It’s the rut that gets bowhunters cranked up. Finding scrapes, spotting dramatic antler rubs, or catching a glimpse of a buck trailing a willing doe is enough to raise the heart rate of any deer hunter.
This is the kind of action and adventure that makes bowhunting so popular. Unfortunately, the fun and excitement is short lived. The whitetail deer rutting season stretches out over two months, but the peak breeding activity lasts only a couple weeks.
In most states the pre-rut period falls during the archery season, but at least part of the peak rut occurs after the firearm hunting season begins. Nothing puts a halt to rutting activity like the invasion of the orange coats! Heavy hunting pressure quickly forces deer to carry on their rutting activities under the cover of darkness. The result is far less deer movement than you might expect, even during the peak of the rut.
Bowhunters who hit the woods early in the season don’t have the luxury of hunting love-sick animals, but an even more predicable force governs the movements of deer prior to the rut. A buck’s appetite during “October is his greatest weakness.
Food, especially sweet mast crops such as apples, acorns, beech nuts, persimmons, hawthorn berries, and pears top the list of deer delicacies. Deer simply can’t resist these foods that are only available in early fall.
Agricultural crops are also deer magnets. The primary targets include corn and alfalfa, but deer will also feed on beans, potatoes, and sugar beets. These important crops provide the focus for early season bowhunting. Locating these foods and the trails deer use to access them is the first step in patterning an early season buck. Scouting efforts must be conducted with a little disturbance as possible. If suitable cover is located near a prime food supply, deer will often bed down only yards from a grub stake.
Hunting Agricultural Crops
In the case of agricultural crops, scouting can often be conducted from a distance using binoculars. Deer usually access farm fields from dense cover adjacent to the field. Often these access points are low spots that help deer slip out into the field without being spotted by passing vehicles.
An evening or two spent watching from a safe distance can pinpoint the exact trail deer use in route to these fields. Adult bucks are often reluctant to step out into these fields until after dark. Normally bucks use the same trails as does, but instead of stepping out in the daylight, they hold up in the cover a short distance away and wait for darkness to fall.
To intercept these, bucks hunters must place their stands back into the cover a short distance from the field edges. The route taken to the Island must one the hunter can walk quietly and without crossing the area bucks are likely to come from.
In areas where a tree stand can be left overnight, it’s best to have the stand set days or weeks before the season begins. On public lands however, it’s often necessary to put up and take down the stand each day. In this case, it’s critical to select a stand that can be easily set and taken down with a minimal amount of noise. A climbing style stand like Summit’s Cobra Xtreme is a top choice. This stand uses a 8,000 pound ;cable with stop sleeves that allows absolute quiet climbing. You can find it on our site.
If a strap-on style stand is used, strap-on climbing poles are the fastest and quietest way to climb and descend a tree. Some of these climbing aids nestle together to form a ladder, and others are two- or three-step versions that are strapped to the tree as required. Screw-in style tree steps are too difficult to work with and in many states the use of these climbing aids is outlawed.
When scouting, putting up stands, and hunting, wear knee-high rubber boots to avoid laying down a human scent trail. Also, keep in mind that wind direction will make or break any bowhunt. When hunting the trails leading to food sources, it’s especially critical to have the wind in your favor. Don’t depend on cover scents or scent absorbing clothing to correct for an unfavorable wind direction. It’s better to cancel a hunt than to risk spooking an animal.