There’s no other way to read it. Minus a few exceptions, breeding activity is getting frenetic on a broad scale. As Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech put it in a post last week, “It’s a great time to hunt deer.”
Great indeed. Most of us wait and prepare year-round for that handful of days when buck activity can be better than at any other period.
But rutting bucks do not automatically translate into filled tags. I’ve long argued that the most successful deer hunters are those who don’t waste time chasing memories. Instead they keep up constantly with current deer activity and adjust their strategies to take advantage of current movement. The most obvious case in point this week came from Mid South reporter Will Brantley, whose brother Matt abandoned one stand (a comfortable box blind) and moving to a nearby spot where he’d heard deer chasing. For reasons known only to deer, they sometimes will slightly shift locations, making a traditional hotspot suddenly go cold. When that’s the case, a hunter can ride it out in the old spot and hope to get lucky, or he can adapt to what deer are doing right now. Matt opted for the latter and killed a giant 10-point.
Naturally, as we approach peak breeding, we all encounter one of the toughest phases of rut hunting: the lockdown, when the majority of mature bucks are tending does. As with much of whitetail hunting, the most effective general strategy is simply to wait for one mature buck to finish with one doe and start seeking the next. But where to wait? In a recent post, South reporter Eric Bruce points to one of the most effective ambush sites in his post: an active primary scrape.
Remember, once breeding begins, many scrapes go dormant. But bucks will continue to visit scrapes that remain active in order to find another estrous doe, particularly when those scrapes are located in dense cover.
Finally, keeping up with the phase of the rut in a given area is critical to maximizing your hunting effort. Of course the most obvious method (and the one I recommend) is to visit Rut Reporters for up-to-the-minute reports. Augment that by maintaining a phone tree that connects like-minded hunters who spend a lot of time afield. But social media can be an excellent source of information about current buck movement. This is a relatively new phenomenon in deer hunting, but the more I participate, the more I realize what a solid source of info it is. If a hunter I respect is in the timber and sends a Tweet that bucks are cruising, I do my best to drop what I’m doing and join him. #hotrut (or something like that!).