Three great stands for hunting the rut
Narrowing down my top stand sites for hunting the rut to only three is not easy. But after considerable deliberation on my part, here are my three picks. Because New York holds its firearms season during the rut, I have selected stand locations that are good for both firearms hunting and bowhunting. Of course, some stand sites are slightly better for one or the other, so I added a five-star rating just like the motels do.
I hope my suggestions will help you make good choices when it comes to selecting stand sites on the places you hunt. And remember, more important than all of this, is being safe out there this deer hunting season.
Good luck to each of you.
Here are my three favorite stand sites for hunting the rut.
• • • • • Firearms Hunting
No big surprise here. You can’t pick up a hunting magazine in autumn without finding an article or at least a column touting the effectiveness of hunting funnels when the rut is heating things up in the whitetail woods. And the reason you see so many articles on hunting funnels, or at the least articles that devote space to the in’s-and-out’s of hunting funnels is that funnels are just plain great places to hunt during the rut.
The reason funnels are so darn good, is in the name. A good pinch point will funnel the deer right past your stand. The one I have chosen to illustrate here is a classic, but just one of many funnels you will encounter in the deer woods if you look for them. Aerial photographs of your hunting ground is a great way to locate funnels. Mark them on the map, then you can check them on foot. You can save a lot of boot leather via aerial photographs or at least a topo map.
Bowhunters look for pinch points that narrow down to 40 or 50 yards – even less is better. Gun hunters quite easily can cover a 100-yard wide funnel if the cover is not too thick.
Funnels are good stand sites at any time of the season, but are never more effective than during late pre-rut and the rut itself when bucks are really moving. Funnels are also excellent places for those who prefer to hunt from the ground or in a ground blind.
Notice in the illustration that I place my gun hunting stands just slightly back in the woods where the beginning or end of the funnel merges into the woods. This is because gun hunters can then cover not only the funnel itself but a part of the woods also.
Another reason for this is better concealment for the firearms deer hunter. My bow stand will be located at the narrowest location in the funnel, or what is often called the pinch point. During bow season, this is one of my all-time favorite locations for using a decoy.
• • • • • Firearms Hunting
Deer in general, and mature bucks in particular, usually will take the easiest route from Point A to Point B. After all, during the rut, a big, old, heavy New York buck needs to save as much energy as he can for important things, like finding a doe to breed, pawing out scrapes, grinding out those vicious breeding rubs you will find only during the rut, and of course tangling with any bucks silly enough to pick a fight with the old boy.
With all of that to do, a mature buck will save energy wherever he can, so instead of clawing his way up a steep ridge, an old buck (and most other deer as well) will slip through a saddle whenever they feel a need to get from one side of a ridge to the other.
Natural increased deer movement during late-pre-rut and the start of the actual rut make saddle stands a favorite with many archers who hunt in hill country, including this old bowhunter.
Usually you will find a single, well-worn trail running from bottom to top. I like to place my bow stand toward the top of the saddle, because the wind is just too darn squirrelly on the bottom and sometimes on the sidehill as well.
When gun hunting I like to sit on top of the ridge, where I can cover both the saddle and trails crossing the saddle trail (the best one for bucks usually being about a third of the way down the hill) and the ridge itself. A perfect saddle stand will allow you to cover all three with a good-shooting slug gun or muzzleloader.
Doe bedding connector trails
• • • Firearms Hunting
From the time the testosterone really kicks in hard (about Oct. 25) in our part of the country, until the last doe is bred, whitetail bucks spend a lot of time cruising from one doe-family bedding area to another so that they can scent check for any doe approaching estrus. Bucks know where the does and their family, which usually includes an old doe, her female offspring from the previous year or two, and the fawns of all, like to bed. So they set-up a regular “milk run” of bedding areas that they visit each day, (more often as the actual breeding time nears).
And not just one buck will be cruising between bedding areas in their quest for a hot doe. I’ve seen as many as a dozen bucks in one day while hunting what I call doe bedding connector trails. A half dozen is real common, which is why I like to sit these stands all day whenever possible.
Sure buck movement on connector trails is at its peak in early morning and again in late afternoon/evening, but I’ve seen enough bucks using these trails at mid-day to encourage me to sit from dark-to-dark.
The edge goes to the bowhunters on connector trails, simply because the hunting pressure during the firearms season (especially the first three days), greatly diminishes buck movement on connector trails.
But in my experience, once the pressure slacks off (mid-week) the action on connector trails picks up right where it left off.
If you don’t know where the does like to bed in the area you hunt, wait until the last week of October, then get out there and start following rub lines. Bucks rub a lot on trees as they move along these connector trails. Forget rubs along field edges; you are looking for rub-lines in the woods.
In the 30 years or so I have been hunting connector trails, I do not recall a single instance when rubs were not plentiful along the trail. And if that trail happens to take you through a funnel, you have won the grand prize. When I have been lucky enough to encounter this situation, I place a stand on each side of the trail so that I can hunt there no matter what the wind is doing. Then I hunt that stand as often as I can and stay put for as long as possible.
Connecting trails are that good, and are very much overlooked by most hunters.