Here we are again: It’s late October and the rut is upon us. There will be a lot going on in the deer world. Knowing what is going on and when can help you bag your buck.
Research has found that moon phase and photoperiodism, shortness of daylight, are the two controlling factors in timing of the rut in both the North and the South. Photoperiodism has so much influence that it is responsible for the rise in testosterone in a buck and the cut off of blood supply to velvet-covered antlers, which results in the hardening of the bone and drying and peeling of their velvet in late August into September. Moon phase and the shortness of daylight also time when the SEEKING, CHASING AND BREEDING phases of whitetail rut take place.
Bucks begin to SEEK a couple of days before the rutting moon. This is not the peak of rut, but actually the beginning. Research shows that everything revolves around the second full moon after the autumnal equinox, which falls on October 26 this year – this also marks the start of rut.
As the full moon is up, bucks start to move more. This is evident in the increase of deer/car collisions. As the moon begins to wane and nights become increasingly darker, you’re going to see the CHASE. Now is the time to put in plenty of seat time. The buck’s testosterone is maxed. They’re not eating or bedding. They’re chasing every doe they come in contact with and cross checking trails to find estrous urine scent that does will be dribbling as they walk. When a buck finds this scent, he hits it like a bloodhound and begins to grunt with every step as he tracks the estrous doe. This is when I use a doe in estrous scent on a drag rag. I drag this to within 20 yards of my stand and usually put it over the trail I expect the buck to come in on and place it in a tree limb about nose high.
At the chase point in rut, bucks become somewhat predictable. They will be using funnels, drainages and travel corridors to find does. They will be laying down lots of scrapes and rubs. They will also respond to calls better now than at any other time. Use rattling, grunt calls and a doe estrous bleat call now. My two biggest bucks to date were both rattled in during the chase phase. Combining the estrous scent, the sound of a buck fight and a doe in estrous bleating, you’ve just played a performance that should have earned you an academy award but your true reward will be the buck that responds and puts himself right in your lap.
The first week of November and the two week period after will be lock down time. This is when bucks are actually BREEDING does. You’ll know this is happening because scrapes will go cold and you won’t see any new rubs. Activity in the woods will drop way off. Remember: November 3-14 there will be a lot of breeding taking place. The cycle is: SEEKING, CHASING AND BREEDING.
If I had to pick a time for a vacation from work this year, it would be the 7-10 days after the rutting moon of October 26. This is the best time to be in the woods – during the chase phase between 7:45am and 12pm, and again in the afternoon. Watch the barometer and temperature, too. If barometric pressure is moving up or down, deer movement will increase; if temperatures are average or below, deer movement will also increase. So, pack a lunch, let the chores pile up and stay on your stand until your butt turns blue or until the buck you’re after comes along and you get the job done.
When I started hunting about 40 years ago, I would take nothing but a box of shells and a dove vest to go hunt squirrels all day. I usually got a sack full and came home tired and satisfied that I was becoming a hunter. As I grew older and wiser I started to be more careful when I went to the woods and would actually tell someone where I was going. After I married and had two wonderful kids, things really got serious when I went hunting. Safety began to take new meaning. Now I carry so much stuff that some of the deer I see don’t weigh as much as my daypack.
Seriously, I’ve changed the way I do things now in the name of safety. After all, I love my wife’s husband and want to see him come home safe and sound after a hunt. I’d like to share the items I carry every outing for comfort and survival. The list has whittled down over time to the necessities. It may sound like a lot, but at least when I need it, I’ve got it.
First things first, I carry everything in a camouflage daypack with many pockets. It has padded straps for my shoulders and a quick disconnect strap for easy removal. I start loading it with the basics:
Water bottle and half-a-dozen trail mix bars (just in case I get turned around, the water alone could save my life)
Headache medicine and antacid tablets
Toilet paper (for what it is intended and also to track deer – mark the track you take following the deer with TP to get an idea of the direction the deer was heading)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Cigarette lighter and small, lightweight fire-starter blocks in case I need to make a fire
Lightweight poncho to keep dry or provide shelter (plastic ponchos also insulate your body by holding in the heat)
Compass and cell phone with freshly charge battery
This basically covers what I need to survive if the worst happens. I also pack the following for comfort and peace of mind:
Extra shirt and cold weather gloves
Game calls, extra release aid, two razor sharp knives and a leatherman utility tool
Pliers in case a bolt needs to be tightened on my stand
Screw-in utility hooks for hanging my rangefinder or pair of rattling antlers
Small atomizer with scent killer
Parachute cord to tie back limbs that may obstruct shooting lane
Fluorescent pink surveyors ribbons and pill bottle full or bright eyes to mark my way in and out of new hunting spots
Small grappling hook I rigged with three hooks and 22-ft rope to retrieve a fallen head cover or glove
Everyone is different. You may not want to go to these lengths. Consider a fanny pack or day pack next time you go to your stand. You can take a lunch with you and stay on stand all day during the rut. A day pack will leave your hands free to hold your bow or gun and you can hang it on a hook when you get into your stand to have everything close by. It makes staying on stand a lot more enjoyable you have what you need.
With all the various types of wildlife feeders on the market today we are often asked, "What type of feeder should I use?" This video provides helpful tips on how to correctly choose the appropriate wildlife feeder for your specific needs.
This weekend I came home from college to jump into a slightly different hunting style and try my luck against something a bit more feathery and, hopefully, more predictable.
Deer hunting has been very slow this year due to extreme weather conditions that bounce from 80-degree heat to an entire week of torrential rains. Weather has a severe affect on deer, but turkeys on the other hand, they seem to care less.
Fall turkey hunting is in a category of its own. Turkey hunting in the fall doesn’t compare to the spring. Aside from the vibrant array of colors and the wonderful feeling of fall in the air, there’s no action-packed gobbling or strutting. In fact, males seem to be a totally different bird, almost with a sense of manners for once! Toss the decoys back in the corner and grab your camo, gun and a mouth call, because it’s fall turkey time!
Turkeys will usually bachelor up in flocks or perhaps you’ll spot a sly gobbler with a mess of hens during the fall. My grandpa always taught me that birds will gather up in woodlots and live their winter months as comrades.
Birds will usually come out of fields during the morning and just before roost, but the unfortunately they have no time schedule. They’ll come out of the when they want. If they’re hungry, they’ll come out and get a snack. This particular puzzle has ruined so many of my fall turkey hunts that I’ve determined birds are so incredibly clueless, making them smartest animal in the woods. Once they get into a field, there’s no definitive direction they’ll take. Sometimes they’ll go halfway across a field before cutting into their roosting trees, while other times they’ll cut back into the woods from where they came out.
You can only pattern a bird to a certain point. Today they could be picking through a field to eat, tomorrow they may be go to the other side of the woods where a freshly picked cornfield sits, or perhaps they may just relish their entire day in the woods. They are truly unpredictable, and the only surefire way to intercept one is by being patient. Wait for them to screw up and walk in front of you. I’ve never tried the technique of busting a flock and trying to call them back in, I’ll leave that for another day.
We began our venture for Mr. Long beard early, sitting over a rye field, shotgun in hand. I sat over that rye field behind my house for nearly 4 hours without seeing or hearing one bird. As I began to stand up and walk back to the truck, I heard a sharp putt at the field’s edge. My head snapped backwards just in time to see a group of white heads scatter back into the thickets of the woods. That sixth sense of ‘waiting five more minutes’ had really shaken me this time.
That afternoon I patrolled the countryside with binoculars anticipating that I’d spot a group in the field. That didn’t happen. Relying on luck, a bit of frustration and a lack of knowing what to do, I went back to that rye field where I bumped the birds earlier that morning. Skeptical as ever, I decided to sit where I busted them before... figuring I wouldn’t see anything.
As we sat down and brushed ourselves in with branches and leaves, the sun made its way towards the horizon. Time was nearing the roost. Within an hour my friend spotted a group of black spots off to the distance coming toward our setup. As the lead hen drifted back and forth towards the woods and field, the rest of the bunch followed her lead. As they edged the field and forest boundary, I was afraid they’d cut into the woods to never be seen again, but they didn’t. Seven hens and one gobbler strolled within 40 yards. With nothing more than greens and dirt between the gobbler and me, I fired a 3.5-inch shell towards him and luckily put him down.
If there were any lessons learned this weekend, I guess I learned that patience is a virtue, for not only whitetail but also turkey. Fall turkey hunting combines a mixture of luck, patience and wonder to the face-off. I was just lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time. With many tips from my grandpa and cousins to incorporate within my techniques, I’ve been fortunate enough to harvest a great number of birds waiting at the field’s edge... especially near a deer trail, which turkeys will use.
For the past couple of months leading up to hunting season I've literally been preaching, "If you can't do something the right way, don't do it at all." I recently found a huge scrape a week ago in an area right outside my feeder and food plot. I have picture after picture taken with my Moultrie digital game camera of a 20-inch wide 9-pointer and a huge 10-point coming into this spot.
I'd like to make an observation that I've noticed since I started using my trail camera in December of last year. Some people think that deer are afraid of the camera’s flash. I have mine set to take two shots back to back within the same minute. The reason I do this is because one deer could come across the path of the camera directly followed by another one. I want to catch them both. It is extremely useful in the rut when bucks are following does in estrous. The photos I’ve been getting of deer are mostly night pictures. These deer don't seem to be alarmed at all by the flash. In every case they just continue feeding as if nothing has happened. I've thought about it a lot. The only thing I've been able to come up with is that in nature they see lightning all the time and probably think that is what just happened. I don't know of any research that has been done on the subject but it seems to make sense.
Anyway, when I found the scrape last Saturday I put my camera out overlooking it. I didn't get to check it at all until the following Friday. It only had 22 pictures, but I knew even before viewing them that every one of them would be of deer checking the scrape. I was excited. What I found was that this scrape has become a "COMMUNITY SCRAPE." Believe it or not, there is such a thing. During the rest of the year, bucks and does will tend the LICKING BRANCH above the scrape but won't paw the ground. When it starts getting close to the rut bucks will open the scrape and continue working the overhanging branches of the tree. Talk about blown away! There were a total of five different bucks in a week’s time that checked that scrape. Two of the five were the bucks I'm after. They are beautiful. You can tell that they are both mature bucks with that distinct sway back of an older age class buck. Their racks are dark and their coats are shiny and smooth.
Even as tired as I was, I could hardly sleep because of thinking about those pictures. What a fantastic tool these cameras are. It takes so much of the guesswork out of wondering where you should hunt with the information as well as the pictures it gives you of what's in your area. My Moultrie model GameSpy 200 gives me the time, date, moon phase and temperature. You could write a journal based on the information the camera gives you. No more wasting your time in the wrong place.
I woke up at 6 a.m. this Saturday after seeing the pictures. I stumbled through the dark house and continued to fight with myself about whether or not to get ready and go. This went on for about 30 minutes. I finally made my way to the coffee pot. I started getting ready and after a quick bite, I headed out the door. I finally made it to the woods with bow in hand at about 7:30. What a mistake!! As soon as I started down the trail to my stand, which is within sight of the scrape, two deer took off that were AT THE SCRAPE!! It was full light by now. I took another couple of steps and two more took off to my left. By now that sinking feeling that I've just blown it came over me. I was kicking myself big time for being late. I couldn’t get it out of my head that any of the deer that just ran off could have been the bucks I'm after. You don't get second chances with bucks like that very often. I continued on and got into my stand. By now I was so keyed up and tense that I didn't sit down the entire time except the last 15 minutes of the hunt. I stood holding my bow, scared to put it down. The woods were just damp enough that the deer were able to walk in almost complete silence.
At about 8:30 I saw a doe come down the trail the scrape is on and she didn't react at all when she came across my entry trail. My scent elimination strategy worked again. A few minutes later I once again heard walking and saw her two fawns, now without spots, following her. They met up and began feeding on acorns under a white oak. The morning was beautiful with a temp about 49 degrees. I'm still kicking myself about being late. That might have been my one and only chance at the big bucks this season. Many times after an encounter like that, a big buck will not vacate the area but will skirt you just far enough to be comfortable again. It's over for your chance at him from that stand though. You'll have to do some very careful scouting and see if you can find him and set up again. I've learned my lesson. Maybe, hopefully, I'll have another chance. I know one thing. I won't be late again!
It's that time of year again. The weather is finally getting cooler, football season is in full swing, Halloween is upon us and, most importantly, hunting season is here! All of this means it is time for Moultrie's annual Monster Buck Contest. We want to see if your buck has what it takes to win. This year Moultrie is giving away free GameSpy t-shirts to weekly winners. The Grand Prize winner will receive a GameSpy Camera Pack, which includes one GameSpy I-60 infrared digital trail camera, a digital picture viewer, 128MB SD Card and D-cell batteries - everything you need to capture a Monster Buck!
Visit the Moultrie Feeder's Photo Gallery to enter your picture or browse through our weekly winners. (Click here for official contest rules)
There’s no place I’ve sat longer in a fixed position than a tree stand, period.
As we approach the ultimate whitetail rut, our sitting time will increase almost 40-50 percent! The usual evening sit will compare to absolutely nothing once late October rolls around. A time when bucks roam by nose and that moment of truth can happen in a split second, you know it is show time.
I’ve learned over the years a few tricks that may make the time go a bit faster, or at least seem so. Being in the video and television business, I’ve also learned that you sit until the end. For as much money, time and effort put into the hunt, you must sit every waking minute of daylight in the tree to hopefully pay it all back with a television show or video. For the most part, no kill, no show. It can be an exasperating endeavor, and a lot to ask of someone like me whose attention span is about as long as my pull-up rope.
I remember filming in southern Wisconsin one year my cameraman actually brought an I-Pod to prevent him from going insane with boredom. We communicated by nudges if I heard something or saw something. It’s probably not the best idea to rock out in your tree stand, but if it makes you stay in it longer, so be it. I’ve also had cameramen bring handheld gaming systems. Trust me, I’d rather be playing games than staring at the same leaf, tree and dirt for 9 hours.
Some people are better at staying completely focused than others, my cousin being one of them. He is the only person I know who can sit for over 5 hours, without saying a word or cracking a joke back to me. I give him props. I think the cut-off point for most people is roughly after the sixth hour and it may come earlier if you haven’t seen any deer.
I know a lot of hunters who walk into their setup 45 minutes before daylight, only to sit until the sun makes its rounds. I typically do things a bit differently. When hunting during the rut, I’ll usually walk into my setup as light begins to enter the woods and I’m able to see my feet. Some people chastise me for doing so, but I’ve had much luck time and time again with this systematic approach.
Walking in complete darkness even with a flashlight is difficult, especially when you are trying to be quiet and sneaking through the leaves and sticks on the forest floor. When there’s soft light, you are able to trek lightly and ease your way in, which sounds more or less like a deer anyway. Another reason is that many instances hunters will kick back bucks or does that are going to bed by simply intercepting them, which in turn bumps them and you are done! I’d like to think that going in a little later makes the sit easier and shorter and does have its benefits.
We all have our own styles and approaches, but that’s what makes all of us unique. Whether you’re like me and carry a cell phone in the woods to text and play solitaire or perhaps do the traditional style of sitting without anything but the sheer feeling of being outdoors, I commend you. In my way of thinking, I’ve never shot a deer off the sofa or lying in bed. In simple terms, the more you’re out in the stand freezing, staring at that brown withered leaf, the more likely you’ll come out of the woods with a prize.
I was saddened to find out that on Sunday, Oct. 7th here in Cherokee County 66 year-old John Frix was attacked and killed by a red stag. Family members reported him missing on Sunday night to the Cherokee county sheriffs’ office. A responding deputy found Frix’s body inside a pen where the Red Stag was kept. Family members said that the deer had been acting aggresive for the last few days. The red stag is native to Europe and can grow to more than 400 pounds. Frix loved to raise exotic animals on this ranch, "The Trail of Tears." Among the animals he raised were buffalo, llama and red stag. The one that gored Frix was estimated to weigh more than 200 pounds. The deer was later killed. The Department of Natural Resourses personnel said the deer was in rut.
This is a grim reminder that the deer we love so much to pursue can be deadly dangerous during rut. I know of two other cases where hunters were rattling antlers on the ground and whitetail bucks charged them. One of the men was a guide I met at the Atlanta Buckarama a few years ago. He said he was rattling for a client on a Texas hunting ranch when a big 8-point buck charged from the brush. The charge was so fast and violent that the guide couldn't move out of the way and the buck hit him full force in the side. The guide showed me the scars from the antler punctures that broke two ribs and punctured his left lung. After hitting the guide the buck ran off.
The other case was in Georgia where a hunter was late getting to his stand during rut. When he got close to his stand he noticed deer chasing each other in a hardwood bottom. He decided to sit with his back against a tree and try rattling one of the bucks closer to him. He went through a sequence and was about to put the antlers down when he heard crashing right in front of him. Instinctively he grabbed his gun just as a nice 9-pointer broke from the brush with his rack down at a charge. The guy was scared out of his mind and in a panic shot from his lap at the buck. The shot hit the buck in the chest; it went down and skidded to within a few feet of where the hunter was sitting.
Bucks full of testosterone with necks swollen and thinking only of breeding are some of the most dangerous animals in North America during rut. Hunters should never put any kind of estrous or territorial infringment type lures on them or near their set up if they are on the ground. These men found out the hard way just how quickly things can go wrong. If I'm going to use a lure for hunting I put it on a drag rag at the end of a string and walk down a known trail near my stand. When I get within 20 yards of my stand I make a wide circle into a shooting lane. I want the bucks attention on the scent and off of my location. Be careful during the rut when using calls or scents this season. I shutter at the thought of what a 200-pound, 8- or 10-pointer could do to you if he charged with everything he had. The red stag didn't have any kind of sickness or disease; he was doing what Mother Nature programmed him to do. My prayers go out to the Frix family.
It seems that the summer just doesn’t want to give way to fall. We’re into October already. The temps are still in the high 80’s during the day and high 60’s at night. The rain has been spotty at best and the ground is still hard and dusty. Bow season has started, and just like every other year I’m looking for transition zones where two habitat types come together i.e. thick pines meet open hardwoods in a defined line. There will always be a travel corridor along the edge, you can count on it. When I find an area like this or where a pine plantation has been thinned and a row is open about 20 yards wide and 60 yards long, I have myself an opportunity.
If this opening just happens to be close to a natural travel corridor such as a creek drainage or along a transition area, I start looking for a place to make an out-of-the-way secret food plot. This will be one that only I know about. It usually is pretty inaccessible and unless you have an ATV with a small trailer to pull behind, you’re in for a little work. If it’s at all possible to get a walk behind tiller into the area, you’re in business. If not, a good steel rake is the ticket. I like to make the plot small, say 15 yards wide by about 30 to 40 yards long. I want to put a stand 20 yards off the plot close to an approach trail on the downwind side.
I start by getting my equipment together. I either use the tiller or a steel rake to rough up the ground. I want to bring my fertilizer, food plot seed, grow coat, broadcast spreader and a 10-ft. long by 4-ft. wide piece of chain link fence. I take a pruning saw on a long pole and cut away any overhanging tree limbs that will cast shadows across the plot. You want as much sunlight as possible to be able to hit the ground. If the grass, weeds or pine straw are heavy on the ground I’ll rake away as much as I can. If they aren’t too bad, I put out my fertilizer first. I use 10-10-10. The reason for this is to save myself a step. When I till all the grasses or weeds under I will also be tilling in the fertilizer at the same time. If time allows I will till in a cross type fashion to make sure the ground is tilled well and I have a good seed bed.
Next, I fill up the broadcast spreader with a good, fall-type seed such as rape, brassicas, clover, iron clay peas and a little grow coat to help the roots of the plants really get a jump start. There are many good food plot seed companies that have gone to great lengths to provide a seed blend that is right for any part of the country. There are also seed blends that don’t require any soil preparation besides just roughing it up some with a steel rake. If I’m really way back in the woods and have to tote everything in, I’ll use this type of seed. I start by using a zigzag motion with my spreader. To an onlooker you look like you have mental problems. It works though. After I spread the seed, I use the length of chain link fence to drag behind me all over the plot in a back and forth, side to side fashion to bury the seed 1\4- to 1\2-inch deep in the soil. This gives the seed their best chance to germinate and the birds won’t peck up the majority of it before it has a chance to get started. About all that’s left to do is pray for rain. If you’re near a creek you can take a watering bucket and give it a good watering before you leave for the day.
Sure, I’ve given up a little sit time in the stand to do this but it is well worth it. Especially when it’s your own little honey hole that no one knows about but you. It’s the secluded places like this that are small and out of the way that the biggest bucks in the area may feel the most comfortable coming to.
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