It is October here in Missouri now and with that the rut is literally right around the corner. As most hunters would agree, the time period before the rut and during can be the best time to be in the woods. What a lot of hunters don’t fully realize is there is different phases to the rut. In this post I’ll be getting right to the point and providing the most important things you need to be aware of during each phase of the rut. Also, although I have shared my thoughts as of lately on rut predictions. I’ll provide you with projected dates that these events typically occur for whitetail hunters in Missouri.
Average Dates in MO: October 18 – November 2
Scouting Tactics: Scout food sources like Oak trees/acorns, fruit trees, cut corn, alphalpha and other mast which is likely to bring deer in. Look for rub lines and scrapes on the edges of these food sources. Some scrapes may still be fairly faint in the earlier parts of the pre-rut. But will be hit up more frequently as October progresses.
Best Communication Tactics:
Grunting: grunting is perhaps the best communication method at this time. Subtle soft grunts are the best way to contact bucks in this phase.
Decoy: As bucks have rising testosterone levels at this time they are starting to check feeding sites for the first hot doe. Buck decoys might get that testosterone churning in dominant bucks. Try a decoy on field edges for your best shot.
Rattling: Bachelor groups may start establishing dominance/heirarchy at this time through light sparring. Rattling during the pre-rut is more likely to attract subordinate bucks than the more mature bucks out of curiosity. But shouldn’t be relied on.
Important Things to Remember: During the pre-rut you may start to see the beginning signs of rutting activity as a small percent of does come into estrus around the pre-rut moon, but that typically drops off quickly. Start looking for rubs and scrapes, especially towards the end of the pre-rut. These signs are left by bucks to let the does know that he is nearby and will be ready to breed. In my opinion, active scrapes are the best place to hunt in the pre-rut. These are the social hangouts for bucks during the pre-rut.
Phase: SEEKING AND CHASING
Average Dates in MO: November 3-12
Scouting Tactics: Look for fresh rubs and rub lines. If you find a hot one, hunt it as soon as possible. Also a hot doe in the area is a great way to encounter a mature buck.
Best Communication Tactics:
Grunting: Tending grunts by bucks are the best call to use in this phase. It lets other bucks in the area know there’s a hot doe in the area that another buck is after. But be ready, it should spark some testosterone in a mature buck.
Decoy: Looking for hot does, bucks can respond well to doe decoys in feeding areas during this phase.
Rattling: As testosterone levels in bucks sky rocket, they’re more likely to pick a fight, and check out other sparing bucks to show their dominance. Rattling works best in areas with higher buck to doe ratios. In areas with low buck to doe ratios rattling should be used sparingly or not at all because bucks usually don’t need to fight other bucks to find hot does.
Important Things to Remember: Scrapes that were being checked frequently just a week or two ago are starting to be ignored. If you find a good solid rub line during the late pre-rut, hunt it as soon as possible. If you’re hunting an area that doesn’t get a lot of hunting pressure, you can feel free to grunt, snort-wheeze or doe bleat fairly aggressively. Be ready when you do, things can happen very fast in this phase of the rut.
During this phase, bucks will start checking the does’ scent and chase them aggressively, sometimes for hundreds of yards. Find the does at this time and you’re more likely to find the bucks. More mature bucks will avoid heavy traffic areas and travel in heavier cover and try to stay downwind of popular feeding areas, checking for those hot does. So wind should be an important factor when hitting the woods in this phase.
Phase: PEAK BREEDING
Average Dates in MO: November 13 – November 24
Scouting Tactics: Look for scrapes and rub lines and travel corridors between doe bedding areas; any sign of frequent deer travel. Get on stand and hunt all day during this phase, this should be the time of year you hunt the hardest.
Best Communication Tactics:
Rattling: During the actual rut most fighting is between dominant rivals of more equal stature and could scare off more subordinate bucks. Take the horns to the stand everyday. Rattle and wait 30 minutes to an hour, but be sure to make sure you know the wind. Because dominant bucks will circle downwind of most rattling they hear.
Grunting: Aggressive calling works well at this time, simultaneously with rattling can be a deadly combination.
Doe Bleat: Doe bleats work well at this time since bucks are aggressively looking for hot those does.
Estrous Doe Lures: Estrous scents can work well at this time if used properly. Try using a drag-rag and making a figure-8 trail around your stand, placing your stand or blind at the apex. Searching bucks may get wind of your trail and follow it right to your stand site. During the final day or two of the rut, try hunting thicker cover in or near a bucks core area. They’ll often return to these areas to recover after a very intense rut of chasing, seeking, and breeding.
Important Things to Remember: During peak breeding, bucks are looking to pair up with a hot doe and may be locked up with her during her 24-36 hour estrous cycle. During this time the woods may seem to be quiet. But don’t lose hope, this is still a great time to be in the stand all day long. That’s because big bucks will move at mid-day as they leave the doe they’ve just bred and seek out others coming into estrous.
Phase: POST RUT & SECONDARY RUT
Average Dates in MO: November 25-December 15
Scouting Tactics: During the post rut, hunt food sources hunt food sources HUNT FOOD SOURCES! Bucks are stocking up on those lost calories of the rut and trying to gain back body mass for the harsh winters. If you find a reliable food source, hunt it. Brassicas are the ultimate late season food source in my opinion. A lot of times some of the best trophy bucks can be taken in this phase.
September is upon us here in The Show-Me State. There’s just a bit of crisp in the air in the mornings and days are getting shorter. Not to mention football is back! But with the changing of seasons comes a Missouri deer hunters prime time. The rut will be upon us in a few short weeks. Bucks in my neck of the woods are starting to split up bachelor groups and isolate themselves. Proof that the wild storm that is the whitetail rut is brewing.
Last year I wrote on rut predictions that were heavily dependent on the moon phases. These predictions are brought to us by Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine’s Charles Alsheimer. He’s released his rut prediction again for this fall and it’s a much different rut prediction from last fall’s. Alsheimer’s prediction this year is predicting a much later rut. The “rutting moon” as it’s called is said to hit on November 17th this year. With peak rutting activity predicted to be seen from November 14th to the 25th. He has also predicted a “trickle rut”, much like that of 2010. The definition of a trickle rut is a rut that has no true high point. There are highs and lows, but no ultimate date that the most rutting activity will occur. I could go into so much more detail on Charles predictions for this year, but for my sanity I won’t.
Personally, I’ve had it with all these predictions by hunting magazines. They are never consistent with the actual rut that fall (at least in my area of the country). Instead I’m going to tell you my own personal rut prediction for this fall, you ready for it? IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN! Bucks are going to establish territories, chase does, and breed those does. Simple as that. The best way to hunt my prediction is even simpler, BE IN THE WOODS as much as possible and hunt everyday you can for the month of November. Ask any successful trophy hunter and that’s the first thing they’ll tell you. They hunt every day possible. Now I realize folks work and have lives; me personally I’m a full-time college student an hour and a half away from the property I hunt. So for the majority of people, you can’t hunt every single day of November. But hopefully you understand what I’m getting at. Hunt as much as possible. The deer are gonna be out there, and they’re gonna be moving. Only way to know if you’ll get that trophy is if you’re 20 feet in a tree.
Good news is the deer out there most likely will be the same deer you saw all summer scouting too. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Ecology tells of how bucks didn’t enlarge their home ranges during the rut, they only increased their movements in those home ranges during the rut. The study also showed the bucks remained most active at dawn and twilight. It showed that moon phase had no influence on deer behavior or movement. The only factor that had any influence was change in temperature and climate. If your scouting showed great potential in the summer. Odds are those bucks are still in the area. Only thing you need to do is be in the woods with them.
With an increase in movement during the rut in a mature bucks home range. The best way to have an encounter with that buck is the set up in travel corridors or pinch points. High traffic areas are, in my opinion, the best way to bring home a trophy. Mapping out a pinch point between a food resource and bedding area is the best travel corridor in the book. You need to hunt what a whitetail is after, before you can hunt whitetails. Food is still the number one thing on a whitetail’s mind, everyday of the year. Just make sure you have a safe entry and exit point to a stand in a corridor, to keep from kicking up deer that might be meeting you as you come in. I’ve had some of the best hunts in travel corridors during the rut. I highly recommend sitting in the stand all day in these situations. You won’t be disappointed.
Rut predictions to me are a dime a dozen. They all tell the same story. The rut WILL happen. Yes, they are great debating points and give some insight. But to keep you from investing all your chips on a one or two day window, I recommend you avoid them. That way you save yourself from major disappointment in the end.
Like always the best way to success is preparation. Through hard work, scouting, and being prepared to execute. Those are the keys to success in November. If you have those locked down, you should be just fine in the deer hunters prime time.
Good Hunting Folks!
I’m a firm believer in trail cameras. I think every avid whitetail hunter should have 4 or 5, more if you can afford it. They’ve become the most useful scouting tool of this century, and they’re becoming even more and more advanced every year. So enough of my short rant about how awesome trail cams can be. Let me introduce you to the bucks that have showed up on the property (very recently).
First off, we have two bucks that have been running around together. Cheech and T-Post are the names they’ve received. T-Post because of his amazingly tall brow tines that tower over the rest of his rack.
Cheech is harder to recognize because he is farther off in this pic, but he’s a classic looking 8 pointer that would score in the 130’s maybe. I’m putting him on my hit list but one or two more seasons of growth could make him a real trophy with amazing symmetry. These two also run around with a younger buck called Mr. Krabs. He’s a three year old with a lot of potential. Last year as a two year old he had a nice rack with his last tines extending farther past his main beam points. This year he doesn’t have that characteristic in his rack, but his main beams and last tines still make a great looking crab claws still.
Here is Mr. Krabs hanging out with T-Post. These three hit my biggest mineral lick very frequently later into the summer this year. I hope to see them hitting my Frigid Forage Big n Beasty plot even more this fall.
My next hit list buck is Longfellow, he’s a deer that could use more growth but would make an awesome buck to take because of the character in his rack. He’s been showing up on a piece of property we call The Jackson property all summer. He’s got a large pack of two year old bucks tagging along with him everywhere he’s been seen. This is a new piece of property that I’ll be hunting this year and I have a feeling he’ll swing by the stand a lot this fall.
(he’s in the bottom corner of this pic, this is the only pic that shows his super long last points on his main beams.)
The pack of two year old bucks running with him is a great indicator of the future for these properties. Lots of young bucks means that hopefully down the line we see a lot more buck activity on the properties than what we’ve seen in the past.
This next buck has only showed one pic. It’s hard to distinguish if it’s a different buck or just one of the hit list bucks previously noted, but I think it’s a buck who is very reclusive. He’s got a nice rack and he looks good in this pic, right in front of a stand on the edge of this field.
He’s at least a seven or eight year old deer, identifiable by his sagging back and belly. As for the name Thor, it was the only name I could think of for a deer I want to do nothing more than PUT THE HAMMER DOWN on him. His G2’s both split at the bases which just scream extra inches to score. I’m stepping out on a limb here saying this, but as a lifetime reader of Outdoor Life, I think this buck could be a contender for Deer of the Year. (Once again, huge claim but sticking to it.)
Here’s another one just because he’s an awe inspiring (definition of awesome according to my college Literature professor) buck. He’s got a little buddy running around with him too I’ve called Peg cause his left side is just a little stump, a characteristic that’s been in the gene pool for a whole lot of years around here.
If you notice in the pics, the dates are all fairly close to each other. I’m guessing the recent spike in bucks on camera can come from the lower temps here lately this July and August, allowing for increased deer activity all around.
Thanks for reading again and I’m glad to share my hit list and the characters on it this year. I hope you readers have just as much luck as I’ve had with scouting this summer. An increase in hours in the field has been the main contributor I think to my recent success with scouting out these studs. It believe it’ll make a huge difference this year.
Good Hunting Folks!
Wow, it’s been almost a year since I started this blog and just as long since my last post. I apologize for my absence from my blog and anyone who reads it. As a full time college student I had priorities after deer season ended last year. After school I got wrapped up in my summer job and other things that seem to make life fly by. But in all of the clutter I never seem to wander from my thoughts and ideas for the up coming deer season. I’ve had a little free time and I decided to bring up the blog and share how my offseason has gone.
First off I’d like to share how the Pinch Point Plot worked out. It turns out it didn’t work out at all, life has a funny way of doing that to you. But turns out to cut an entire acre square of timber down would be extremely difficult and detrimental to the property I hunt. It was a good plan, it just seems I aimed a little to high with my resources I have access too.
The outcome of having to change food plot ideas has been just as exciting though. I found a spot about 100 yards to the east of one of my stands last fall that I had a lot of success with, and was able to see a bunch of interesting deer activity. This new spot was a cleared out area that came from the water plant doing test drilling for wells. This particular spot was not ideal for a well, but it is shaping up to be a great secluded plot to hunt come fall.
After a week full of brush clearing and weed eating, I was able to get my mothers tiller in and till the soil up and a day later I sewed Frigid Forage Big n Beasty brassicas in the whole area.
I think this plot could be a huge success. It sits in the timber that seems to be a huge travel corridor for the deer. Travel corridors seem to be my favorite things to hunt here the past few years. i just feel it increases your odds of getting on a buck that is trying to stay secluded while cruising For does. There’s really two access points to this plot so I know exactly where the deer will be going and coming from. It also it completely surrounded by timber which could allow for a lot of daytime activity. The deer could move into the plot without feeling threatened. It’s got a lot of potential.
I’ve gotten a stand set up of the east side of the plot and hope to start hunting it after the first couple frosts hit. I’ll hopefully keep you posted as the season comes.
I’d like to give a little hint into my next post which will probably come tomorrow sometime. Earlier in the week I was able to check my trail cams. I’m pleased to tell you the cooler than normal August we’re having in MO is getting some MONSTER bucks moving and on camera. I’ve got 4 hit list bucks to share with you and I can’t wait to tell you how I plan to hunt them.
Good Hunting Folks!
So first off, I know I haven’t made a post in a while. But If anyone has been a full-time college student, you can understand that somethings take priority. But I’m back (for now).
The leaves are really turning brown in my neck of the woods, yesterday we had our first real taste of cold weather. I couldn’t be happier about it either, because that means one thing to us deer hunters. The rut is just around the corner. But exactly “when” around the corner?
One of the biggest arguments in deer hunting circles is what triggers the onset of estrous in does and the specific date of the peak of the rut. Some say the moon, some claim the weather, and some say it’s the amount of sunlight per day in the fall. It’s an on going debate year to year among die hard hunters.
So in this post I’m going to share with you the prediction I’m basing some of my hunting on. Also I’ll give a few good ideas of what kind of set up I think would work in each phase of the rut. Hopefully I can help you make a prediction of when your going to be in the stand this fall.
One of the biggest claims is the onset of the 2nd full moon after the Autumn Equinox. According to the this theory, once this moon (which they call the “Rutting Moon”) hits, most doe’s estrus cycles kick into gear and the peak of the rut follows shortly. There’s been a lot of research in this area, and a lot of data to back it up. One of the biggest supporters of this predictions is Charles Alsheimer. Who has done 15 years of research with this “Rutting Moon Prediction”. Charles main hypothesis to his research is this:
At some point in autumn, the amount of sunlight decreases enough to reset the whitetail’s reproductive clock, thus placing the breeding season in November, December and January in the Northern Hemisphere. Once a doe’s reproductive cycle is reset by a specific amount of daylight, her estrous cycle is ready to be cued by moonlight, which provides a bright light stimulus to the pineal gland several nights in a row each lunar month. Then, the rapid decrease in lunar brightness during the moon’s third quarter triggers hormonal production by the pineal gland. Physiological changes prompted by the pineal gland culminate in ovulation and estrus.
Now the “Rutting Moon” this fall hits on October 29th, and with Alsheimer’s claims this is the kick start to this years rut. But 4 to 5 days before the 29th, Alsheimer says there will be an increase in buck activity during the “Seeking Phase”. Which to me is a great time to be in the woods. Bucks are cruising outside their normal home ranges to find as many does as possible. This time of the year is a great time to spend all day in the stand. There’s no telling what might pass by your set up, especially if you’re in a funnel or pinch point, where deer feel they have to travel. Alsheimer then goes on to claim that starting around November 2nd, the “Chasing Phase” of the rut should come into full swing. This is personally my favorite time of the rut. It’s that boiling point in the buck’s testosterone. Expect to see a lot of buck activity, from chasing does to fighting. Be in the stand all day just because you won’t wanna miss this intensity. This phase of the rut is a great time to call and rattle. To try and aggravate that testosterone of a mature buck. The best stand to sit in this phase I think is a travel route between bedding and feeding. Rattling near a bedding site around mid day could pull a buck off of his bed and into your area. As well as the travel route you could see multiple does, with the potential to have a buck hot on her heels.
This activity should continue until between November 8th and November 16th. This is the only problem I have with this system of predicting the rut. That’s a very large window to guess, when the peak of estrous and breeding occurs. But this is what is referred to as the “Lockdown Phase”. Mature bucks get tied up with a single doe, waiting for here to breed. It’s a slow and hard time to hunt, because buck activity seems to dip off. Those locked up bucks are with their does in thick cover. Any bucks seen alone are on the hunt for another doe. In this window between the 8th and the 16th, is usually the time when Missouri makes it the opening day for rifle season. Personally for me that’s why rifle season lacks the intense activity that bow season has in late October and early November. Although I’ve had the majority of my success in rifle season, on those bucks looking for another hot doe. I can attribute my success during this portion of the rut to making sure I was in the stand every morning and evening. After this lockdown phase the rut really winds down and for those who hunt the 2nd rut get ready. As for me in late season situations, I’m hunting over a food source.
So what does all this really mean to the average deer hunter. To me it means the rut is going to hit a little earlier than it has in the last few years. Which I like the sound of. Also I think we should experience a more pronounced period of rutting activity. Which around those dates of October 29th and November 2nd should make this season exciting. Now I’m not putting ALL my chips on this prediction. But they give me a rough idea of when I should be in the stand, and how I should hunt on those days based on what phase of the rut we might be in.
So what do you think? Does the Alsheimer Rut Prediction intrigue you? Does it make you change your hunting calender?
Now, I’m not that serious of a food plot guy… yet. I mean, yes I plant one here and there. It might have some success, but not a whole lot. The thing is I don’t have the resources right now to really be 100% devoted to managing a plot all year round. Mostly due to me being at school 9 months out of the year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. Being a bio major, I look at things a little differently. I like to ask why deer might prefer this forage over that, and what it is about that forage that helps the deer on a biological level. Not just, “oh if a buck eats this his antlers are gonna get bigger.”. I don’t see it like that. I wanna know what it is about that plant that allows a deer to reach that genetic potential, and what is occurring in his body to make that happen.
Well when I first heard about brassicas, these were the questions I asked myself. I wanted to know why this plant was becoming so popular with food plot fanatics. So like any “good” college student, I did my homework. Did some reading on the plant and found some interesting stuff about it.
The Brassica is a genus of the mustard family. It is closely related to the turnip and other types of cabbages. It has large broad leaves that can get extremely large when not grazed on. It develops a turnip head down below the soil that can grow extremely large, depending on the species you’re dealing with. The thing about these plants that make them so popular with whitetail hunters. Is they are a little bit more heartier than other forages, which allows them to stay greener longer and be hunted over longer.
But I wanted to know why deer liked these plants so much later in the year. Bill Winke on Midwest Whitetails talks repeatedly about how the deer pound these products good in the fall, but really hit them after a few frosts. Then it hit me. It’s just like many other plants, such as a lot of vegetables that we grow in our gardens. Have you ever had peas before they’re actually ready to be harvested? They’re bitter and nasty. The same thing happens with brassicas. You see the pea plant is harvested after the plant has hit a certain air temperature and triggers mechanisms in the plant to draw sugars out of the roots, and into the peas themselves. Giving them a sweet taste. That’s what happens to the brassicas. After a few colder temps hit them, a trigger is set off in the plant and sends the sugars in the large turnip head up into the leaves, changing the chemical composition of the leaves. This is what the deer love about it. It’s got a sweeter taste that to them is more palatable. The deer feed on this after much of the forage has already turned brown and died. Which is what makes brassicas such a wonderful fall and winter food source for whitetails.
It’s not just in the fall that deer like these plants either. Into the winter months when times are harsh, and food sources are thin. The deer will dig into the earth and eat the turnip portion of the plant. Which still has plenty of sugars left in it. Too me the winter months are crucial to growing trophy whitetails. A lot gets sucked out of a deer in these months, if he doesn’t have good enough resources to live off of in the winter. Minerals such as calcium are taken from the bones, along with vitamins and protein from muscle tissue. If poorly fed through the winter a deer can lose a lot of weight, jsut from feeding off of itself. When spring rolls around, depending on how much has been zapped out of the deer. He’s going to have to recover and regain all that he lost in the winter. If he’s ate good and been taken care of through the winter, it’s going to take less to get him back on track. Hopefully you see my point.
Now brassicas are not only loved by deer, they’re extremely good for them as well. These plants are planted in late August and early September, so they’re not really a part of your summer food plot program. But they still have a large amount of nutritional benefit for the deer. Besides a great plot program is a year round thing, not just a spring and summer commitment. They supply a large amount of carbohydrates and proteins. Which during the rut are highly crucial and need to be available in large quantities for the entire herd.
Overall I can understand why brassicas are in high demand during the fall months. Any hunter that hunts over food plots should get their hands on this forage and get it in the ground.
Here are the planting instructions for brassicas, via Food Plot Resources (foodplotresources.com)
Longevity:Less than 6 months of grazing time
Adaptation Zone:Entire Eastern U.S. and Plains. Excels as a winter plot option from the upper South into Canada.
Seeding Rate:4 lbs/acre (5-6 lbs/acre creates a denser forage canopy which can help decrease weed and grass growth).
Seeding Date:Deep South (September-October); Central (late August-September), North (August-September).
Soil Requirement:Most soil types are adequate
Seeding Depth:1/4 – 1/2 inch
Soil pH:5.0-8.0 (6.5-7.5 is ideal)
Fertilizer Requirement:Medium-high (nitrogen, phoshorous and potoassium)
Palatability:High (especially after using for consecutive years)
Average Seed Price
(per acre):Rape $7; Purple Top Turnips $10; Improved Forage Turnips $14; Brassica varieties (rarely carried in retail stores).
Herbicide Options:Poast will kill grass.
This is kind of a spin off of my post the other day about scents. But today I’m going to go into the detail about the scrape and how the whitetail deer actually uses it as a communication tool.
The scrape is a puzzling thing in the world of whitetails. A bare spot of ground that is almost like the community bathroom. But in a deers eyes it’s the complete opposite of a bathroom. The scrape in the deer world is the night club/bar of their social life. It’s where bucks hangout, set up pecking orders, and hand out their business cards. It is the top place for whitetail communication. You see deer actually use scrapes year round, it’s just that in the fall and during the rut is when they heavily use them. But I’ve seen pictures of deer scent checking old scrapes in March before, it’s just not as frequently used or seen.
Deer interpret their world and their social life through their nose. You see does have a summer schedule that’s different from a bucks. The main reason bucks join together in the summer and for bachelor groups is to familiarize themselves with the competition. They are studying their opponents from how they look to how they smell. They have an instinctive need to find out who is dominant and who is subordinate.
You see there is an aspect of the scrape that is heavily overlooked by hunters, one of the most important aspects. I’ve seen hunters hunt over natural scrapes and I’ve seen hunters hunt over man made. Both with some success, but it’s the ones that pay attention to the minor details of the man made scrapes that have almost 100% chance of success while in the field. You see a man made scrape will bring a buck in… but just one time. Let’s say you clear the ground and make the scrape flawlessly and you put just the right doe urine on the ground, along with a dominant buck urine. Now you sit over that scrape and hunt it. Now a buck might or might not come in, either way a buck is probably going to come in to the scrape just once. To investigate the scent of urine that he’s smelling. But the main reason a mature buck will only come to that scrape once is that key ingredient I was talking about earlier.
If you’ve ever watched a buck work a scrape. He paws the ground, might pee a little, and he rubs his antlers and forehead on an over hanging limb. There isn’t a whitetail scrape on this planet that doesn’t have some kind of over hanging licking branch. That branch is a where a buck deposits his preorbital gland scent. this comes from a gland that’s directly in front of the deers eye. An aspect of a mock scrape that will make or break it is that preorbital gland. When used on a licking branch, it can be extremely deadly for a mature whitetail. You see this is going to make a mature buck believe your scrape is real, and he’s gonna want to know who made it. He’s going to hang around in that area, checking that scrape and making others. He wants to meet this new comer, to decide where he fits in the pecking order. The use of preorbital gland lure on a mock scrape can turn that scrape into a community scrape, and a productive tool for a hunter in mere days.
I hope this helps you and you can find it useful next time you plan to create a mock scrape to hunt over.