Sloshing through the rain and into the November rut
The accompanying photo was taken from one of my archery hunting spots just the other day as rain fell. It is a sizable section of wooded bottomland, one that boarders a big chunk of a long mountain range. It is also a welcome avenue for whitetails to access the opposite side, which consists of a huge, and still-tanding cornfield, plus ample acreage of yet-to-be-harvested soybean fields.
A small stream runs through this ideal section of whitetail territory, which often has to be crossed to reach the best hunting spots. As the photo shows, there’s no crossing this raging flow because too many days of heavy rains falling on already saturated ground moves water quickly to the stream for drainage.
Even to walk into the woods, avoiding the stream means going through spots where mud up to a foot deep holds boots and threatens balance. Add 35 pounds of portable treestand to an already sizable human and the chance for getting stuck enough to topple the hunter and his stand, thus covering them in mud, is real.
It’s no problem for the deer, as their tracks are everywhere, but it sure limits hunting possibilities at this spot.
Of course, it is early November now, and to the archery hunter of deer, that means the rut is with us. Spending as many hours as possible in the woods of mating deer equates with the best possible chance to achieve the goal of harvesting a buck.
Already, too many days of rain have cost a good number of hunters I know – myself included – days in which we ended up sitting at home or going back to work because hunting with bow and arrow in the rain was just out of the question.
Still, it is the rut, and it only comes once a year, so every minute you spend outside hunting when weather permits is a minute well spent, no matter if you see deer or not.
Everyone has opinions about the rut, as to when it happens, the peak, how to hunt it, etc. You can read pages and pages of opinions that offer every writer’s take on this breeding phase, and I’m no different.
Through years and years of personal experience, I’ve found certain aspects of archery hunting deer in the rut to be true, and here is what I’ve seen.
The pre-rut, for my money, from the third week in October until the first week in November, is the best time to see bucks on a constant basis. Males are now making scrapes, rubbing antlers on trees more often, becoming aggressive with other deer (including chasing does but not yet breeding them), and generally moving in daylight.
By the same token, hunting when the rut is happening may provide the benefit of having numerous bucks running past your stand chasing “hot” does. In reality, however, this is extremely isolated, and if you’re not at the right spot at the right time, you’ll miss it.
Many hunters claim that warm weather shuts down deer movement during the rut, as will rain and wind. While this may hold true much of the year, the fact remains that when a doe is ready to be bred, it doesn’t matter what the weather is, nor the time of day.
Many hunters also try to pinpoint an exact day when the peak rut will happen, citing factors such as moon phase, humidity, high-pressure systems, etc. To that I say, bull. Does determine the rut – when they’re ready, that’s it, plain and simple, and they have no regard for weather or the moon or anything else. Nature has perfected their time to be bred within a short time frame of each other in each and every year, thus allowing for fawn births to happen close to one another. That reduces predator influence on the overall heard size because of so many young around at the same time.
So what does this all mean? Even with all this rain and lost time afield, and the possibility that perhaps most of the rut is finished, I’m not giving up (here in the southeast section of Pennsylvania, I can bow hunt until gun season). For any hunter, that should always ring true. Don’t give up.