines of their home range, laying down rub and scrape lines, nosing around food sources, looking for the first hint of a hot doe. At no time are bucks more active, yet more predictable.

How to Take a Buck During the Chasing PhaseF&S

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.

whitetail rut
How to Take a Buck During Peak BreedingF&S

Hunters call this phase the lockdown. At its zenith, 30 to 40 percent of all does will come into estrus over a three- to five-day period, and since most herds have a higher ratio of does, mature bucks have no problem finding mates.

whitetail rut
How to Take a Buck During the 'Pickup Breeding' PhaseF&S

With some of the most frenzied action weeks behind you, it’s easy to feel deflated now and just give up. Don’t do it, because the pickup-breeding phase may be the very best time of the year to target and tag a true giant. While lesser bucks are exhausted from running, and tired of getting their clocks cleaned, the big guys are getting a second wind and scouring the woods for a relative handful of unbred does.

whitetail rut
How to Take a Buck During the Secondary RutF&S

O.K., let’s get this out there: When we talk about the secondary rut, many hunters imagine a rewind of November. Not gonna happen. This time around, only about 10 percent of the herd’s does (mostly fawns and yearlings) will come into estrus. But suppose you knew just where you could find one of those females. You’d have an opportunity to see her suitors, right? And at least one would likely be a bruiser, right? Well, a great thing about the secondary rut is that finding that single hot doe is actually not that difficult.