What better way to recover from the angst of Election Day than by duking it out in the timber with whitetail bucks? The rut is building to a frenzy, the number of does ready to breed or almost there is rising, and bucks will be tuned in to their increased activity (yes, does look for bucks, too) and the many clues telling them this is go time. The scent of estrous does may be the primary catalyst for buck hysteria, but it’s not the only one. Ready-to-breed does exhibit body language that will trip a buck’s trigger, and the sounds of chasing–bucks and does vocalizing and crashing through the woods–will whip bucks into a lather.
Photo by Lance Krueger
It gets better. Since this is the middle of the week, expect unpressured whitetails to be moving well. Any inhibitions caused by weekend hunting pressure are long gone. And with a moon rising in the afternoon sky, everything lines up for an amazing day in the timber.
Sleep in for once; you’ll need the extra energy to drag out a buck after the evening hunt. Like most afternoon hunts, this one will focus on food, with a caveat: If you have the option of picking between open-cover foods (such as ag fields and food plots) and more secluded ones (oak stands, clear-cuts, apple trees), go with the one back in the timber. The rut has been building for a while now, and some does will start shirking the open stuff during daylight. Count on the bucks to be searching for them there. Get in your stand as early in the afternoon as you can, and then sit back and wait for the show.
You’ve been keeping track of your does, haven’t you? Good. Because your strategy today centers around knowing where they bed and loaf. If you know the exact location of a doe bedding area, you want to be set up near it before first light. Bucks know these beds, and they’ll be cruising in and out of them all day, searching for a ready mate. If you can, hang in there all day. If you can’t, take a brief break at midday and shift to a secluded food source that draws does from one or more bedding areas. Again, bucks will be dogging the zones separating the bedding and feeding areas of doe family groups all day long. The does will surely start heading toward feed in the afternoon, but they’ll be cautious about getting there in daylight. You’ll be at the perfect intersection.
Tip of the day
So much of our calling effort at this time of year is directed toward bucks–grunting, growling, snort-wheezing–that we forget about the advantage of sounding like a girl. Doe calls such as soft mews and light contact grunts are an excellent way to seduce a buck. On a calm day, you can blind call quite loudly, every 20 or 30 minutes or so, to pull in a cruiser. But one of the best call tactics is to mew or bawl at a doe being harassed by a buck. She’ll frequently run toward the sound of another doe, hoping to lose the attention of Mr. Obnoxious on her tail–and drag him right by you.