It's a well-known secret in Chautauqua County that if you don't like the weather, stick around a few hours and it will change. The visit of Hurricane Sandy this past week put a damper on many folks' plans due to the flood conditions that we experienced across the Empire State and most of the northeastern United States. All of this happened just as the whitetail rut was getting ready to kick off.
The good news for us is that for the most part Sandy didn't hit us as hard as she could have. Along with the drop in temperatures and hunters' moon phase, the deer have begun to start their annual ritual of the rut.
During this past weekend hunt, I had the opportunity to get into a few areas that held some fresh deer signs. In one area, I watched three does come out of a thicket with a nice buck not far behind. This same situation happened again in another area and later, while sitting over a freshly-cut field, I watched a young buck chase a doe around.
Hunting just before or after a front moves in is always one of the best times to see game - as long as you can handle the weather. These sightings, along with fresh scrapes and new rubs have got me thinking that the rut is being triggered.
The joy of hunting with archery equipment during the rut is a true test of any hunter's skills. It's one thing to see deer chasing each other, but it's another to get them close enough for an archery shot.
There are plenty of tricks and techniques hunters use each season in their attempt to harvest a buck. While there never is a short supply of new hunting products on the market, the majority are used to catch the buyer not deer.
Like any tricks or techniques, nothing works all the time. To make a call or anything work, you first need to have deer in the area. This is where your preseason scouting comes into play. As I have said before, understand your area and know the deer in your area. Know where they feed and where they bed. Know their escape routes and know where and how they get from point A to point B.
Several years ago I started messing around with a technique that seemed to work to get bucks into archery range. It doesn't just work on young deer; mature bucks will respond just as well. The technique exploits a whitetail's most basic instinct, to be a part of the breeding process.
This is how the technique works. You give a breeding call (a breeding bellow), then a series of grunts and a short-rattling series. There are two different versions of this technique.
The first version is to give the breeding bellow, the grunt and then rattle. This works best on mature bucks. I have discovered that a short series, with a 15-second delay after the breeding bellow before you start softly grunting, works best. I prefer Oak Ridge Game Calls Pro-Grunter Series because the hunter can get different-sounding grunts by either blowing or sucking on the call. Two different sounding grunts is a must. It gives the visiting buck the feeling that two new boys are in town.
What we are trying to imitate is one doe being chased by two bucks. Therefore you need to have two separate grunt calls to give the illusion of two separate bucks. Make your series about a minute long, throwing in a couple breeding bellows between grunts.
The other version of this technique is a shorter call series, calls followed by a rattling sequence. Then you finish with a couple grunts from each of the bucks. The whole deal should last no longer then 90 seconds, and the shorter the better. I have discovered that the longer you do the deal, the lower your success will be for overall whitetail sightings. Younger deer will come into a short version, while they may not come into a longer version. It's the old feeling of fear. A young buck doesn't want to get his butt kicked by two old bucks. When they come with the shorter-version call, just watch the action.
The key to each series is to end everything with a couple breeding doe bellows. This lets every deer in the area know that a receptive doe is still in the area. Understanding what makes the male and female of the species tick during the rut will help you unfold the complex pieces of the rutting puzzle.
In the whitetail's world, breeding only takes place during a short period of time. The theories behind what triggers the rut are as widespread as the techniques used to hunt them. Some folks say that the rut is triggered by the first snowfall while others think it has to do with air temperature. And some are convinced that it is based on the phases of the moon.
Here in our part of the world, I use a combination of many of these theories to come up with a date for the peak of the rut. I base my date for the peak of the rut on the Hunters' Moon. If one was to look into each of the theories, one would find that around this time many of the other things happen.
Several years ago I started keeping close records of all my hunting activities, including weather, wind and deer movement. Looking back on these records, I have noticed one thing that seems to keep popping up. It seems I record more rutting activity around the end of October and first part of November.
To fully understand the rut is a full-time affair and lifelong pursuit of the truth. Therein lays the difficulty, because the rut is an ever-changing event. It changes due to the way whitetail spend their days and nights. The landscape of the whitetail's world is ever changing and we all need to make the adjustments to be successful.
Calling has been working very well for the past couple of years. Again the key to each series is to always end with a couple breeding-doe bellows. This lets every deer in the area know that receptive does are still in the area.
I have seen larger bucks hang back while smaller bucks come running in to check out the action. So if you're looking for a larger buck, you may want to wait before you shoot the first thing that comes through.
While this technique doesn't work all the time, it does work when there are deer in the area that are interested in breeding. I have used this technique from August to January and from Alabama to New York, and have had great success with it. Give it try, you might be surprised, and let me know how you make out.