Man, I LOVE this time of year. It is full of surprises, excitement and bow hunting success every year. If you have done your scouting homework then the odds will be in your favor for scoring on a nice whitetail this season.
Your stands are already in place, you know where all the food sources are and your backyard target is screaming for a rest. You are ready! Now all you need is a nice whitetail to walk into one of your shooting lanes.
We all hope for that perfect scenario when we are in our stands, but what if the deer didnt get to read the script? I know this may be hard to believe, but sometimes those darn animals seem to always mess things up!
Remember, in the early stages of the rut, the bucks will be where the does are. OK, bucks will be with the does the entire rut, but in the early stages, hunt the trails that the does frequent. That could be tough if your hunting haven is in the middle of a big woods. Ideally, you should hunt where the woods narrows causing a natural bottleneck. If you set your stand in the middle of that bottleneck and hunt with the wind in your face, you should have no problem seeing any deer that tries to sneak through that bottleneck. Advantage hunter.
If you decide to hunt the preferred food source, then I would suggest you place your stand in the woods about 40 yards or so from the edge of the field. Many new hunters give in to the urge of placing their stands right on the edge of the woods and the field. You will certainly see many does from there, but it is common for the bucks to hang back in the woods in what is known as a staging area. The smart bucks will wait until almost dark before venturing out with the does. You should have some good luck by being smart too. Wait deeper in the woods and the bucks will soon appear. Advantage hunter.
The middle of the rut brings with it a different method of hunting. This is the time of year where deer really respond well to deer calling and scents. Some of my friends will disagree, but I have had tons of luck using scents to attract bucks into a shooting lane. And hey, thats fun!
This is when you should pay more attention to scrapes (when the deer scrape the ground and leave their scent to attract does). But not any scrape. There are plenty of those along the edges of fields. That only tells us a buck has been there. Find the scrapes that are in the woods. Look hard because where you find one scrape, there should be more. Try to find a scrape that has an overhanging branch over it. This is a primary scrape and one that is visited often. Keep your scent to a minimum by wearing rubber boots and rubber gloves when you inspect the activity at a scrape. You should see signs of small branches broken from the buck rubbing his orbital scent glands on the branches. He may have licked the branch and broken the end off. Again, you do not want to set your stand up too close to that scrape. Try to get about 20 yards from the scrape and remember to keep the wind in your face. Sit back and relax! There should be some buck action in no time at all. Advantage hunter.
I love to rattle during this time of the rut. The best time is early in the second phase of the rut or right at the tail end of the first phase. It does not work every time. What does? When it does work, I guarantee that you will never forget it.
Deer do a lot more vocalizing than people may think. There are different grunts during the rut that whitetails like. It is all about fooling the animal to get him into your accuracy range. Bucks are more aggressive during this time and I have found that a snort-wheeze call will drive a dominant buck out of his hide. Does it work every time? No, but when it does, get ready for a great show!
The post rut brings its own challenges. The bucks are getting call-shy. Most of the does are already bred and the bucks know it. Scents or calling deer do not work as well as a few weeks before. This all means that you have to change your tactics for a successful hunt.
Once again you should hunt the food sources. The does will be there and the bucks will follow to look for any available does. There are a small percentage of does that will go into estrus 28 days after the first rut and the bucks will be hot on their trail. While all of the tactics you just read about will still work during this time of year, it is more likely that success will be found at the food source.
You may be able to find the buck of your dreams in a small patch of woods or even living in a hedgerow. Believe it or not, deer have been known to hide in the wide open. What I am saying is that whitetails will live in the smallest of areas, the most unlikely areas that is free of human scent. Advantage deer. Oh well, it is what it is!
The main problem you may run into is the fact that the whitetails have been hunted for months already. Human scent has been left everywhere in the woods and the deer are extremely alert and very skittish. To get a whitetail into bow range would prove to be difficult at best. Try not to get discouraged though. This is all part of a challenging hunt. Isnt that one of the main reasons we hunt with a bow in the first place? Hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it and it would not be special to you at all. Accept the challenge and enjoy the hunt and most of all, hunt safe and have fun out there.