As the rut kicks into high gear, use does to uncover where big bucks are hanging out.
When the rut is at its peak, we all have our minds on some elusive, trophy buck. Will he show up this year? Can I make the shot when it counts? Those questions haunt us in the woods, even on the drive to work and lounging around home. It’s an obsession.
During the breeding season, our thoughts are so focused on horns, we often forget about the does when they’re the ticket to harvesting a buck. Find the does, find the buck. It can be that simple.
Find Bedding Areas and Food Sources
Does are bedded down typically during daylight hours. Look for heavy brush and groups of oval depressions in the understory that vary in size. Does bed together, while bucks will often do so alone. Keep your eyes to the ground in search of droppings and fresh tracks, both signs that the deer have recently used the area.
Older bucks will often walk downwind from a doe bedding area, where they will scent-check for any that are ready to breed. Place a blind or hang a stand in this area, as well as on travel routes connecting other bedding areas. As the rut intensifies, bucks will visit several of these locations in search of a suitor. Install a blind on one of these heavily traveled routes. Be mindful of the wind direction and take care to not hunt if you think your scent will carry into a bedding area. All of our blinds are sealed tight, ensuring your scent stays inside, so even on those days when the wind isn’t ideal you can be in the woods.
When does aren’t bedded, they’ll be packing on the pounds before winter sets in. They’ll be congregated near standing corn or any acorns that are left from fall. If natural food sources are starting to dwindle, hunt near feeders. We recommend the Feedbank 300, which can hold 300 pounds of supplemental food.
At first light, does will feed before traveling back to cover for the duration of the morning. Hunt downwind of the food source near a trail, ideally one that leads to a bedding area. Bucks will cruise downwind of food sources to scent-check for hot does. Around the middle of the day, does may move again to feed, but they won’t stray far until later in the evening when they’ll again visit food sources.
Keep tabs on doe behavior as well. They won’t all come into estrus at the same time. Those that are ready to breed will be more active, while those that aren’t will be more relaxed. Hunt near the groups you’ve observed and know are ready to breed, and you can bet a buck won’t be far away.