Rutcation Recap – Southern Rut Update
This time of year, it can get tough to balance deer hunting time with other seasonal events. Thanksgiving is always a fun time to get together with family and friends, eat too much good food, and watch some football. But if you’re hosting, there are a lot of chores to do around the house and prep work that will stubbornly keep you out of the deer woods. At the same time, this can be the heart of the rut for many areas across the South, and you’ve probably saved up a good chunk of vacation days so you don’t have to miss out on that hunting action. With that in mind, here’s a quick update from Michael on his “rutcation” and everything that he’s been up to lately. We also dive into some things you should keep in mind for those still hunting the rut in the south.
Michael’s Hunting Rutcation Update
As you may have seen on social media lately, Michael’s had a pretty good fall so far and his rutcation has been very successful. He tagged a beautiful buck in Illinois, maybe one of his largest deer to date. Both he and Nick Mundt scored on some nice bucks in Kansas. Closer to the home front, Michael’s been hunting on the pecan farm with his family. On a recent hunt with two of his boys, one of them connected with an awesome buck and they got to share an awesome rutcation experience together. There’s just nothing better than that.
In terms of how the whitetail rut is shaping up in the southeast, Michael had a few observations to share on that too. Georgia recently experienced a bit of a cold snap, which seemed to really get deer moving around. After watching all that movement, it became clear that bucks are definitely on their feet and chasing does right now, and the rut is in full swing. To get in on that action, Michael’s been watching food plots, and the does have really been hitting the green fields (e.g., oats, clover, turnips, and radishes). To some extent, they’ve also been visiting oak stands to gobble up the remaining acorns they can find.
Either of those areas are great candidates for box blind locations. A tower stand located near a food source with a sneaky exit route out the back (through some thick cover) makes for a great evening rut hunting stand. That being said, Michael still enjoys hunting mornings during the rut because of the increased deer movement and unknowns of what buck might come waltzing by.
Rutcation Hunting Strategies
If you’re at this stage of the season and still have a tag in your pocket, you can use the benefits of the rut to harvest a mature buck. Here are some deer hunting strategies you can use to make the most of your rutcation.
One of the best ways to increase your odds of successfully hunting a buck during the rut is to focus your hunting on where the does are. Bucks will be cruising looking for does still in estrous, so you should take advantage of that situation any way you can. You can take two approaches with that.
- In the mornings, deer should be coming back from feeding overnight in destination feeding fields, and returning to their bedding areas. Bucks usually bed further back from doe bedding areas, but will be spending a good chunk of time scent-checking does during the rut. That means you should hunt where the does are. Find an area with multiple beds clustered together, which is usually a good sign of a doe bedding area. Focus on the downwind side of this general location to intercept a buck sneaking around the edge.
- In the evenings, deer will gather to feed in ag fields or food plots. One of Michael’s rutcation observations is that the deer tend to really hit the green fields this time of year. If you have a lush food plot on your property, you can bet that the deer will be there. One of the main mistakes with hunting on food plots is that you have a good chance of spooking deer when you need to leave in the evening. After a few of those experiences, you can educate the deer herd and they may steer clear of your hunting blind location. You have two ways of avoiding that problem. You can have someone drive a wheeler or truck to your location to pick you up, which they may more easily forgive. Or you can plan your tower stand with a good entry and exit route, as we discussed above, so you can stealthily sneak out without interrupting deer feeding in the field.
Another proven hunting method for the rut or much of the rest of the season is to hunt in funnel areas. That might be a natural habitat funnel (e.g., hardwood finger extending into a swamp, shrubby thicket in open woods, steep stream banks turning into a shallow crossing area, etc.) or a rut funnel (e.g., travel paths between doe bedding areas). As long as it concentrates deer movement, there’s a good chance it could bring a buck your way. Earlier in the season, you can place a wireless Bushnell® trail camera in one of these funnel locations. Then you can sit back, preserve your rutcation days, and wait for the daylight buck pics to start coming in before you head to the stand.
In hunting areas that have deer herds with balanced age structures and a good proportion of mature bucks, you can try a few other tricks to get a buck within bow or gun range. Try rattling antlers or grunt tubes to challenge a buck. The Challenger call by Bone Collector is a combination grunt tube and snort wheeze call. If a grunt doesn’t get a buck’s attention, you can throw a snort wheeze at him to really rile him up. Or you can try doing a scent drag or scent wick laced with Code Blue® doe estrous scent and/or buck scent. This should challenge any mature buck to come investigate why he’s losing a hot doe to a rival buck.
We hope you can use these tips to improve your deer hunting and make the most of your rutcation days while they last.