Best Days of the Rut 2011: November 12

Today is our pick for the Best Day of the Rut this year.

A big switch gets flipped. Although a few females have entered estrus earlier, today does far and wide will be ready to breed. With receptive does all over their territory, the oldest, largest, and usually wisest bucks will be all business about finding them.

Your job is to catch one of those bucks making a mistake. That means being out there for every second of legal shooting time: no running to the diner for lunch, no midday nap. If you're a stand hunter, you're going to be strapped to a tree for a lot of hours today. But it won't be one long vigil. Here's the plan:

At daybreak you'll be in a doe bedding area--the first time you've invaded that sanctuary this fall--full of nasty cover: a dogleg bend in a creekbottom, a brushy tangle on the edge of CRP land, or a long wooded flat in hill country. You'll approach in darkness from a direction that avoids major food sources, and you'll carry enough sustenance to keep you there until noon.

If a monster hasn't wandered into that haven by then, you'll make your only move of the day. Switch to a stand in a transition area between the thick stuff and a food source. The bull-of-the-woods will be checking feeding areas on their downwind side. He may come through quickly and silently, so keep your gun or bow ready.

If you're a still-hunter, remember that bucks will be on their feet all day, beelining between the best bedding covers and feeding areas used by mature does. Map out all these areas the night before, check the wind forecast, and lay out a still-hunting route that will swing you through the top areas. Pack a lunch and extra clothing so you can stay in the woods from first light to last.