A blog dedicated to the Missouri Whitetail Hunter

General Hunting

2013 Rut Predictions: My Personal Opinion and What You Can Do to Succeed This Fall

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.

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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.

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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!


2012 Rut Prediction

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?


Brassicas: The Ultimate Fall/Winter Food Source

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

Sunlight Requirement:Medium-high

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)

Browsing Tolerance:Low

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.


The Truth About Scrapes & The Missing Ingredient

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.


Deer Scents and the Nuttiness Behind Them

I’ve been looking up some stuff on deer pee. I got curious one night on which brand was “the best”. Dug up some interesting stuff. These mass produced urines sit on the shelf in a store for a long time before they are purchased. They start to break down, turning rancid and becoming blackish in color. Alcohol or some other type of preservative is added to try and keep the urine fresh. The urine is spoiling on the shelf and will not fool a mature, rutting Whitetail. But the ad says “Collected from a single doe during the peak of the rut.” This leads the buyer to believe that this urine is fresh and full of pheromones – not so. Can you imagine how many does would have to be available for collection during the 24 hour peak of estrous? This is simply not possible. There’s millions of little bottles of doe pee sitting on the shelves of American stores. do you really think there’s that many does on deer farms across the US to fill all those bottles. Anyways…

What are pheromones? Pheromones are a live product that are secreted from the doe, which signal to the buck that she is ready to be bred at the time of ovulation. The buck can detect pheromones when he does a flaming curl. A flaming curl forces the air that the buck inhales into smaller passages in his naval cavity, an area where the live pheromones can be detected by the buck. When a buck smells live pheromones, he will do whatever he can to get near the doe in estrous.

When a buck is looking for a doe in estrous, he is first looking for a good amount of doe urine. Does do urinate a lot more when in estrous. Once the buck finds a doe urinating frequently, he goes to the spot of heavy urination, puts his nose into the puddle and inhales deeply. Then, doing a flaming curl, he is able to determine if the doe is ready to stand for breeding. If you are using a 1.5 ounce bottle of old, rancid urine you are fooling no one. The urine is not fresh and you are not using enough to simulate a doe in estrous. Therefore probably not filling your tag with a mature trophy buck.

You see when you walk past a pizza shop, what do you smell? Pizza. What does a deer smell? He smells tomatoes, peperoni, the seasoning on the peperoni, cheese, the flour used in the dough, etc. You get my point. We as hunters all know that deer have an excellent sense of smell. But most hunter don’t know how good it really is. You see deer have about 296 million receptors in their nose. As opposed to a dog with 220 million and humans with 5-6 million. So when you put that little bottle of doe pee on a scrape this fall. What do you think a buck is gonna smell? He’s gonna smell the little drop of 100% doe pee yes, but he’s gonna also smell the preservatives added as well.

There’s been a few people looking into this problem and there’s been some advances that might actually just work. The biggest I could find was deer farmers collecting the pee and immediately freezing it. This stops the break down of the pee and the reproduction of bacteria in the pee. Which causes it to smell like ammonia and extremely unnatural. But it also preserves the pheromones. Which when a deer smells something unnatural we all know they avoid that area or book it in the other direction. The only problem I see with this natural frozen product. Is that I don’t think there’s enough supply to keep up with today’s demanding hunting industry.

Another advancement that has been around for quite a few years is the product Buck Bomb. I myself have actually had success with this product. If you don’t know it’s an aerosol can of all natural doe urine. The sealed off can keeps the urine from coming in contact with fresh air and causing the urine to spoil. You can lock the spray nozzle down and cover a lot of area, along with misting the air with the scent. Or spray it here and there. It’s a reliable product that I’d recommend for hunters on a budget. They have a wide variety of deer urines to use from pre-rut into the rut.

I just thought I’d bring this info up to you guys. Way I figure it, deer hunting is a sport of odds. The more you’re in the woods the better odds you have. The better prepared you are for your hunt and the more you actually know about deer from a biological stand point you increase your odds even more.


Poor Boy Deer Feeder

As cost of feeding products rise, it’s tough for a college student on a budget to dedicate a lot of money and resources to a feeding program. While discouraging, it shouldn’t stop hunters like me from enjoying their season and providing for their herd.

Implementing a Shoe String Budget Whitetail Deer Feeding Program

Rather than purchasing an expensive deer feeder that runs on batteries and wipes your behind, you can build your own using the following supplies:

-10’ section of 3” or 4” PVC Pipe. The 4” will hold more feed/corn and require fewer refills.
-PVC Cement.
-90 degree elbow, needs to match your PVC Pipe.
Slip cap for your appropriate sized pipe. Do NOT use a screw cap.
Zip ties or bungee cords, long enough to reach around your feeder and the tree.
1) Take the 10′ piece and cut it in half. You now have two 5′ sections.

2) Cut 1′ off of each 5′ piece. This will be used for your tray section.

3) Glue one of your 90 degree elbow’ to the end of your 5′ section of pipe.

4) Glue your 1′ piece of pipe into your 90 degree elbow.

5) It’s best to lay your pipe and elbow section on a stable, flat surface such as picnic table. Using a small handsaw or hacksaw, cut your 1′ piece of pipe in half starting at the end of the pipe cutting back towards your 90 degree elbow.

Once you reach your elbow, stand your 5′ pipe and elbow section upright. Cut your 1′ section straight down until it intersects with your previous cut. The top half of your 1′ section can now be removed. The remaining portion attached to your 90 degree elbow will be your feeder tray.

*Note – You don’t want to cut your 1′ pipe section in half before gluing it into your 90 degree elbow. This doesn’t allow for proper adhesion to the elbow. The deer will knock the 1′ section off the feeder, draining it of your corn/feed.

6) Place your slip cap on the bottom of your feeder. The cap simply prevents the corn from pouring out on the ground while filling the feeder. Finish by filling with corn/feed, leaving a small space at the top of the pipe.

I also hope to implement the product Grow The Bone (source where I got this feeder idea), in with this feeding routine. By mixing small amounts into the corn/feed it should attract the deer to the feeder, as well as provide a mineral supplement with the feed.


Keeping The Faith

We all get down every once in a while. The hunt didn’t go as expected, you got busted, or worst of all you missed your target. It’s part of hunting and part of the lesson that hunting teaches us. You show me an outdoorsman that’s never had a bad day and I’ll show you a big fat liar. Deer season is a long one. From September to January here in Missouri, it puts a toll on a hunters attitude. The most important piece of equipment any hunter can have during a long season is a positive mental attitude. Hands down this is the most crucial aspect to remember when in the stand or blind. You can never think negative thoughts while hunting, it just never does you any good. As soon as you start thinking negative, you start to wear on your patience and eventually you’ll just wanna quit. Yes, even the pros have days they wish they didn’t, and as much hunting as they do it’s not an “if” but a “when” for them. They had to start somewhere, and I can guarantee they didn’t get to where they are now by letting a bad day in the woods bring them down. If sitting in the woods by myself has taught me anything it’s to hunt as legally long as possible. In hunting things can happen so fast. That’s something my father has helped me see through the years. When we used to sit in a stand together, it seemed like he had this magical power that he knew we should sit for just 5 more minutes. Sometimes we’d sit till after dark and just watch the deer for as long as we could. Cause you really never know what can happen. We all know deer can materialize out of no where, and your season can change in seconds. But to be successful like that and to solidify the possibility of a good hunt you just gotta stay positive. Even when you’re just sitting in the stand, keep happy thoughts running through your head. Yeah just like Chubs said in Happy Gilmore,”Go to your own happy place.”. It will keep your moral up and positive, and you’ll run the chances of having a good hunt; dead deer or not.

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This buck I shot 4 years ago while I was still in high school. But after sitting out most of archery season and a portion of rifle season because of high school football. I had no idea I’d shoot something like this. I had figured since I hadn’t scouted in months and wouldn’t see anything. The first morning I decided to just go sit (due to some encouragement from my father) this beautiful 8 pointer stepped out and just like that my attitude changed. Just goes to show how unpredictable hunting is and how keeping an open mind when in the stand can make the experience so much better.