Editor’s Note: If you understand what causes the rut, when the rut occurs, and what bucks do during the rut, you can increase your odds for bagging a mature whitetail each season. Of course, all across the U.S., rutting times are different. As many myths exist about the whitetails’ mating season as there are proven scientific facts. To determine what the rut means to the deer hunter and how to hunt the rut more effectively, let’s ask wildlife scientists.
When hunting a trophy buck during the rut, remember this trophy greatly has expanded his home range to locate more estrous does. So, even though the buck may expose himself more often during daylight hours, being able to accurately predict where and when that buck will show up at a certain spot may become more difficult.
“For the outdoorsman who’s hunting property where he’s not spotted a trophy buck all season, this may be good news,” Dr. Karl Miller, a research scientist at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab near Athens, Georgia, reports. “When the dominant buck expands his home range, he may cross land and he hasn’t frequented at any other time of the year, exposing himself to more hunters who are in search of trophy bucks. If I have one buck tag left to fill, and I’m hunting deer in the rut, I’ll let little bucks pass by in hopes that I’ll see a trophy buck that is expanding his territory.
“Other hunters also can make bagging a trophy buck easier. Although most hunters say they want to take trophy bucks, the average hunter generally will harvest any buck, usually in that 1-1/2-year-old-age class, prior to the rut. To become a trophy hunter, the sportsman must be willing to let small bucks pass, while he’s waiting on a big buck. Since few hunters are willing to do that, competition for the trophy animals often is much less.
“All the world of deer hunting is searching for the magic potion like deer urine that they think will lure a dominant buck to within gun range. Many sportsmen think that sprinkling the urine of a doe in estrus will draw a rutting buck to within gun range. But there’s a problem with this theory. The only way to tell is a doe is in estrus is to put her in a pen with a buck. If the buck mounts her, then she’s in estrus. If the buck doesn’t mount the doe, she’s not. Trying to find the urine of a doe in estrus is a very-complicated problem and can’t be considered to be a magic elixir that always will lure in bucks, since does urinate every day. Knowing when a doe is in estrus is the key to collecting estrous urine, and that’s a wild guess at best.
A better buck attractant to use may be the urine of a dominant buck, which may have more effect on another dominant buck. Scientists have learned a difference does exist between the urine of a dominant buck and the other bucks in the herd. Only one dominant buck can live in a specific area. If the hunter can collect the urine of a dominant buck (perhaps the urine of a trophy deer that has been killed somewhere else) and sprinkle some of that dominant buck urine in the scrape of the trophy buck he’s trying to hunt, then this action may bring the trophy buck to that scrape quicker and more often. The trophy buck may feel he’s being challenged by another dominant deer that has moved into his region.
“Another tactic that should produce a dominant buck during the peak of the rut is to hunt the travel trails where you’ve seen nothing but does. If the hunter has identified a region that does travel frequently during hunting season but has failed to see a buck in this area, the sportsman should return to this particular spot during the rut. At some time during the rut, one of those does will come into estrus. When she does, there will be a buck following her. If you’re on your stand in the place where you’ve seen those does, then sooner or later those does will have a buck following them. Because he is the dominant buck, he claims the right to breed all the does in his dominance area, which makes him extremely vulnerable during the rut when his sex drive supersedes his natural wariness.”
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