Seven top locations when the rut is on

With few exceptions, for most of us, the rut is our best chance of tagging a nice buck. The reason why the rut is so good has little to do with being able to pattern the deer or even individual bucks. “Patterning” is all the rage these days, thanks in large part to trail cameras. Seems like if a TV buck has not shown up on cameras a half dozen times and does not have a nifty name, he’s not worth hunting!

But I believe the rut is the most difficult time of the season to pattern bucks. The bucks themselves often don’t know where they are going during the rut. As the testosterone ramps up in their systems, bucks not only are on their feet for longer periods each day, but they also may roam well out of their home range in search of an estrous doe.

So as the rut builds toward its peak, bucks become less predictable. Some hunters who pride themselves on being able to pattern and kill an individual trophy buck dislike the randomness of the rut. But for the majority of us, it is of no importance if the buck we kill is a familiar homebody or one that has wandered in from a distance. Rutting behavior will begin in coming days and weeks, so start locating these seven top spots now for the peak of the rut later this fall. They’re my favorite locations for hunting the rut.

Rut Location One: Where Ridges Meet

In hilly terrain such as the bluff country of southeast Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and northeast Iowa, bucks love running ridges during the rut. They tend to run either the top of the ridge or a parallel trail that usually can be found about 30 yards below the lip of the ridge. Find a stand where you can cover the ridge and the parallel ridge trail, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Watch for parallel trails that wary bucks also may use.

Rut Location Two: Doe bedding areas

If you know where does like to bed, hunting near the bedding area, or better yet, between two doe bedding areas, is a good strategy for all three phases of the rut. (Especially effective during the breeding phase.) Bucks know where the does bed in their home areas and as the rut builds in intensity, they spend more time traveling between doe bedding areas. Don’t bother looking for heavily used trails. Bucks often just “bushwhack” from one doe bedding area to the other, or use parallel trails – barely noticeable trails off to one side of the main trail. 
Just make sure you are downwind of the bedding area. This is the side the bucks will travel as they use their noses to check for any does in or near estrous.

Rut Location Three: Where Ridges Collide

Since bucks are big-time ridge runners during the rut, it makes sense that anywhere a couple of ridges intersect is a great place for a stand. 
But don’t settle for the intersection of two ridges until you have eliminated the possibility of three, four, or on the rare occasion even five or six ridges colliding. Find the places where ridges collide, and you have found a rut stand that will provide you with a lifetime of rut action.

Rut Location Four: Field Corners

During the seeking and chasing phase of the rut, bucks love to run back in the woods (usually about 15 to 30 yards) from the edge of a field (harvested corn is my favorite) as they use their eyes and nose to search for any doe offering even a hint of being near estrous. Often, bucks will cut the corner of the field. It’s one of my favorite set-ups for a decoy.

Rut Location Five: Opposing Points

In hill country, farmers will plant the flat ground at the bottom of the hills and the flat ground on top of the ridge. On the top fields there will be points of timber (usually the heads of gullies) jutting out into the field. Deer wanting to cross the field usually will do so where two points on opposite sides of the ridge are nearest to one another. This ensures that the deer crossing the field do not have to spend anymore time in the open than necessary. This is one of my favorite rut stands and one where, again, I almost always use a decoy.

Rut Location Six: The Dependable Funnel

There is not space here to describe all of the funnels you can find in the deer woods. Just remember, any terrain or habitat that restricts a buck’s lateral options is a potential pinch-point. The one shown here is a classic. Other pinch-points fairly easy to notice are the neck of land between a river and a lake, or between two sloughs, or maybe an open pasture and a clear-cut, or even two clear-cuts. The options are unlimited.
Here’s a helpful hint that can save you time and boot leather: Get an aerial photograph of the land you will be hunting, locate the funnels, then check them out on foot. This is a real timesaver. Then, after you have scouted the obvious, spend your time looking for the less obvious. An open gate, sagging fence, a ridge saddle, a deep gully or rockslide – all examples of less obvious funnels that are well worth locating.

Rut Location Seven: The Mock-Scrape Line

Hunting a scrape line during the early stages of the rut is an old standby for most bowhunters. Although I, too, have spent countless hours hunting over scrapes made by bucks, I prefer to hunt over scrapes that I originated – so-called “mock scrapes.” I do not have space to devote to the fine points of making mock scrapes in this piece, but I will do just that in an upcoming issue of Outdoor News.
The reason why I put more stock in a mock-scrape line than in a typical scrape line is that in my experience, bucks are more likely to visit mock scrapes during shooting hours than they are the natural scrapes. Although you will find a lot of scrapes along field edges, I don’t waste my time hunting these scrapes, nor do I make mock scrapes along field edges. Field edge scrapes are nearly always made at night when bucks are trying to attract the attention of does in the field.
As shown in the drawing, my favorite places for mock scrapes are along deer travel routes (deer trails mainly) and along manmade trails, such as snowmobile trails, forest roads, or tractor lanes. My absolute favorite mock scrape setup is to make two mock scrape lines in the shape of a X, then hunt where the two lines cross.


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