Jimmy Primos patiently waited as the trophy buck strode closer through the sage. Still at a safe distance, the veteran hunter eased his Mission crossbow into position.
Closer and closer the buck came, and Primos took aim at the massive deer’s vital region.
Closer and closer it came, until the buck walked into range and stopped, and Primos hit the release.
The broadhead smacked the buck right in the vitals and the trophy 9-point buck never knew what hit him. One second his sexual urges had him looking for love, and the next he was mortally wounded.
It was a magical moment for Primos, ending one of those rare days of the rut when everything went perfectly. Well, sort of.
A perfect day in the rut is when bucks are chasing does all day, running this way and that and keeping a hunter on the edge of his seat. This was not one of those days, but Primos was smart enough to get his trophy.
It was last year, just before Christmas at his camp near Belzoni when Primos climbed into his stand. He knew bucks were in rut and was searching expectantly for a mature buck.
Primos hoped to lure a trophy buck within range but that would be difficult if not almost impossible to do under the circumstances.
“I was hunting a food plot, and me and a camera guy were surrounded by CRP grass, just tall, tall, grass,” Primos said. “It’s a really great place for a buck to bed down and we got there about 2 (p.m.).”
After seeing little deer activity, Primos decided to add a little flavor to the afternoon and started calling with a grunt and bleat call hoping to get the attention of a shooter buck.
“I used a grunt and followed up with a bleat and called every 15 to 20 minutes even when I wasn’t seeing anything,” Primos said. “Finally about 4 o’clock, I had a really good 9-point stand up in that CRP at about 200 yards. He was really nice.”
The buck had been there the whole time, most likely waiting for the cover of darkness, but he just couldn’t stand it anymore.
“I kept up with the grunt and bleat call and he got up and circled and came right into that food plot,” said Primos. “With a crossbow, it was really exciting.
“Sometimes you get a day that’s just magic when you’re seeing deer moving all day long. It’s usually a cool crisp sunny day and you’re in a place where you can see a long ways.”
Those are the days hunters live for but rarely experience, and when it pays to have the savvy of Primos.
“That’s just an instance where I really believe that the grunting and the bleat got me a deer,” Primos said. “I mean he may have laid there until dark and never moved. He was definitely a rutting buck and he really smelled when I got to him, but he probably would’ve just laid there until dark if I hadn’t done that calling.”
Primos: Hunt the rut hard
While the rut will kick in at different times across the Southeast, and even within the state, deer often behave in the same manner in all areas.
“The rut is very difficult to pattern,” said Primos. “They’ll get with a doe and follow her everywhere she goes. Deer movement and rutting activity changes depending upon the current weather conditions and the moon phase.
“When they’re in full blown rut it will be obvious and hunters should try and stay in the woods as much as possible. That increases your chances at seeing a shooter buck.”
Whether you’re looking for big bucks or just wanting to see what’s in your hunting area then you should employ the use of a game camera.
“Trail cams let you know what kind of deer you have in your area,” said Primos. “We’ll put them out in September and October to determine if we have a shooter buck in the area.”
Once located, the hunters have a starting point for the rut, but when the rut starts bucks may follow a doe clean out of your hunting zone. But remember, other bucks may move in searching for a hot doe, or they may even follow one right by your stand.
You’ve got to go regular and be in the right place at the right time.
“I like to hunt around scrapes and rubs, or places you see a lot of deer sign and be in an area where you can see in a lot of directions,” said Primos. “Since the deer stay on the move during that time covering a wide area benefits hunters and usually means spotting more bucks.”
Two things will make Primos adjust his normal hunting hours, which end around 10 a.m. and start again late in the afternoon. One is the full moon and the other is the peak of the rut.
“If the moon is full there may be a lot of deer movement and rutting activity at night during the rut and then they’ll lay up and rest the next morning,” Primos said. “By mid-morning they’re usually ready to get up and stretch their legs and move around a bit. That’s when they are most susceptible to hunters.”
While mature bucks are hard to pattern, it is during the midday hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that a lot of deer movement will occur during the full moon phase.
“A buck will follow that doe almost anywhere and they will try to pen them up in thick stuff and control the doe until she’s ready,” Primos said. “By hunting the edge of thickets you may be able to get a shot at a rutting buck trying to control the doe, or following her very closely.”
Making the call
Primos has been hunting and harvesting deer since he was a youngster and for the last 30 years, with Primos Wild Game Calls, he’s had a hand in producing some of the best deer and turkey calls made anywhere in the world.
“I like to use a grunt call and doe bleat in conjunction while I’m on the stand,” said Primos. “I’ll use the Easy Estrous Bleat Can and the Buck Roar grunt call and usually have good success when the deer are on the move.
“Our rut around Flora and the lower Delta gets going around Thanksgiving and early December. I’m going to do everything I can to put the odds in my favor for taking a buck. You can fool his eyes and ears sometimes, but not his nose.”
Even during the rut, scent control is a necessity. Beating one nose is impossible, and in the run you may have to beat a buck and a doe.
“While you can never cover up all of your scent, I try to control my scent by using something like the Freak spray which covers your scent up, never giving as much odor as without it,” said Primos, who often goes the extra mile when it comes to checking or putting out game cameras. “I use rubber gloves and rubber boots when I’m in the woods checking cameras because I don’t want to leave any more scent than I have to. No matter where or when you hunt, you still need to be careful of the wind direction and hunt accordingly.”
Riley gets in thick stuff
Giles Island manager and Mossy Oak Deer Thugs member Jimmy Riley has harvested more than his fair share of bucks and — guided others to countless trophies — during the rut in Adams County.
Suffice it to say he knows a thing or two about finding and killing bucks, and his choice of weapon is a bow.
“When I’m bowhunting during the rut I want to hunt next to the thickest stuff I can find,” said Riley. “When a buck finds a doe he’s going to keep her away from other deer if he can and he’ll usually keep her hemmed up in that thicket because he doesn’t want her to leave, or let other bucks get to her.”
But, occasionally, those bucks will follow the does out of the cover and expose themselves for just a moment. That’s what Riley’s looking for, knowing there might not be a second chance to make a killing shot.
Riley hunts with a PSE DNA with a 70-pound pull and a 29.5-inch draw.
“The DNA shoots 345 feet per second and I use a 450-grain combination arrow,” said Riley. “I use a 125-grain Swhacker broadhead with a 2¼ inch cut. That arrow will punch through and leave two holes, which will give a hunter a better chance at finding a blood trail. And if you make a bad shot it will still cut up a lot of stuff.”
Riley killed a buck in North Dakota earlier this year with the bow set up and the 10-point 190-pound buck only ran 60 yards.
Long distance rifle hunting
When he’s hunting long distances and overlooking wide-open spaces, Riley also uses a Mossberg Deer Thug Edition .270 rifle.
“When I’m rifle hunting I want to get in a spot where I can see a long ways, at least 300 to 400 yards,” Riley said. “Now I’m only going to shoot out to about 200 yards, because that’s about as far as I can age a buck and I’m not going to shoot a young deer.”
Riley likes to hunt open areas so that he can spot deer movement.
“If you see a buck trailing a doe at 300 to 400 yards you can mark it and then go hunt that area the next day,” said Riley. “A lot of times they’re going to stay right in that area and if you get a little closer you may get a good shot at the buck the next morning.”
Prime time bucks
“The prime rut time is around the week of Dec. 20th down here,” Riley said. “One of our best bucks was harvested on Dec. 20 by Sonny Freeman from Lafayette. La.”
Riley had seen the buck a week or so before in some thick stuff, but he got up and went over the hill before he could judge him properly. Scott Maxwell was guiding Freeman and they were hunting out of climbers.
“The deer came in from behind them and surprised them as he stopped right under them only five yards away,” Riley said. “He smelled them but didn’t know where they were so he just stood there and then broke and ran about 60 yards out and turned and stopped at 80 yards. Freeman dropped him right there.
“You really can’t go wrong hunting during the rut because they might show up anywhere and any time. You don’t have to go to the back 40; they may just show up right behind the camp.”
To find bucks, find does
“If you want to kill bucks during the rut, then go where the does are,” Riley said. “That’s where the bucks will be looking.”
The ideal situation during the rut is for a doe to lure a buck into the open, which is one reason shooting does out of food plots is taboo at Giles Island.
“We manage our deer herd and you have to let the bucks get some age on them so they can mature, and you’ve got to harvest does as well,” Riley said. “We want to get our deer herd to a 1:1 ratio but we don’t shoot does on the food plots. We want to keep the pressure off the does so they’ll use the food plots and keep those deer in there.”
The idea is that by reducing the pressure on the does, they’ll use food plots and the bucks will follow, especially during the rut.
“A lot of times our bucks will feed in the plots early in the year and we’ll kill a few nice ones,” Riley said. “But they don’t come in first, they usually follow the does or smaller bucks in later, sometimes just before dark.”
Hunt by the wind
“The main thing I’d say about hunting a buck is to hunt with the wind direction in mind at all times,” said Riley. “If you’re hunting a stand or food plot and know where the deer usually enter the field then don’t hunt that stand if the wind’s blowing in that direction. Stay at home or at camp, do anything but hunt that stand.”
Most people only hunt on the weekends and they hunt their stands regardless of wind direction and that’s only going to harm their chances at a trophy buck according to Riley.
“If you have a hot spot and the wind is wrong just leave him alone until the wind is right,” he said. “Just don’t go down there because he’s going to smell you if he comes in there and leave without you ever knowing it.
“And if you spook a really good buck two or three times they won’t come back. They’re lazy and they don’t want to have to keep moving to avoid detection.”
Meador: determined hunter
Bill Meador has been hunting deer since he was 14 years old, and 57 years later he in an accomplished deer hunter. While there weren’t many deer around when he was a bo,y he does remember going to Tallahala WMA and seeing his first deer and its large white flag. He was hooked on deer hunting and has hunted ever since.
Even a massive stroke, which left him paralyzed on the left side, hasn’t deterred him from pursuing his passion of deer hunting.
Meador fought for his life for a few months and returned to the deer stand two years after the stroke. After modifying his hunting equipment and getting set up to hunt out of a motorized wheel chair Meador went back to the woods again and has been very successful in the process.
Meador planned a late season rut hunt on Giles Island last year and he wasn’t disappointed. The veteran hunter took a stand overlooking a 100 by 600 yard green field on an afternoon hunt and spotted does coming into the field at about 200 yards around 2 p m.
It didn’t take long for company to arrive as a couple of 8-point bucks came in chasing, hot on the does’ tails.
“One of the bucks chased the does around and then ran back into the woods and circled around and came running back into the field,” said Meador. “I pulled a fine bead on his vitals with my Browning .270 BAR and dropped him in his tracks.”
Meador sealed the deal with a magnificent heart shot.
“I’m 71 years old and get around in a wheelchair most of the time, and that was my best deer ever, after a lifetime of hunting,” Meador said. The buck was a trophy for sure and sported 9 points and scored 139 B&C.
If you’re looking to harvest a trophy buck this year, concentrate on the rut and the odds will definitely be in your favor.