Hunting the rut is a priviliedge that most folks don’t experience very often. The majority of fish and game departments in the US regulate rut hunting quite heavily. There’s a reason for that. Being able to hunt the rut puts hunters in position to harvest big bucks, as that is the time of year that the bruisers come out to look for love. This means that it’s usually not an over the counter sort of tag. Bow hunters and muzzleloader hunters are the folks who get most of the rut action in the US. The occasional special draw tag can garner a hunter the ability to hunt the rut with a centerfire rifle. But all states are different in how they govern this time of the season.
That said, deer act quite differently during the rut and as a result, they can be hunted differently as well. Here are a few quick tips/techniques that can help you put meat in the freezer this year.
Using doe in estrus gel is a legitimate gamechanger during the rut. While scents in general can provide a regular season hunter an incredible edge, their effectiveness is doubled during the rut. A big buck looking for love during this time of the season is keying in on the scent that a willing doe emits during the brief window of time that she is receptive to breeding.
There are two tried-and-true techniques for using doe in estrus gel. To be clear, we are talking about gel, specifically. Using doe in estrus liquid is also effective but that’s not what we are talking about right now. One way of using the gel is to make a drag rag. Using a rag, or an old sock, dip the fabric in a healthy amount of the gel. Tie the rag or sock to a piece of paracord and slowly drag it behind you on a deer trail. When you get to a solid ambush spot, tie the paracord to a tree and allow the drag rag to hang about two feet off of the ground. The scent should lure your buck down the path and into your sights.
The second way to use estrus gel is to simply open the container and place it at the foot of your treestand or in the shooting lane you intend to use. That amount of scent, with the entire can of gel open, is likely to get some attention.
Similar to using scents, rattling is also more effective during the rut than it is during general season. Rattling for bucks in areas where the bucks are more aggressive is your key to success. To do this, you need to locate an area where the ratio of buck to doe is balanced… like 50/50. This is about competition, and you want to be where the competition is the best.
But along with competition among bucks, comes competition among hunters. Unless you happen to be on private land, in some sort of honey hole, you’re going to need to think about that element. Particularly when it comes to packing around a set of antlers. It’s for this reason that we suggest using a rattlebag. Rattlebags are just as effective, easier to transport and won’t give you the appearance of being a large-antlered deer.
When using a rattle bag:
1. Be absolutely sure of wind direction before setting up your ambush. The buck will approach the sound of fighting from downwind. Practice serious scent control.
2. Start rattling slowly, do not start off full-bore rattling as that is unnatural. Your goal should be to work up to the louder sound of aggressive fighting. Rattle for intervals of about 2 minutes. Gradually increase the intensity. Then, wait 30 minutes and repeat the process.
3. Stomp the ground from time to time, remember that two bucks fighting thump the ground quite heavily as they do battle.