Saturday, August 01, 2009

Rutting Bucks Are Unpredictable

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Yeah. yeah. Yeah. I know it’s not deer season, and there is still lots of time until the rut rolls around. But now is a good time to soak up some knowledge about hunting whitetail bucks.

One of the hardest deer-hunting things to do is predict the actions of a rutting whitetail buck in late October or anytime in November. The animals are very intense, somewhat erratic and flighty, and trying to predict exactly what they will do at any given time is like flipping a coin.

Heads or tails? Forward or backward? Right or left? A buck can do any of these things but the bottom line is a buck is going to head for where the doe is. That’s it! The doe is the engine that drives this train.

If that doe is in estrus, and shows herself to the buck, hunters know the buck will head her way. The next question is: at what speed? Will he move fast, slow or in the more common stop-go-stop, herky-jerky manner of rutting bucks? Who knows?

Shooting a rutting buck is a bit different than a buck at other times of the season. Young bucks are more predictable than an older animal, and it’s not uncommon for a young buck to stand motionless and get himself shot.

Rutting bucks, even when still, always seem to be in motion. Their body is moving slightly, the head is up and then down or sideways, and they often move when they first spot the doe. Hunters, especially those in a tree stand, may spot the doe before the buck does and can get ready for a shot.

Guessing a buck’s actions opens a hunter up to making any number of hunting errors. I once watched a buck dogging a doe across a winter wheat field to a hole in the fence. She jumped right through the hole without stopping. I thought he’d do the same and made my release as his nose entered the hole.

The buck stopped instead of coming through and the arrow sliced harmlessly through the air in front of his chest and stuck in the ground. The buck then jumped through the hole, sniffed the arrow and took off after the doe. He showed no signs of concern.

Some bucks act a bit more predictable and others do not. Study each buck for its particular quirks, and it helps to be at full draw when the buck comes into sight. If the buck takes two or three steps and then stops, shoot the instant he stops if it offers a high percentage shot.

Sometimes a buck will head into the brush on a doe’s trail, and stop before committing himself to the move. Be ready if he hesitates, but this isn’t something a hunter can count on a buck doing.

A buck tending an estrus doe will often grunt as he trails along behind her. Once the grunt is within bow range, come to full draw and be ready to shoot once he steps out. Often, a buck will stop just inside a clearing or wide spot in the trail to look around, and that may offer an opportunity.

Hunters who hunt along runways may find that an estrus doe will stop to browse on local vegetation before heading out to a farm field, and the buck may approach as she feeds. I’ve seen bucks stop where does have fed, but it’s not something a hunter can bet the farm on.

The one thing that decades of deer hunting has taught me is to be prepared for any eventuality. Rutting bucks can approach quietly or with noise. A hunter who sits with his bow hanging off a tree branch usually doesn’t have time to pick it up, come to full draw, aim and shoot. Be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.

All too often a buck moves past a motionless hunter without stopping. Of if he stops, it is just for an instant and then he is off again.

One trick that works on occasion is to wait until the buck is in a perfect spot, and then grunt loud, deep and guttural. “Baaahhht!” A harsh grunt may stop a buck for an instant, but it fails as often as it works. Of course, the hunter can’t grunt, raise the bow and shoot. He must be at full draw when he mouth grunts to stop the animal.

The Boy Scouts of America has a motto: Be Prepared. It works for BSA members, and it certainly will pay off when bow hunting rutting bucks. Hunters who are not prepared, both mentally and physically, often miss a golden opportunity.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/01 at 04:51 PM
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Rutting Bucks Can Be Unpredictable

Yeah. yeah. Yeah. I know it’s not deer season, and there is still lots of time until the rut rolls around. But now is a time to soak up some hunting knowledge about hunting bucks.

One of the hardest deer-hunting things to do is predict the actions of a rutting whitetail buck in late October or November. The animals are very intense, somewhat erratic and flighty, and trying to predict exactly what they will do at any given time is like flipping a coin.

Heads or tails? Forward or backward? Right or left? A buck can do any of these things but the bottom line is a buck is going to head for where the doe is. That’s it! The doe is the engine that drives this train.

If that doe is in estrus, and shows herself to the buck, hunters know the buck will head her way. The next question is: at what speed? Will he move fast, slow or in the stop-go-stop, herky-jerky manner of rutting bucks? Who knows?

Shooting a rutting buck is a bit different than a buck at other times of the season. Young bucks are more predictable than an older animal, and it’s not uncommon for a young buck to stand motionless and get himself shot.

Rutting bucks, even when still, always seem to be in motion. Their body is moving, the head is up and then down or sideways, and they often move when they first spot the doe. Hunters, especially when in a tree stand, may spot the doe before the buck and get ready for a shot.

Guessing a buck’s actions opens a hunter up to making any number of hunting errors. I once watched a buck dogging a doe across a winter wheat field to a hole in the fence. She jumped right through the hole without stopping. I thought he’d do the same and made my release when his nose entered the hole.

The buck stopped instead of coming through and the arrow sliced harmlessly through the air and stuck in the ground. The buck then jumped through the hole, sniffed the arrow and took off after the doe. He showed no signs of concern.

Some bucks act a bit more predictable and others do not. Study each buck for its particular quirks, and it helps to be at full draw when the buck comes into sight. If the buck takes two or three steps and then stops, shoot the instant he stops if it offers a high percentage shot.

Sometimes a buck will head into the brush on a doe’s trail, and stop before committing himself to the move. Be ready if he hesitates, but this isn’t something a hunter can count on a buck doing.

A buck tending an estrus doe will often grunt as he trails along behind her. Once the grunt is within bow range, come to full draw and be ready to shoot once he steps out. Often, a buck will stop just inside a clearing or wide spot in the trail to look around, and that may offer an opportunity.

Hunters who hunt along runways may find that an estrus doe will stop to browse on localvegetation before heading out to a farm field, and the buck may approach as she feeds. I’ve seen bucks stop where does have fed, but it’s not something a hunter can bank on.

The one thing that decades of deer hunting has taught me is to be prepared for any eventuality. Rutting bucks can approach quietly or with noise. A hunter who sits with his bow hanging off a tree branch usually doesn’t have time to pick it up, come to full draw, aim and shoot. Bear ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.

All too often a buck moves past a motionless hunter without stopping. Of if he stops, it is just for an instant and then he is off again.

One trick that works on occasion is to wait until the buck is in a perfect spot, and then grunt loud and guttural. “Baaahhht!!” A harsh grunt may stop a buck for an instant, but it fails as often as it works. Of course, the hunter can’t grunt, raise the bow and shoot. He must be at full draw when he mouth grunts to stop the animal.

The Boy Scouts of America has a motto: Be Prepared. It works for BSA members, and it certainly will pay off when bow hunting rutting bucks. Hunters who are not prepared, both mentally and physically, often miss their golden opportunity.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/01 at 01:01 PM
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