Bestul: Adapting to the Late Rut

Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream's Whitetails columnist and writes for the website's Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.

The photo above shows more than just a fantastic trophy; it illustrates the need to adapt to ever-changing whitetail behavior as the hunting season progresses. Illinois hunter Brent VanHoveln used a ghillie suit to set up on the ground and shoot this 180-class monster during the Prairie State's recent gun season.

Brent found the perfect spot to ambush the great buck, and sometimes those "perfect" sites don't include a nifty stand tree. In recent years, scores of hunters have come to believe that an elevated stand is the only way to fool the eyes, ears and nose of a monster whitetail, but others like Brent know better--he shot this tremendous buck at a distance of 22 steps. Congrats to Brent!

This is the second report of ground success I've received this week. My neighbor here in southern Minnesota recently found great feeding sign where a soybean food plot met the edge of a picked corn field. Lacking a stand tree, Alan set up a portable ground blind, spent some time brushing it in, and then left the spot so deer could get used to the presence of a blind. On his first hunt (three days later), Alan watched 13 does feed within range of the blind. Alan has every right to believe a good buck is using the area, too, and I'm confident he'll score if he continues to hunt this spot.

Rut activity is largely ebbing in the region, but I expect the weeks ahead will be filled with reports of second-rut action as unbred does start to attract bucks. Much of this activity will center around the remaining prime food sources such as food plots, farm fields full of standing or waste grain, and the best mast crops or browse sources. Successful hunters will be the ones who find these active feeding areas and find the best way to hunt them.