It’s here—the month we have all been waiting for. While last week or so of October is generally underrated and provides a lot better deer hunting than many think, there’s no denying that the calendar-flip to November generates a whole other level of excitement for whitetail hunters. In essence, it means that the rut, proper—the heart of the breeding period—has begun. And the woods are about to explode with activity.
And I’m betting on November 5th—this coming Saturday—to have the most explosive activity, as it should kick of the chasing phase of the rut, with deer careening through the woods late into the morning, well before dark, and probably at midday too when it comes to the biggest bucks. The question is, where should you set up? And what tactics should you use? We’ve got the answers below, but first, here’s what you can expect to encounter in the whitetail woods this weekend.
Rut Phase: Chasing
When bucks are chasing does, get close to the action and call aggressively. David C Stephens / Getty
This is the phase of the rut most deer hunters love best—and it’s hard to miss, with bucks sprinting through the timber and panicked does screaming past with multiple bucks in tow. And what activity you don’t see, you may well hear: hooves pounding through the leaves, branches snapping, grunts, bleats, growls, antlers cracking together, and, generally, the sounds of total chaos in the woods. As the name implies, the chase phase means bucks are no longer content to observe or scent-check does; instead, they are now physically pursuing any female that may be only hours from being receptive to breeding. When not occupied in an active chase, bucks are hyper-vigilant for any sights or sounds of an existing one they can join. How any given doe responds to this harassment is a mixed bag; if she’s close to estrous and the badgering isn’t too severe, a doe may tolerate a buck or two nosing around her. But if it turns into a multiple-buck chase, a doe will usually flee at top speed until she can find cover. The madness is short lived, often only a few days, but I’m betting on November 5th to be one of them.
November 5 Morning Hunt Plan: Call In a Buck Near a Doe Bedding Area
Once again, your knowledge of doe bedding areas is huge now. For your morning hunt, you’ll want to be in a stand or blind situated close to these areas, along a natural terrain funnel or other pinch point. And if you’re ever going to become a whitetail caller, this is the time to build your confidence, because bucks are so tuned in to finding other deer, they’re on hyper-alert to any sound that remotely mimics a whitetail. In fact, I’ve long maintained that the absolute best call is one that’s never been invented—the sounds of deer running through leaves. If you are hunting from the ground, don’t hesitate to mimic that commotion (with safety in mind, of course). I’ve seen more bucks run to the sounds of a chase than any grunt call manufactured. That said, grunting, bleating, and snort-wheezing are all incredibly effective right now. And if you’ve never rattled in a buck, this is the magic window to get that first one under your belt.
November 5 Evening Hunt Plan: Hunt Scrape Lines In Macro Funnels
Bucks will be on the move looking for mates this Saturday, and one of the first places they’ll look are at primary scrapes, especially those located in macro-funnels that connect multiple covers. Speed-scout during midday to find freshly-worked scrapes in funnels that connect large tracts of cover or between doe bedding and feeding areas, and set up immediately on the best sign you find. The beauty of this setup is that any macro funnel by itself is apt to be on fire now as bucks cover tons of ground, and a fresh scrape line is a bonus that makes the spot even better. I love this part of the rut mainly because in most of the setups I hunt, and the areas I frequent, I do not expect to see a lot of deer. What I do anticipate is an opportunity at that one whopper buck that I might have seen, or captured on my trail cameras, that has been more or less a ghost. There are only a few times he’s going to make a mistake all fall, and this is one of them.
Hot Tip: Break Out a Fake
Decoys can be clumsy, noisy, and a general pain in the butt, but hot damn there’s no more exciting way to lure in a dandy buck, and now is the time. Set up in a high-visibility area, such as a food source or grassy area surrounding one, and stake your fake upwind and within easy shooting range of your stand. If you’re not seeing deer, get the calls going to attract a buck to your setup. Bucks are often so focused on covering ground and using their noses to find any sign of receptive does that they’re apt to cruise right past without noticing your decoy, so hit them with a call to make them look up. I’m always surprised at how many hunters will let a buck just run past them and chalk it up to bad luck. For heaven’s sake, if you spot a cruising buck that’s not going to swing into your setup naturally, make some noise to grab his attention. And when he breaks to come check out your decoy, get ready.
Gear Tip: Double Up on Deer Decoys
This time of year, it’s hard to say what’s more effective, a subdominant buck decoy or a doe decoy. Any real buck that’s not actively chasing or tending a doe, will gladly come in to kick the butt of an unfamiliar “rival.” On the other hand, it’s does that bucks are mainly after now. To me, the best answer is go with one of each.
If you’re hunting a spot where a buddy can drop you off with a truck or side-by-side (making it as easy to carry two decoys as one), then put out a subdominant buck decoy right next to a bedded or feeding doe decoy. This setups promises a mature buck the two main things he’s most interesting in right now: a fight and a date.
The post How to Hunt the Best Day of the Rut No. 3: November 5 appeared first on Field & Stream.