Best Days of the Rut 2011: October 31

Halloween day should kick-start the rut. The reasons are simple yet exciting.

First, that crescent moon will be rising at midday and in the sky all afternoon. Hopefully coupled with some cold temperatures, it should get bucks moving well during hunting hours. Even better, this Monday will launch the rut's seeking phase--the period when bucks begin searching for that first hot doe, traveling more widely and more often than they have all season. But what's really exciting is that bucks will confine that searching to their home range. That means the scouting and hunting you've done up to this point will put you in the driver's seat for killing the biggest buck in your area if you get after him right now. So put a big bowl of candy by your front door and hit the woods. Here's how you start:

Visit some of the best food sources in your area--oak ridges, picked cornfields, clear-cut edges, apple orchards--and speed-scout them at midday for buck sign. Although the majority of field-edge scrapes are made (and visited) after dark, that doesn't mean you should ignore them. Fresh field-edge scrapes indicate an active buck, so when you find one (or better yet, a cluster), backtrail the closest entry route from the scrape toward denser cover.

Don't be surprised if the scrapes peter out as you walk away from the food. You're looking for rubs, now, and big ones. If there's a dandy buck near your food source, he's going to advertise his macho presence by picking on the biggest trees he can find. A rub on a massive tree means a Kong-size buck, and every animal in the herd gets it up and down. But don't content yourself with finding one tree missing its bark. Try to string together three or more shagged-up trees in a series. This rub line will serve as a connect-the-dots route that joins a buck's favorite bedding area to the food source you just left. Choose a good stand tree somewhere along this pathway, and tagging that Halloween trophy might be as simple as knocking on a door and waiting for a treat.

To see all the Best Days of the Rut, visit the Rut Reporters page and view the calendar to the right.