For most deer hunters, the rut is the most exciting time to be in the woods. The chances of seeing mature bucks during the daytime in areas where does frequent are highly increased. For those still left in the hunt, here are some tips and strategies that will help you hunt the rut more effectively.
1. Find the Does and You Will Find the Bucks
During the rut, bucks will leave the home area where they have spent most of the year and will seek out other areas that have dense doe populations. If you can find the area of your hunting land where the does spend the most time, then you will likely find bucks frequenting that area this time of year.
2. Your Trail Cameras Tell a Story
If you have had trail cameras set up at stands and other places on your property, determine which locations have yielded the greatest number of pictures of doe activity during the past few weeks and choose those areas to hunt.
3. Hunt the Wind
Consider wind direction and proximity to common doe feeding and bedding areas when choosing a setup location.
4. Rubs are Excellent Setup Spots
Locate areas on trees where bucks have rubbed the bark with their antlers. Bucks rub trees in the early season to remove the velvet from their antlers when growth of the rack is complete and to communicate to other deer in the area that they are there. Look for rubbed trees that have a diameter of 4 inches or greater because mature bucks will create rubs on trees this size. Setting up a stand location near this tree will help to increase your chances of seeing the buck and of ultimately getting a shot at him. Sooner or later the buck you are hunting will return to the area to redeposit his scent on the rub.
5. The Only Thing Better Than Hunting a Rub is Hunting an Active Scrape
Find an active scrape on your hunting land and set up to hunt over it. Bucks create scrapes during the rut to advertise to does that they are in the area and are ready to breed. Bucks communicate this by urinating in the scrape which leaves a scent marker for does. Does will frequent a buck’s scrape and urinate in it to communicate to the buck that she is there and is also ready to breed. Since bucks frequently return to this location to keep the scent fresh, hunting over a scrape is another great strategy for getting a shot at a big buck.
6. Commit to Hunting Your Spots the Entire Day
Consider making plans to sit in your stand for the entire day, without leaving to take a break for lunch. Mature bucks will move during the day to find does, so your chances of seeing a mature buck during the middle of the day are greatly increased.
The rut is one of the most exciting times to be in the woods, especially when you are crossbow hunting! Shoot straight, be safe and good luck!