Managing the Rut

Photo courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails

It’s funny how experts can take a subject is simple as whitetail sex and develop it into a complicated and elaborate ordeal. Some writers have broken it down into the four stages of the rut, while others, trying to appear more sophisticated, have actually taken it to seven stages.

Is there any wonder why we become so confused about the timing of the rut?

I’m just a country boy from Idaho. I was always taught K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid.

Forget the stages, there’s only one rut. That being the time of the year when the does are giving the bucks piggy-back ride. Everything else is either pre-rut or post rut. All of this discussion about the various stages of the rut makes about as much sense as arguing whether the “glass is half-full or half-empty”. Which is which is only a hunter’s point of view, certainly not the deer’s.

Simply put, the rut takes place each fall over a couple of week period..Within that period, there is a narrow 4 to 6 day window where the majority of the does, let’s say 80%, are bred.

Learn more about the “Rut”. Buy my book Buck Naked

Ideally we want to time our hunt for the week of merely prior to or immediately following this narrow 4-6 day window. Early in the rut the bucks are solitary, hog fat and eager to breed. They will be on the move all day long. Now’s a good time calling or to hunt over a primary scrape. The bucks will be scent checking the primaries scrapes daily, if not several times a day. It’s their way of finding out what’s going on in the neighborhood. Kind of like reading the morning paper is to us.

Midway through the rutting season the majority of the does come into heat. This is when the bucks are seeing the most action and, sadly, the hunters are seeing the least. Calling is least effective at this time. No buck worth his salt will leave a sure thing and respond to rattling, grunting, or scent lures. During this narrow window the does spend the majority of their time laying around with a buck standing over her. If she dares to stand the buck will be on top of her in a heartbeat. As soon as she is no longer receptive, she’ll give the buck a couple of good swift kicks between his legs and he’ll be off looking for love elsewhere. This is when he is most vulnerable.

As the rut winds down the books are no longer solitary. This is when we begin to see a large bucks hanging around with doe groups. By now most of the does have been bred, but. there will still be a few does coming into heat. The bucks follow does around like puppy dogs, hoping for one last stab at it before winter settles in. The biggest drawback in hunting at the tail end of the rut is there sre many eyes to catch our movement.

What’s most important to remember about the rut, is that it’s about the does not the bucks. The duo will only be in heat for about 24 hours. If you miss that opportunity, you missed your opportunity. The short answer to hunting the rut is; do what the bucks are doing, hunt doe groups.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

It’s Feeding Time

The graph above will give you a general idea of what a deer is doing at any particular hour of the day. The exact amounts of time spent feeding and cud chewing (ruminating) vary depending upon the season and type of feed available. Whitetail deer spend over two-thirds of their time either feeding or ruminating.

While our day begins at dawn, the buck’s day begins at dusk. It’s no surprise that a deer’s greatest feeding period is from dusk until 11 o’clock to midnight. Then he’ll spend several hours ruminating before beginning another intense feeding period shortly before dawn until a couple of hours after daybreak. Morning hunts are generally more productive for this reason. It’s interesting to note that a deer well feed every couple of hours, even if it’s just a small amount, throughout the day.

It takes a tremendous amount of vegetation to support a whitetail buck. A mature buck needs over 8 pounds of forage a day. That’s 25,000 or more bites of browse and graze each day. Deer typically spend more than 1/3 of their time feeding, 1/3 of their time cud chewing (ruminating), and slightly less than 1/3 of their time resting when they are neither feeding nor ruminating.

Having a better understanding of when deer feed and what they feed on in your area can greatly improve your hunting success.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

The Hunting Cycle

Every time I kill a big buck I immediately want to kill six more. It’s so bad, I am actually planning next year’s hunt before the current buck is even field dressed. It’s a cycle that repeats itself over and over again.

There is a three part cycle to trophy hunting. Each part of the cycle is dependent upon the other and of equal importance to the whole. If we apply the cycle consistently we greatly increase the consistency of our results.

The Mastery Cycle

The first portion of the cycle is what I call the Mastery Cycle. It actually consists of a cycle within a cycle. The first leg of the cycle is Knowledge. We must ever increase our knowledge and understanding of deer, his habits and habitat.

The second leg is Skills. It’s important to be proficient in reading deer sign as well as the use our chosen weapon. Both of these skills should be second nature to us and operating on autopilot in the back of our minds.

The last leg of the Mastery Cycle is Mindset. The one thing consistent in successful hunters is the proper mindset. A hunter should not be attached to the outcome. The buck is not the goal, but rather the byproduct of doing things right. A successful hunter is generally the one who is just happy being outdoors. He’s not thinking about killing a deer. He’s only thinking about seeing the deer. The killing part usually takes care of itself.


Patience is without a doubt the most difficult part of the entire cycle. We live in a world that demands immediate results. We have cell phones, fast food, and credit cards. We want it all and we want it now. This mentality doesn’t work well in the natural world.

This is why most hunters settle for the first buck they see and can’t wait for a truly exceptional head. Waiting is a more difficult skill to learn than making the right moves.

Learn to stay put and to choose your moves carefully. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the hill.


Persistence and patience go hand-in-hand and both are of equal value in the cycle. Persistence is having faith in our location, our skills, and that a buck will show up. A persistent hunter isn’t trying to force a move and get the season over with quickly. He is focused on the care and precision of his tactics. He is gaining knowledge and redefining his strategies confident success will come his way.

Once the season is over we reevaluate our knowledge, skills, and mindset. We practice those skills during the off-season. Once the season begins we incorporate those skills with patience and persistence. The cycle repeats itself over and over again.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

The 7 Deadly Sins of Whitetail Hunting‏

Photo Courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails

The 7 Deadly Sins of Whitetail Hunting

1) Lack of Scouting
The number one cause for failure in whitetail hunting is the lack of scouting. The second greatest cause for failure in whitetail hunting is not knowing what to look for while scouting. Proper scouting is for more than just seeing big deer. We must learn to differentiate between deer sign left by does and deer sign left by bucks. Furthermore, we must be able to differentiate average buck sign from exceptional buck sign.

2) Lack of Scent Control
Too often hunters enter the field with little regard to their scent. Scent control requires more than simply wearing clean unscented clothing. We must be aware of wind direction at all times and how the morning and evening thermals drift our scent through the forest. Cover scents are nice, but seldom do they put venison in the freezer.

3) Lack of Awareness
We must stay focused on the task at hand. If we allow our thoughts to drift elsewhere, when the buck shows we won’t be ready. Hunting trophy deer often involves many hours of boredom. Keeping our minds in the now is crucially important. One way to help accomplish this is to focus on our breathing whenever we find our thoughts wandering away from the hunt.

4) Lack of Shooting Proficiency
Practice, practice, practice. We should be so familiar with our bow or rifle that shooting it and shooting it accurately is second nature to us. A hunter fiddling around with a weapon he is unfamiliar with has saved the lives of more big bucks than just about anything else.. Our focus needs to be on seeing dear. The shooting should be automatic.

5) Lack of Whitetail Knowledge
Deer are not people. We tend to attribute human characteristics to the deer. Unfortunately, deer view the world completely different than humans do. An understanding of how deer react to different stimulus is critical. We need to understand both a deer’s physical needs and which type of habitats deer prefer.

6) The Inability to Adapt to Changes in Deer Behavior
Nothing in nature is static. Everything is in constant flux. Weather and wind direction can change rapidly. A food source that was available weeks ago has now dried up. We must constantly evaluate changes in the environment which affect deer behavior and adjust our strategies and tactics to adapt to the current situation.

7) Lack of True Intent
Odds are you will only harvest a buck as big as what you are willing to settle for. Hunters with a good visual image of the buck they want generally harvest bigger bucks. Simply stated, everyone wants a big buck, but if you’re willing to settle for less that’s what you’ll get.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,