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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

whitetail rut
Photo: USDA Montana

The whitetail rut might be the most fun time of year. These pro tips from badass hunters will help you get dialed for your best deer season yet.

The rut is a crazy time in the whitetail world. It’s a fleeting moment of all-out craziness where bucks that normally don’t venture far from their lairs in daylight, are no longer afraid of the sun. But while the bucks are more careless during this time, they’re still hard to kill.

That’s why we’ve asked a six professional hunters for their top advice when hunting rutting bucks.

How To Hunt The Whitetail Rut

Art Helin: Hunt Food Sources, Funnel Areas

Own the Season’s Art Helin knows big deer. He’s hunted across the country and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to hunting rutting bucks.

“Hunt food sources early mornings and evenings for the first part of the rut, as bucks will be out checking the does,” Art said. “But by the first week of November, move to funnel areas and hunt hard during the midday as the bucks will be up cruising funnels going from bedding area to bedding area looking for that hot doe.”

Pinch-points, saddles, and other terrain features are excellent stand locations during the rut. As Art mentioned, there’s a good chance of mature bucks slipping up and walking through such locations.

Nate Hosie: Use Sign to Determine Patterns

Nate Hosie, cohost of HeadHunters TV, has plenty of experience chasing bucks during the rut. It’s one of his greatest pastimes and he doesn’t miss the fall frenzy.

“Pay attention to sign, scrapes, rubs, etc.,” Nate said. “Old school tactics of letting the bucks show you through deer sign where there hanging out [work]. Areas with a lot of rubs and scrapes are money during the rut because bucks will frequently come back through checking their scrapes. Hunt smart. Hunt hard. And lord willing a monster buck [will] end up in your pins!”

Dan Infalt: Know the Wind, Find Long Ridges

Dan Infalt of The Hunting Beast is a real-life deer hunter. He chases deer on public land and highly pressured private properties. His advice reflects it, too.

“In hilly terrain, pay close attention to the wind,” Dan said. “Bucks like to cruise for bedded does during the day by walking the top 3rd elevation of leeward (downwind) ridges. Find the ridges that are longest and have doe bedding areas on both ends.”

Mike Stroff: Dial in your Stand Approach

Mike Stroff, co-host of Savage Outdoors, is a big buck killer. He knows deer hunting. Heed his advice.

“The approach you use to get to your stand is just as important as setting the stand in the correct location,” Mike said. “In fact, it can be more important. A large portion of hunters don’t think about their approach and how they can get in and out of their hunting area without letting the deer know they are there. Make sure to avoid being seen and the deer being able to smell you on the way to the stand. if you spook the deer before the hunt, it doesn’t matter how awesome your stand location is, you still don’t have a chance.”

That’s something people forget way too often. Write it down on your palm if you have to. Make sure your entry and exit routes aren’t alerting deer.

Kevin Knighton: Always Be Ready

Sometimes we forget how fast-paced the rut can be. Kevin Knighton of Backwoods Life shares advice regarding this thought.

“This may sound like the dumbest tip in the book, but one of the best tips about hunting the rut is to be ready,” Kevin said. “This time of the year, a buck could come running by chasing a doe at any time. Be ready to capitalize. They aren’t going to stand around and eat clover for 30 minutes waiting on you to get ready to take a shot. They’ve got one thing on their mind and it’s not eating.”

That’s a very important factor to remember.

Michael Lee: Use Decoys

Michael Lee, co-host of Backwoods Life, is an experienced hunter that has hunted deer for quite some time. He knows his stuff. And he likes to use a decoy.

“Try a decoy,” Michael said. “I arrowed two bucks in three days during early November 2015 [while] using a decoy. [I killed] a mature 7-point in Kansas, then a 169-inch 9-point in Illinois.  Put the decoy upwind from you as the bucks will usually circle downwind to scent check the decoy. Make sure to use a scent-elimination spray on the decoy and yourself.”

As mentioned, it never hurts to use a decoy. Throw in some grunts and rattling, too. The added realism can be all it takes to get the job done.

21 Best Times to Kill Big Whitetail Bucks
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