Few outdoor events are as exciting as hunting the phases of the whitetail rut when big bucks appear in places they haven’t been seen before and chase does throughout the day. Maybe you sat your favorite stand in early season or Mid-October and saw nothing; now the deer woods is alive with activity. Especially if a cold front moves in, whitetails will move consistently and there is no “bad time” to be in a stand.
As promising as rut period conditions may sound, certain days are often better or more promising than others and as Josh Honneycutt points out in this Realtree post, whitetail breeding occurs in phases and you want to use the right tactics at the right time. Honneycutt lays out six stages of the rut and suggests different tactics for each. Taking this big picture perspective of whitetail breeding can help you be more successful and plan your fall season to accommodate your work and family schedules. Hopefully, you are proficient with archery and firearm gear to take maximum advantage of this ultra-exciting time. If you have never seen rublines and scrapes emerge in the areas you hunt, you are missing some of the most strategic aspects of deer hunting. Which buck made that scrape, where is it coming from, will it return again or should I hunt a different area? These are the kinds of questions that build excitement in the quest and aadrenaline pumping experiences that get bowhunters so excited. Additionally, by participating in the early stages of the rut, you will learn recent patters in deer movement that may not play out from year to year. Perhaps a food source or construction project significantly altered deer behavior from previous years and participating in the entire rut period will keep you abreast of these changes and eliminate the bitter taste of tags unfilled at season’s end.
A doe comes crashing through the timber and blows right by your treestand. Seconds later, a top-heavy, big-bodied buck trots down the same lane, hot on the doe’s trail. It stops mere yards from you, lip-curls, and belts out the gnarliest grunt you’ve ever heard. That’s what the rut is all about. And this is how you should hunt each phase of it.
Time Period: October 10-22
Some people refer to the period from opening day until mid October as the pre-rut. I don’t. Opening day until around October 10 is the early season. The middle of October is the pre-rut.