This is a transitional time in the woods. Some does have been bred, others are still to be bred, bow season is still on in some states, the rifles are starting to boom (or will shortly) in other areas. Four things to keep in mind:
#1: Hunt where two or three ridges converge and peter out into a creek bottom or swamp. The thicker the cover the better. If food sources are anywhere close, the spot will be a dumping ground for lots of whitetails. No doubt you’ll find trails, rubs and scrapes. Set a stand or blind on a vantage 150 yards or so downwind of a convergence of hills and watch for a day or two. Once you get a better idea of how, when and where deer move through the area, move in tighter for a quick-strike ambush. Of course if you’re hunting with a gun and a burly shooter rolls by within range, take him. It could happen.
#2:Look for the narrowest point between two blocks of woods, and set a stand or blind to cover it. When crossing a crop field or pasture many bucks will run the choke point between the two timbers or thickets, thereby minimizing their exposure in the wide open. This is an especially good setup for gun hunters. Stay on your toes and be ready for a quick shot, because bucks generally trot or move quickly from point A to B. Stop one in the open middle with a big grunt or a rattling blast if you have to.
#3: “X marks the spot” might be your deadliest tactic. Follow scrapes to a spot where it cuts a major doe trail deep in the woods. There you will find freshly thrashed saplings and more scrapes. Hang a stand on the downwind side of that intersection. You will see bucks; one might be a shooter.
#4: Hunting pressure changes everything, and you have got to factor it in to your strategy. If you hunt private ground or a block of public land with people, let them have the fields, cutovers, creek funnels and other “best” spots. You check an aerial map and go the thickest, roughest hell-holes a three-quarters of a mile or more away. That’s where the big bucks will go to flee the pressure, but most of the other people won’t go there. Hunt deep inside and get your buck.
Been on the road chasing the rut for 2 weeks now, finally got some Wi-Fi to check in. Ten days ago up in Saskatchewan I shot one of the biggest 8-pointers I’ve killed in a while, the rack scored 140. It was cold, near zero, but no snow. The buck ghosted down a ridge at 3 pm, further confirmation that big bucks move at midday especially during a full moon. Shot him with my Remington Model 783 in .270 with a 150-grain Core-Lokt SP bullet.
From there headed down to Sheridan, Wyoming, where I hunted in the shadows of the Bighorn Mountains. It snowed and was severely cold…temps -10, snow, and one day the legendary Wyoming winds gusted to -40 and -50.
But the bucks were in full-blown rut and the hunting and rattling were spectacular. Shot this fantastic 5-year-old buck, whose rack had double split G-2s and great mass out through the beams. Used my favorite rifle, a Remington Model 700 in 7mm RUM topped with Trijicon 2.5-10X scope, and shooting a 150-grain Scirroco Bonded bullet.
Driving north into eastern Montana now, looking for a good mule deer and more killer footage for Big Deer TV. Hope they are rutting like the whitetails are. Good luck with your hunting.
Hey Mike: Just wanted to share a picture of the buck I shot Saturday morning Nov. 1st, 8:00am. It was 26 degrees and frosty out. I could hear him coming from over a hundred yards away in the crunchy leaves. Almost no wind. He’s my best bow kill to date. He was on the prowl looking for does. Shot him at 25 yards, double lung with a Thunderhead Razor. Only went maybe 60 yards and piled up.
Thanks Mike and keep up the good work.–Scott Geurink ”aka Scott from MI”
Love posting these BIG DEER blogger bucks, send me yours.
Hey Mike, this is Devin Danflous I shot the 200-inch, 21-point back when I was 14 (see picture below). This is my dad’s buck from this season. It’s a buck I jumped up toward the beginning of the year and I was determined to get him. My dad went out one day while I was at school, sat in a blind where I shot my big buck and shot this pig of an 8-point. I was happy for him and glad that one of us got the buck.—Thanks, Devin from Ohio
Mike, I haven’t had much luck hunting scrapes, what do you suggest? Emory P. from PA
Emory, I hear you man, scrape hunting is dang unpredictable. But here’s something to think about. A University of Georgia study found that three, five or more bucks might scrape like crazy on one ridge or in a creek bottom, while other sets of scrapes only 300 yards or so away might go cold overnight. So you always have to be looking for and hunting the hottest scrapes with the most buck activity right now.
I suggest: If you hunt a set of scrapes for two or three days and don’t see a buck, pull out of there immediately and scout for hotter, fresher scrapes 200 to 500 yards away. The Georgia study also found that when you find the red-hot scrapes, almost every buck large and small that travels through the area will veer over to smell them.
Now most of this buck activity around scrapes will be at night…but not all of it. The best you can do it to find the hottest scrapes, hang a tree stand on that ridge or in that bottom (thicker the cover the better) and sit it in all day during the rut. There’s a decent chance you’ll see a buck cruise through the area in shooting light.