What Is The Key For All-Day Rut Activity?

What Is The Key For All-Day Rut Activity?

Conventional rut hunting advice trends toward finding terrain features that funnel deer movement. This is Whitetail 101-level stuff, but doesn't always work or isn't always possible. For example, where I live just north of the Twin Cities, finding funnels and pinch points isn't all that easy. It's flat as a pool table on most of my spots and the deer can (and will) travel just about anywhere they please.

What if the ground you hunt is flat and doesn't feature quality bottlenecks? The best bet might be to locate the nearest water source.

This is different than the bluff country along the Mighty Mississippi where I grew up. Those hills and ridges did wonderful things for deer movement because there were certain saddles and dropoffs that just promoted the kind of travel a deer hunter wants. These two examples, in the same state and only two hours apart, are simple evidence that there are a lot of variables that go into hunting deer correctly and finding the right rut ambush sites. You've got to figure out what's best for each spot you hunt. I've had this lesson drilled into my skull every year since I started bowhunting as a middle schooler.

Knowing this, I've spent a lot of time trying to find consistency across multiple spots in several states. I travel out of my home state of Minnesota each November to bowhunt at least one state on public land, and while that may be Oklahoma this year, it'll be North Dakota next year. Or maybe Wisconsin, or South Dakota, or Nebraska, or wherever.


If there is one thing that has factored into my success in those states it's H20 and nothing else. Here's why:


Consistency Of H2O


Most hunters think food is the key to killing a buck during the entire season, and even during the rut when he has love on his mind. During the breeding season, hunters who aren't sitting pinch-points usually focus on where the does should be feeding on the hopes that their boyfriends will show up. The problem with this strategy is that food sources change often, and they are the spots that we tend to hunt the hardest throughout the entire season. This is especially true when it comes to agricultural areas. After all, who doesn't love sitting over a soybean field?

If you have a spot where does consistently visit the water, hunt it during the rut. Few areas offer all-day action during the rut like a water source.

No one, that's who. The problem with this is that everyone loves hunting food sources and the accumulated pressure usually takes a toll on all deer activity by the time the rut rolls around. If you hunt pressured ground you know this more than anyone.


What this means for the hunter waiting for a doe to drag a slob of a buck into a picked cornfield is that it might not happen. If it does, it often happens late in the evening. A better bet for daytime encounters where the ladies should draw in the bucks is water and it doesn't matter if you aren't seeing a pile of mature bucks visit a river crossing or a cattle pond in mid-October. As long as the ladies feel secure at the watering hole, they'll probably visit every single day — maybe even multiple times during the day.

The more secluded a water hole, the better. Few spots offer as consistent all-day rut action as a tucked away source of H2O.

You can see where this is going. Those same ladies that stopped streamside for a drink every day in October will do the same in November. And the bucks know it. What's even better about this, is that a lot of the best water sources will be tucked into cover, which encourages daylight movement.


Runner's Thirst

The other reason that I love sitting by water during the rut is that when the deer are chasing, they are getting thirsty. Even if their running occurs in the thickest of thickets, or along a hardwood ridge, eventually the does being pursued are going to get thirsty. Where they go next is pretty easy to figure out.

Deer will hit water sources every day during the rut, even when temperatures are cool.

This produces rut action all day long as the midday temperatures peak and the relentless bucks nose does back and forth in the cover. Naturally, you'll see more visitors during warmer weather days, but even when it's frosty cold the deer get thirsty from all of their rut-related ground covering.

If you do experience unseasonably warm weather during November, hunting water only gets better. This is what happened to me last season while bowhunting public land in Nebraska. It was 75 degrees and definitely not the kind of weather you want to produce the best deer movement.

Realizing that, I hung a stand next to the only water source on the property —  a small stream. Seventeen minutes into the sit I was tagged out on a goofy six-by-four that was locked into looking for does along the waterway despite the fact that it was really, really hot.

The author shot this public-land buck last year along a small stream in Nebraska during unseasonably warm November weather.

When I think back to the rutting bucks I've killed over the least several seasons, nearly all of them died near some sort of water feature and most of them were on public land. That pattern can't be ignored.

And so I won't this year. And neither should you. If you have a suitable water source, from a small cattle tank to a decent-sized interior river, hunt it. It may not be the kind of funnel-hunt you expect during the rut, but who cares? Thirsty deer will come and you could have all-day action, which is the best kind.

Recommended for You

Here's how to crack the summer code. Early Season

3 Types of Late-Summer Bucks & How to Hunt Them

Garrett Tucker

Here's how to crack the summer code.

Many people have the mistaken notion that mature bucks have one area where they spend their days; Scouting

Scouting Deer Bedding Areas: Locating, Creating and Observing

Bernie Barringer

Many people have the mistaken notion that mature bucks have one area where they spend their...

Whether you cook it around a smoldering campfire or over a charcoal grill, this Braai'ed Deer Heart Recipe is a good one to add to your after-the-hunt rituals. Venison Recipes

Braai'ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Whether you cook it around a smoldering campfire or over a charcoal grill, this Braai'ed Deer...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Putting a New Spin on an Old Whitetail Hunt

Putting a New Spin on an Old Whitetail Hunt

Gordon Whittington returns home to Texas to relive one of his favorite deer hunts of all-time, and make new memories.

Battling Breeding Bucks

Battling Breeding Bucks

Stan Potts heads to his home state of Illinois to hunt whitetails with his bow during the November rut.

Illinois Muzzleloader Whitetail Hunt

Illinois Muzzleloader Whitetail Hunt

G.O. Heath is hunting with his muzzleloader in Illinois.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Here's how to crack the summer code. Early Season

3 Types of Late-Summer Bucks & How to Hunt Them

Garrett Tucker

Here's how to crack the summer code.

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season. Bowhunting

The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting

Tony J. Peterson - June 10, 2019

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.

After weeks of speculation, the official 60-day entry score for Luke Brewster's epic Illinois non-typical bow-killed whitetail was announced today in the OSG booth at the 2019 ATA Show in Louisville. According to North American Whitetail editor Gordon Whittington and associate editor Haynes Shelton, the Brewster buck is the largest buck ever taken by a hunter anywhere in North America! Trophy Bucks

BREAKING NEWS: Brewster's 320-5/8-Inch Non-Typical Buck Pending World Record Announced

Lynn Burkhead - January 10, 2019

After weeks of speculation, the official 60-day entry score for Luke Brewster's epic Illinois...

See More Stories

More Rut

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss how the moon phase affects the rut. Rut

Dr. Deer: Moon Phase and the Rut

NAW TV

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss how the moon phase affects the rut.

A buddy and I were drifting slowly along the shoreline, tossing bass plugs just shy of the Rut

Timing Peak Rut In 2017

Bob Humphrey - September 15, 2017

A buddy and I were drifting slowly along the shoreline, tossing bass plugs just shy of the

Figuring out when the rut will peak this year may be a lot easier than you think. Find out when the action will start in your region! Rut

Peak Rut Times for 2018

Bob Humphrey

Figuring out when the rut will peak this year may be a lot easier than you think. Find out...

See More Rut

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.