Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking Forward To The Rut

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Trying to anticipate what a buck will do during the rut is like listening to a politician’s promise. Both are risky ventures.

Frankly, the only predictable thing about a rutting buck is his unpredictability. They do things that make absolutely no sense to the bow hunter, but apparently, their actions make sense to them. 

The oddities of rutting bucks have been well documented. What is seldom stressed is how their mood swings influence their actions, but seldom will they be totally clueless. They do not lose their inherent fear of humans, and a buck that hears, sees or smells a hunter, will waste little time getting out of there.

This means that hunters can n longer take any liberties with deer. They must stay downwind of known travel routes. They also must sit still, don’t move and take only high-percentage shots. Another thing to note is that bucks are seldom still, and hunters must be prepared for a quick and accurate shot. That means beging ready for a shot at any time.

The most predictable thing about a rutting buck is he will never be far from his latest squeeze. Of course, as soon as he’s had his way with her, he is off on a continuing search for another estrus doe to breed.

Remember this: bucks will always be near the does. He may hang back in heavy cover near a food source, but once she moves, the buck is on her trail again. It’s one reason why hunters often set up a stand in heavy cover near a food source. The buck will cruise back and forth as the doe feeds, and will check other does to determine how close they are to estrus, but he’ll be keeping a close watch on his current lady friend.

Bucks will often be seen crossing open fields as they course a doe. He will go where she goes, and if she is almost in estrus, he will be ever closer to her. If she goes left or right, he will cut her off, and if she head-fakes him into going one way while she goes the other, he will soon catch up with the wayward doe.

Hunting these animals can be great fun, and almost every hunter will say; “So close and yet so far away at one time or another.” The bucks and does often travel just out of bow range, and it’s not a deliberate thing. The hunter makes a mistake by setting up just out of effective bow range.

It’s difficult to go wrong by hunting fairly close to feeding fields where does will go. Choose one of the corners, and especially the field-edge corner with the heaviest nearby cover. That is where bucks will hang out to watch the does, and they often pace back and forth. That doesn’t mean the buck would enter a feeding field, and occasionally by luck or design, a doe will lead an amorous buck past a ground blind or tree stand, but it’s not something to bet the homestead on.

Tending bucks are vocal bucks, and a buck about to breed a doe will be grunting with almost every step the animal takes. This tending grunt is low and guttural, and sometimes it can be heard for 100 yards and at other times the buck may only be 20 yards away when the sound is heard. In some cases the sound is like a ventriloquist “throwing” his voice; it’s nearly impossible to tell where the sound comes from.

Bucks will sometimes still check ground scrapes, but once the rut starts, they stop opening up and freshening scrapes. They have used those scrapes over the past 10-14 days to locate the estrus and soon to be ready does, and every buck in the area knows which does will soon be bred.

This is when young bucks try to mount the does, but most does will not stand for a lesser deer unless the big buck has been killed. Few 1 1/2-year-old bucks will do any breeding.

Hunting the rut is entirely different than hunting bucks in other ways. Hunters must start thinking like a buck, and once they figure out where the does are, and where the thickest cover is where much of the breeding takes place, it becomes a bit easier.

Rut hunting isn’t easy, but it stimulates your brain and makes hunters think. And that is always a good thing.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/19 at 08:10 PM
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