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The Absolute Best Rut Hunting Dates

The Absolute Best Rut Hunting Dates

If you don’t have your rut-cation days scheduled by now with your work boss (and home boss…), you’re probably in trouble. It’s time to get into a tree and forget about the daily grind for a few days. If you haven’t planned your treestand therapy, you’ve still got some wiggle room to look at the 10-day forecast and decide when to cash in your PTO, or cough-cough wink-wink, call in sick to work.

The question of course is, will you get your days right? After all, the entire month of November is going to host plenty of wild deer action, but there will only be so many special all-hell-breaks-loose days in your hunting spot. Miss them, and your deer action won’t be much different than what you saw in October. Hit one right and you’ll witness a chasing, grunting all-out buck-fest.

So, what days will be best this year?

Rut Timing Realities

Well, let’s start with some truth. The rut happens the same time every year because it has to - especially throughout much of the range where whitetails live and actual seasons (like winter) happen. Fawns need to hit the ground at the right time in the late-spring, otherwise they don’t do so well. Mother Nature knows this, and so forget about an early or late rut. It’s going to happen in November.


Two factors will contribute to whether it’s a good rut for hunters or not - the weather and the moon phase. Keep in mind that even during a full moon and 75-degree beach-type days, the rut happens. It’s just that most of the good stuff will likely occur after the sun has gone down and we are out of the woods.


bow hanging in tree
There is no bad time to be on stand in November, so focus less on the dates and more on spending as much time as possible overlooking good spots.

You can’t do much about either, except get in the woods and hunt to the conditions, which brings us full circle to when you should be there.

Favorite Days

Pretty much any day in the first three weeks of November is a good day to be in the woods. But if I had to personally choose a window to spend dark-to-dark sits on a pinch point, it would be from November 7th to the 12th. After more than 25 years of whitetail hunting, I can safely say the 7th is my favorite day of the month to hunt. I’ve had more wild sits then than any other day, but that doesn’t mean the 3rd can’t be unreal, or the 18th.

In fact, last year I ran an experiment on a little property I own in northern Wisconsin. After getting my butt kicked the first few days of the month, I hung four cameras and headed on down to Oklahoma for a public-land rut hunt. I wanted to see what I was missing throughout much of November.

When I checked my cameras during a late-season grouse hunt in there, long after the rut had died, I was surprised. From the 13th through to the 18th the buck movement was unreal. Absolutely unreal. On top of that, the biggest buck I’d had on camera all season walked through in daylight - twice. Until that point I’d captured dozens and dozens of photos of that big 10 pointer, never once moving in daylight.


Going through image after image of buck cruising during shooting hours in a place where I could scarcely buy a deer sighting two weeks earlier, led me to believe that I might have been jumping the gun a bit on good rut hunting. This also seemed to be the case as we drove down to Oklahoma through Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. On the trip down we never saw a buck. The trip home, which was a week later and far deeper into November, we saw so many cruisers it was amazing. It’s anecdotal, I know, but it makes you think.

Chasing Versus Lockdown

Everyone knows that early-November is a chase-fest and late-November is a snooze-fest due to the lock-down. But the reality is the lock-down is somewhat of a myth. Sure, a mature buck who finds the right lady is going to stick with her until she throws her chastity belt back on, but that time period has been found to be at most two days. And that’s one buck.

trail cam photo of whitetail buck in the snow
Bucks that are nocturnal all season can suddenly slip up any day during the rut, but often seem to really drop their guard late in November

It’s not like every buck in the woods finds ladies at the same time and they all hole up in their own honeymoon suites in lock-step. Doesn’t happen. When one buck is tied up, there are others who are going to be looking hard. It might not be the bust-loose cruising fest of early-November, but it’s certainly a good time to be in the woods. And it could be the time when the biggest bucks in your neighborhood slip up.


Conclusion

Here’s the thing - if it’s November and you have time - go hunting. Forget the weather, forget the moon phase, forget whether Mercury is in retrograde or whatever. The rut is going on now, and there isn’t a bad day to be in the woods. Hunt where the bucks are most likely to travel and put in the hours necessary to encounter one.

That’s really the secret to rut hunting success.

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