8 Most Trusted Spots to Kill a Buck During the Rut
December 02, 2013
The rut is on, and that means bucks are on the move as they search for does in estrous. Like teenage boys, bucks have one thing on the brain. As a result, the best way to intercept these love-crazed giants is to think like a deer.
Although deer hunting can turn into a rather complex game of chess, there are a few constants that every hunter should have in his playbook. If you looked at how successful deer hunters score big during the rut, you're likely to find they consistently hunt the right areas during the rut. To get the most out of your deer season — and to score on a big buck this year — focus on hunting these eight prime locations while the rut is in full swing.
Small Patches of Cover
These often-overlooked parcels of land are magnets for bucks during the rut. Because hunters tend to walk right past fence lines, overgrown ponds, and small stands of timber, bucks will be less pressured, and it's a great place to catch a deer unaware. These pockets of cover offer bucks a place to lie-up with a good view, and you'll be surprised how many big deer you can find in a small patch of land.
It's no secret that deer like to hang out at the junction of two habitat types. One of the best places to tag your buck is along the forested edge of an agricultural field, but also look for places where dense bedding cover butts up against feeding areas. Both bucks and does will travel along these natural corridors, so position yourself here and plan to sit all day. You're also likely to catch a buck as he transitions between feeding, bedding and searching for does.
As rutting activity increases bucks are frequently on the move, patrolling for does and keeping an eye out for rivals. If a buck isn't actively trailing a doe that's ready to breed, you're likely to find him cruising along the trails in his home range. Focus your attention on heavily used trails that lead into and out of bedding cover and be ready to intercept a buck at any time. This is a good place to catch a buck unawares as he is transitioning from patrolling his territory to lying up in dense cover.
Contrary to popular belief, bucks do utilize food sources during the rut. The caloric demands of trailing and breeding does require bucks to spend a portion of their time during their rut feeding. While most hunters are busy trying to shoot a buck that's preoccupied with does that are ready to breed, make sure you position yourself near a known food source. Big bucks are often taken by surprise when they come to feed, and does that are coming to a food source will often draw in resident bucks.
Some of the biggest bucks are hanging out just outside the city limits. If you've got a place to hunt on the edge of the urban sprawl, you're likely to have an opportunity to tag a really nice deer during the rut. Suburban deer spend their time moving from one patch of undisturbed cover to the next, and you need to be in a position to cut them off. These deer are often relegated to small patches of cover, so spend your time in the transition zones that will bring the deer into range as they move from one area to the next.
Where the Does Hang Out
Bucks are focused on does, and if you do the same you'll be in position to intercept a big deer. Because does tend to have much smaller home ranges than bucks, you'll find those does in the same areas throughout the season. Once rutting activity starts, position yourself within the home range of those does, especially at the edge of heavy cover. They'll bring the big bucks right to you.
When a buck isn't on the move, he'll likely look for a secure place to bed down, and one of the best places is in a wooded draw. They provide excellent cover, and in the evening the cool thermals will pull scent into these areas. In the morning, you can catch bucks that are returning from patrol, and in the evening you'll be in position to see the deer when he begins moving again. Narrow creek beds are a good place to set up shop, and you're likely to be in position to catch a deer transitioning between resting periods and actively searching for does.
Marshes and Swamps
Wet ground provides bucks with a safe haven from hunters and a good place to while away the midday hours. Sometimes this swampy ground is hard to hunt, and these areas are oftentimes overlooked by hunters who are focusing on more traditional locations. You can either still-hunt these areas or set up on the edge of the wet ground, and expect bucks to pass in and out of these areas at any time of the day. When they show up, you'll be ready.