Pro Rut Hunts
Two experts reveal their favorite strategies.
Greg Miller and Stan Potts are a pair of well-known whitetail fanatics who chase deer across the country each fall. They often have less than a week to take a trophy buck before leaving for another hunt. That they succeed more often than not is testimony to their ability to hunt the rut effectively. Here are their favorite tactics:
Greg Miller: Decoys
One of the country’s top whitetail experts, Greg Miller spends many hours watching decoys each fall. “There are few tactics that work through all phases of the rut, but decoying definitely will,” he says. “I’ve decoyed many bucks into bow range that I’d never have killed otherwise.” Where: It works across whitetail range but is most effective in fairly open terrain. “The broken cover of farm country is ideal, as is the prairie.” When: From the seeking phase through the post-rut. How: “You may feel a little conspicuous, but you need to set up on field edges, fencelines, and other high-visibility areas,” he stresses. Place your decoy 15 to 20 yards upwind of your stand or blind. “I always use a buck decoy,” Miller says. “And I call and rattle to attract unseen bucks. A trophy buck doesn’t want any competition during the rut, and this plays on the deer’s aggressive nature.” Because bucks will typically approach from the side or head-on, make sure your decoy is facing you. “This will position the buck well for the shot,” Miller says. “I like to spray some dominant-buck urine in the grass beneath the decoy to seal the deal. But that’s the only scent the buck should smell. Keep the decoy clean and apply a no-scent spray to it every time you put it out.” Stan Potts: Funnels
Illinois hunter Stan Potts has taken more trophy bucks than most of us will ever see. And in many cases, he killed them as they moved through a natural funnel. Potts devotes hours of off-season scouting to locating such hotspots. Where: Funnels occur and are effective throughout whitetail range, but Potts focuses most of his energy on Midwestern farm country, a region known for monster bucks. When: Midday during peak rut. How: “Probably my favorite funnel setup is where multiple ridges meet and drop down to a creekbottom,” Potts says. “I set up within range of the trail junction, with my stand tight against the creek bank or ditch. Then I hunt only when the wind is blowing out over the creekbottom. That makes it impossible for a buck coming through that funnel to bust me.” Not all funnels are created equal, according to Potts. “I look for monster rubs. I need those rubs to have the mental confidence to stay in my stand, because I know I’m not going to see as many deer as I would on a field edge. I just want one bruiser.” For Potts, success while hunting funnels boils down to timing. “Nail down the peak rut time in your area and hunt hard then,” he says. “In Illinois, it’s the week of Veterans Day. There are more big bucks on their feet then than at any other time in the season. And commit to hunting midday. I’ve killed most of my bucks between 9 A.M. and 2 P.M. I’m convinced that old bucks have learned that they encounter less danger then and travel more frequently.”