When Are The Best Days To Hunt The Rut?

There are two ways to look at the rut, depending on what kind of buck you are trying to shoot. If you are just trying to shoot any buck, the entire rut is good. Every day there are some bucks on the move looking for does.

However, if you are trying to shoot a mature buck, the rut is not as cut-and-dried as many believe. What few such bucks there are in your hunting area are likely tied up with does just as soon as the does start to come into estrus. So, those bucks don't move much during daylight. And, as a group, those kinds of bucks really don't like moving in the daylight to begin with — rut or no rut.

This makes them tough to see even when they are around, but to further complicate things, they don't get nearly as wound up during the early, pre-breeding phase of the rut as the younger bucks. They wait and watch and sniff the air until it's really happening.

Most deer hunters naturally think the best time to shoot a mature buck is when the most does are in estrus. I disagree. In my experience, prime time is a two-to-three-day window when the first doe in that buck's home area is actually coming into estrus.


WHY THIS WORKS


Most of the mature buck sightings I have had during the hunting season took place during two times: when the first doe was coming into estrus at the start of the primary rut, and when the last doe was in estrus at the end of the primary rut. In this column, I'm going to focus on the first frenzy.

When the first doe comes into estrus, I have seen super-wary, mostly nocturnal bucks move with reckless abandon. I could even say they were acting stupid. They were totally out of character in their quest for the doe that they were either following or the one that they knew was out there coming into estrus while another buck courted her.

The first hot doe offers the first opportunity to breed after the long buildup, and the mature bucks are determined to be the ones to breed them. Later in the rut, when many does are in estrus, mature bucks lack the same sense of urgency. They tend to go back to being more cautious and nocturnal in their search. The edge is off their frenzy.

TIMING IS CRITICAL


When bowhunters dream of the classic rut — big bucks on the move — they are actually dreaming of this two-to-three-day window. You need to be in the woods at that time. That is really the biggest key to success. I won't say that any stand will do, but "the right time" is more important than the "right place."

Hunt every day during the time when the first hot doe is most likely to occur. North of 35 degrees north latitude, my experience suggests the first hot doe will occur between Nov. 1 and Nov. 9 just about every year. I suppose the moon could have something to do with the exact timing within the nine-day period, but I sure wouldn't try to get too clever and miss the action by relying on charts. Nov. 5-8 tends to be the best narrow window of the year. If you are in a good treestand in an area where a mature buck lives, you have a decent chance of seeing him during these four days — maybe even shooting him.

It is unfortunate that the best buck hunting of the rut usually comes down to a few days, but that is reality. You can still enjoy good hunting and you can still shoot a nice buck at other times of the rut, but the odds are never as good as they are when the first doe comes into estrus.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

The new Ravin R29X Crossbow includes everything you need for blistering speed (450 FPS!) and deadly downrange accuracy (3-inch group at 100 yards).

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Kevin Steele and the boys are bowhunting turkeys with the help of some well-placed decoys.

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Designed exclusively for their crossbows, Ravin has announced three new mechanical broadheads to maximize penetration and overall performance.

Center Shots: How to Improve Your Bow Tuning

Center Shots: How to Improve Your Bow Tuning

Field editor Bill Winke goes over steps you can take to improve the tuning on your bow.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

We got our hands on the brand new 2019 bows from Bowtech. See how the Realm SR6 and the Realm SS performed in our technical tests! Bows

2019 Bowtech Launch: Realm SR6 & SS Review

Jon E. Silks - November 07, 2018

We got our hands on the brand new 2019 bows from Bowtech. See how the Realm SR6 and the Realm...

Check out our picks for the best new bow sights from the 2019 ATA Show! ATA Show

Best New Bow Sights for 2019

Tony J. Peterson - January 10, 2019

Check out our picks for the best new bow sights from the 2019 ATA Show!

We've rounded up the best new compound bows at the 2019 ATA Show. Here are our top picks for the year! ATA Show

Best New Bows for 2019

Tony J. Peterson - January 10, 2019

We've rounded up the best new compound bows at the 2019 ATA Show. Here are our top picks for...

We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More


It's that time of year when Arrows & Broadheads

2017 Fixed-Blade Broadhead Test

Jon E. Silks - December 12, 2017

We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More It's that time of year...

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

Great stand sites aren't born; they're made. Whitetail

Finding the Best Deer Stand Locations Over Time

Bill Winke

Great stand sites aren't born; they're made.

Deer have at least 7 glandular areas that secrete different odorous compounds. Whitetail

The Science Behind Whitetail Scent Glands

Bob Humphrey

Deer have at least 7 glandular areas that secrete different odorous compounds.

Prepare now to ensure a victorious whitetail season this fall. Whitetail

The Perfect Game Plan for Bowhunting Whitetails

Bill Winke

Prepare now to ensure a victorious whitetail season this fall.

Late winter and early spring are perfect for penetrating sanctuary spots and gathering intel. Whitetail

Maximize Your Scouting

Levi Morgan

Late winter and early spring are perfect for penetrating sanctuary spots and gathering intel.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Bowhunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now