Best Stands for the Rut

What are the best locations for a deer stand when the rut is in progress? In my experience (which includes hunting white-tailed deer during the rut with both gun and bow in 17 different states and Canadian provinces) I would have to rank the following five locations as the all-time best stand locations for waylaying a nice buck when the rut is a factor.

Before I describe each of these locations, we should clarify just what time period we are talking about when we say “the rut.” Here in Upper Midwest, the roughly one-month period between Oct. 23 and Nov. 25 pretty much covers all of the bases when it comes to the whitetail rut. 

Breaking it down even further, I would expect the seeking phase of the rut, which is the period when bucks are busy making rubs and scrapes and constantly checking the readiness of does, to begin on about Oct. 23 and last into the first week of November.

By roughly Nov. 5 to 7, the bucks start chasing does, which is the next stage of the rut. The “chase phase” is short-lived, usually only two or three days and runs right into the actual breeding phase of the rut, which this year will run from about Nov. 7 to 25. Some does and fawns will be bred after Nov. 25 date, but at least 80 percent of the breeding will occur during that two-week-long stretch in November.

With that, here are what I consider to be the five best places to be sitting when the rut is raging

1. Funnels

Call them what you will, funnels or pinch-points, but the fact is that if you can find a place where the bucks are forced to travel through a restricted area, your odds of seeing bucks during the rut have just taken a serious leap in the right direction. There is not enough space here for me to begin to describe everynatural or manmade funnel you might encounter, so I’ll just assume that you are savvy enough to recognize a funnel when you see one. The most obvious is the classic hour-glass shape, but I will warn you, that for every one of these classic pinch-points, there will be 10 not-so-obvious places where a whitetail’s travel options are curtailed.
What makes these places so good during the rut is simply the fact that bucks spend more time traveling during daylight hours when the rut is in progress than at any other time of the year.

2. Saddles

When a mature buck crosses a ridge, he almost always will take the easiest route available to him. That is what makes a saddle such a good rut stand anytime you are hunting hill country.

3. Parallel ridgeline trails 

Sometimes a big buck will cruise along atop a ridge, but more often, he will follow a trail that parallels the ridge. Usually this trail exists in the upper third of the ridge. It won’t be an unusually well traveled deer trail, because most often only a buck or two uses it. But they are locating.
If possible I try to find a spot where the parallel trail and the crest of the ridge will both be within range of my treestand or ground blind. As you might suspect, this is more difficult to do when bowhunting than when hunting with a gun.

4. Doe bedding areas

Bucks know where does bed and they will spend a lot of time nosing around these places hoping to contact a doe in estrous. If you know where does routinely bed down for the day on the land you hunt, put a stand up on the downwind side of the bedding area. 
I’ve seen a lot of buck traffic from such stands!

5. Doe feeding areas

In my experience, unless the testosterone is flowing extra heavy, a mature buck is reluctant to walk out into an open field or food plot to check out any does feeding there. Instead, he will walk just inside the downwind cover and let his nose tell him if any of the does might be receptive.
Some hunters call these spots “buck staging areas.” Whatever you call them, they are super spots to be sitting that last hour of the day.

6. Secluded water holes 

Imagine that you are carrying 40 pounds of extra fat and dressed in a heavy fur coat. Now imagine that so dressed you have spent all night and most of the day running after does and fighting with other bucks. Even if the weather is not unseasonably warm, odds are good you have worked up a powerful thirst!
Well, that is precisely why secluded water holes are so darn good during the rut. Bucks need to drink and drink often when they are acting all crazy. While hunting over a little mud hole in the middle of a nasty thicket one early November afternoon, I was surprised to see a big, heavy-bodied buck that had snapped off one side of his rack come rushing in to the waterhole, suck up a quick quart, and then flop right down in that muddy water just like my dogs will when they are overheated from hunting for ruffed grouse or pheasant.
But he didn’t stay long. When the rut is on, a buck never stays in one spot for very long unless he has finally found that willing doe!

If you would like to learn more about rut hunting tactics, I have written a book called “Hunting The Whitetail Rut.” Send a check for $17 to Gary Clancy, 12105 Oak Ave. SW, Stewartville, MN 55976 and I’ll mail you an autographed copy.
Categories: How To’s

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