By Gary Clancy
Mature bucks. But I’m not here to argue the pros and cons of a
firearms season during the rut. As long as the season is held then,
you might as well take full advantage of the gift. Here’s how.
Hunt does. If you have a doe tag, you can take that advice
literally, but even if you don’t have an antlerless tag, hunting
the places the females call home is a smart move during the rut.
The does are what the rut is all about. If you have hunted an area
for a few years, you know the places where you routinely see does.
Hunt those places.
Forget the scrapes and rubs. By
Nov. 3, all scrapes and rubs will tell you is that a buck was
once there. Sure bucks will visit scrapes after this date, but not
often enough to make hunting over them a good tactic.
Hunt funnels, saddles and ridges. When bucks are on the move in
search of estrus does, they don’t just wander haphazardly through
the woods. And don’t just randomly pick a stand site. Funnels,
saddles, and ridges are the best places to catch a cruising
High in the morning, low in the evening. If you hunt the hill
country of southeast Minnesota, think high on the ridges in the
morning, and low in the valleys come evening. Bucks bed on high
ground and conduct most of their daytime searching for does along
the spines of ridges or about one-third of the way down the ridge.
But in the evening, knowing that many of the does will work their
way down to fields in the valley to feed, the bucks drop low,
See a doe? Get ready. No, not every doe has a buck behind her,
but some will. Wish I had a $10 bill for every sob story I’ve heard
about the hunter who saw a doe but did not grab his gun from the
hook, only to have a buck come chasing the doe while the hunter
scrambled for his hardware.
Use doe-in-estrus scent. Purchase a bottle of scent and a drag
or make your own drag rag out of a clean rag and length of twine.
Pour the scent onto the drag rag and pull it behind you while
hiking into the stand. Every 50 yards, stop and add a little more
scent. This ensures that the smell gets stronger instead of weaker
as the buck approaches. When you get to your stand, loop the drag
rag over a branch or bush. I’ve had bucks follow scent trails
dozens of times.
Grunt and rattle. In my fanny pack, I carry a Tru-Talker grunt
call and rattling bag. If there is any hunting pressure, I won’t
use either because I don’t want to attract the attention of other
hunters. By the middle of the first week of the season, however, I
often have found myself hunting alone or with just a single partner
on a large chunk of public ground. With the rut in progress, I do a
lot of grunting, doe bleating, and rattling. Most of the time
nothing shows. But I’ve brought in enough bucks during the gun
season by calling and rattling that I’m going to keep it up.
Don’t give up. If you have not tagged a buck by Sunday night of
opening weekend, it is easy to give up. After all, 75 percent of
the harvest is accounted for on opening weekend. But that does not
mean that all of the bucks are hanging from somebody else’s meat
pole. With the rut in progress you stand an excellent chance of
scoring when most hunters vacate the woods and return to work
during the week. When they leave, it’s business as usual in the
Last season, on the Tuesday after the opener, I watched a big
10-point harass a doe for a half hour. Fortunately for the buck, he
was doing his thing on the neighbor’s property where I did not have
permission to hunt. All I could do was watch the show and hope that
the uncooperative doe would scoot my way. She did not, but the
point is that as long as you have the rut working for you, there is
always a chance