Have you ever wondered why they call it the rut? Seems like an odd name to choose for the procreation cycle of the white-tailed deer.
One would have thought some animal husbandry-type person way back when would have coined a more-suitable term — something like The Bang, The Hook-Up, The Connection or another catchy phrase.
I guess they did not think of the act of the biological scheme of mating by deer in those terms.
However, after years of reading and study on the origins of the term, I have concluded that the term “rut” — having been derived from the Latin word for “a roaring” or noise — came from the classic guttural sounds made by the European or New Zealand Stags. During their mating phases these stags make a roaring sound much more hoarse, harsh or coarse than that of, say, the North American elk bugle.
Once you hear a stag roar, you will never forget it. Hence, the term rut is appropriately applied to the annual phase of the white-tailed deer. Pumped-up bucks are ready to seek, chase and breed those does that are currently in a receptive mood. And thus the species is procreated.
Then the question naturally arises for the deer hunter: How to best hunt bucks temporarily crazed by rutting behavior?
It used to be thought of as an easy feat, but seasoned buck hunters have come to appreciate that bucks never really let down their guard all that much. They are still a challenge to collect, even during the height of the rut. But, still, what are the best tactics known to defeat a quality buck during the rut?
Knowing the rut range dates and peak
The first order of business is to determine when the rut is likely to be occurring in the area(s) where you hunt. This information is available on the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Web site at www.mdwfp.com. Just click on “Deer Programs” under the “Wildlife and Hunting” header to find the proper link.
From there you simply search the areas in the state where you hunt matching the color to the date range legend at the bottom. This will indicate the general range of dates when the rut occurs in those areas. This map is only a guide, since the colored areas are not depicted very precisely. But at least it offers a starting place to figure when the rut is likely to be happening in your hunting areas.
Further, if you care to do the research, you can look up the latest Deer Program Annual book online, going down to the page on herd health across the state. The mean conception dates listed for specific places around the state can further help narrow down the peak rutting periods. Again, these dates are general to the region.
Once you have at least an idea about when the rut should be going on where you hunt, you can make plans to be in the woods during those times. Of course, nothing supplants actually being on-site making active observations of buck behavior activities.
Remember that rutting behavior can be impacted by a number of factors including habitat quality, food availability, buck-to-doe ratios and atmospheric conditions (i.e., temperatures or weather changes).
How to hunt the rut
As the recorded observations of bucks chasing does begins to increase, the best places to hunt will be areas of maximum deer activity.
According to nationally recognized deer researcher Charles Alsheimer, it is not uncommon for bucks to travel great distances during the rutting phases.
“A sexually active buck can cover more than 3,000 acres,” Alsheimer said. “Because of this it is wise to stay on stand all day, if possible, because bucks are often active throughout the day.
“Setting up in prime travel corridors and pinch points should offer the greatest opportunity to ambush a rut-crazed buck.”
One of the most-vivid examples of buck chasing I ever witnessed was in Southwest Mississippi along a road paralleling the Buffalo River. I was perched in a stand overlooking a drainage that crossed the road, and I heard the commotion coming in the woods along the road.
For 15 minutes I watched a buck chase a doe in circles in a fever pitch, but they never slowed long enough for me to get a shot. This was nearly almost noon on an overcast, windy day.
One can never tell about a buck in rut.
Aside from well-used travel routes, pick those that are active with rubbing and scraping. The fresher the better, although these signs might slack off during the peak of the rut.
Some hunters find rattling a useful tactic in tricking a foolhardy buck into thinking competition is edging in on its territory. The same is true for grunt calling, as well as using estrus bleat calls. These work best as the seeking and chasing modes kick in.
Once you start witnessing bucks running does, the best locales to hunt are where does gather. The more does there are together the more likely one or more will be in estrus. If so, it will not take a rutting buck long to find them.
Prepping to hunt the rut means knowing when the rut phase is likely to start. Begin hunting highly active travel routes and where does gather in numbers. Try calling for effect. Hunt all day and as many days in a row as you can.