For as long as I can remember, Chautauqua County has been known as the place where the weather changes every few minutes. Throughout the past couple of weeks, the weatherman has been good to Chautauqua County residents. After a warm and dry summer, the fall, for the most part, has seen much of the same, but it looks like the next couple of weeks should bring more seasonable temperatures.
The good news for archery hunters is with the drop in temperatures and the Hunter-Moon phase, the deer should be starting their annual ritual of the rut. From what I have seen and what others have shared with me, it looks like the next 10 days should be the staging of the rut with the pre-rut following close by.
This past week while I was tracking an archery buck for a new hunter, I had the opportunity to get into an area that held some fresh deer sign and many large scrapes that were fresh. There were also several reports of a young bucks chasing does around.
From the sign I've seen and a few reports I have been given, it looks like the rut may be kicking in a little early this season. Generally, around the end of October into the first few days of November, rutting activity is in full swing in this part of Whitetail Country.
The rut is the only time of the year that whitetail deer breed. Studies have shown that more than 80 percent of does are bred during the first rut in the northeast. Does have a particular 36-hour period when they are ready to be bred. If they don't "take" during that time, they will be ready again in another 28 days and so on until they are with fawn. Needless to say during the rut, monster bucks that are secretive the remainder of the year are much less cautious. For those who hunt big bucks, the rut is often times the best, and only, chance to get a crack at those "unkillable" deer.
The advent and drop in price of trail cameras has narrowed the learning curve for hunters. Having an extra pair of eyes in the woods 24/7 when I am not there has made each time I go out more exciting. For the first time in many years, I am like a kid at Christmas each day I walk into the woods. Knowing what's in the area before you actually see him in person really gives one the confidence that we all need for those long hours on a stand.
The joy of hunting with archery equipment during the rut is a true test of any hunting skill. 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 hunter, not the hunted.
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. Again, understanding your area and knowing the deer in your area, where they feed and where they bed, knowing their escape routes and, most importantly, knowing where and how they get from point A to point B is important.
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 mature deer, but it also has good success on young deer. The technique exploits a whitetail's most basic instinct - to be a part of the breeding process.
The technique works something like this: 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 is breeding bellow, grunt then rattle on mature bucks. I have discovered that a short series, 15-second delay, after 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 you are trying to imitate is one doe being chased by two bucks. So you need a grunt call that can make a young buck and mature buck call to give the illusion of two separate bucks. Make your series about a minute, throwing in a couple breeding bellows between grunts.
The other version of this technique is a shorter-call series of calls followed by a rattling sequence, ending with a couple of 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 whitewall sightings. Younger deer will come in to 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 2-year-old bucks. While they will come into a shorter version, just watch the action.
Understanding what makes the male and female of the species tick during the rut will help you unfold the complex pieces of the rutting puzzles.
In the whitetail's world, breeding only takes place during a short period of time. The theories behind what triggers the rut are as wide spread as the techniques used to hunt them. Some folks say that the rut is triggered by the first snowfall. Others think its has to do with air temperature and some are convinced that it is based on the phases of the moon, just to name a few.
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. It's based on the Hunters' Moon. If one was to look into each of the theories, one would find that around that time many of the other things happen.
Several years ago I started keeping close records of all my deer hunting weather, wind and deer movement. Looking back on these records I have noticed one thing that seems to keep popping up. I record more rutting activity around the end of October and first of November.
To fully understand the rut is a full-time affair and life-long pursuit of the truth, and the difficulty is the rut is an ever-changing event. It changes because of the way whitetails spend their days and nights. The landscape in the whitetail's world is ever changing and we all need to make the adjustments to be successful.
Calling has been working very well over the past couple of years, but the key to each series is to end everything 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 Texas to New York, and have had great success with it. Give it a try. You might be surprised. Let me know how you made out.