Keep Hunting Core Areas as the Rut Wanes

Over the past month, rutting activity has ebbed and flowed, as usual, based on timing, weather, region, hunting pressure, and other factors. But this past week's reports reveal a common theme: Hunters who know the core area of several bucks can stay in the game regardless of the rut phase.

The best example comes from South reporter Eric Bruce's latest dispatch detailing the story of suburban Georgia hunter Bob Coombs and his 170-class 13-pointer. Limited to very small woodlots, Coombs needed to figure out exactly where the buck slept and he was forced to hunt the spot carefully. Obviously, such a deer does not spend his entire time confined to one small woodlot, but the newest research tells us that even when the buck wanders, he will return regularly to his favorite haunts--which means that carefully hunting a core area remains a solid strategy throughout the rut's ups and downs.

Northeast reporter Mike Bleech noted an upsurge of hashed trees and saplings, as well as multiple scrapes, in one of the areas he'd scouted. I've found similar sign this time of year, and I believe it's a solid indicator of a buck spending more time in his core area as the rut wanes--and spending more time sign-making instead of seeking or tending does. Even a buck that is still searching hard to find his next mate will check and re-check the does on his own turf before heading off to unfamiliar territory, hoping to get lucky.

Great Plains reporter David Draper recounted a full-moon Missouri hunt, noting that the hunters were seeing activity during the middle of the day. I don't claim to have a firm handle on how moon phase affects deer movement, but I have noted an upturn in midday movement during a full moon. Sitting as many hours as possible during the rut is always a sound strategy, but especially when deer sightings drop during the first and last hours of daylight. I pulled an all-day sit this past Saturday and saw five bucks, all between 11:00 and 12:30. That's a great 90 minutes of hunting, but even more telling when you consider that I saw exactly zero deer in the morning or afternoon. Had I bailed from my stand after a four-hour morning sit and come back for the remaining three hours of daylight, I'd have been skunked. Staying in the saddle was the answer that day.

Finally, West reporter Jeff Holmes noted that hunters in his region were seeing stellar rutting activity immediately after cold fronts or precipitation. Few things spur deer movement like a shot of fresh, cold, late-fall weather, and I make it a point to get out as soon as a hard front blows through. Much of the country has experienced a relatively cool fall, but when "cool" turns to "cold," you need to take notice and head for the woods. Chances are, whitetails will be more active than usual.