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.
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!
These two fawns I believe to be both bucks, or even just one of them is. Either way they’re the foundation of my new deer herd, and my future of hunting on my land. These two, along with another fawn (gender unknown). Are the start of my attempt to raise the overall health of my deer herd, and production of trophy class whitetails. I’ll be keeping you up to date and sharing the progress. Tomorrow I plan to post my in-season plans this year on hunting. Along with my plans to clear and plant plots, my feeding plan and schedule, and my mineral sites. Thanks for whoever reads this page and hopefully keeps up on my progress.
So this is my first blog so cut me a little slack. But I’d like to just address to you now what this site is going to be dedicated towards. I’m a passionate outdoorsman all around. But what really gets me excited is deer hunting, but not only just hunting. I’m passionate about it year round. I feel that to be successful in the field you need to put in the hours all year to get your trophy. On here I’ll share my experiences from scouting, hanging stands, planting food plots, and actual hunts. In between I’ll share tips that have done me a lot of good throughthe years and also sharing some of the pros tips as well. Once again thanks for reading and I hope you keep up to date.
P.S. I’ll try and have a post of at least 1 per week, just as a heads up.