Undoubtedly many articles and books have been written about the hunt in the latter part of the first archery season and in particular about the mystery and mystique surrounding the phenomenon of the annual whitetail rut.
From wildlife biologists and researchers to seasoned hunters and novices, everyone has their own theory as to when, where and why it happens.
The rut is essentially a period when a normally slow archery hunting season suddenly changes drastically with often few and widely scattered deer sightings and bucks and roe deer suddenly roam everywhere seeking, hunting and harassing individual and roe deer groups. Bucks are doing rubdowns everywhere and the woods seem to come alive with deer action.
For the observant hunter it is very clear what is happening and there will be no doubt in your mind when you see and experience the hair-raising excitement and fast action it generates.
Archers should plan to remain in the woods as long as possible when the rut begins, seeking and hunting bucks, because a rapidly approaching buck can suddenly appear at any time of the day, not just at dawn or dusk. Rams hunt tirelessly around the clock, traveling miles in search of females. I call these deer strangers as they are often bucks that I have never seen before or have trail camera pictures of. In our hunting ground I always have several game cameras with me, which monitor travel areas and scratches, which bucks are there.
Unfortunately, another ominous sign of the rut is the large increase in wild car collisions on freeways and freeways. Street murders are becoming an all too common sight.
When does the rut start? I shot my first buck in 1963 at the age of 14 and have been trying to figure that out ever since. But with nearly 60 years of hunting whitetail deer, I’ve learned a lot about when and where to hunt for big bucks.
In our hunting area I see mostly on 10.11. the first, severe hunt.
For a couple of years my last two great archers were shot on November 10th – both chasing females. In this area the rut can start any time from early November and last well into December depending on the individual hind and often in January for younger hinds.
This fall we essentially had no big surprises in the early archery season. My oldest grandson and I had seen an average number of deer and a few bucks and I had already passed a minor 8 point.
Trail cams showed a normal amount of small bucks and a few shooter bucks, so we were confident we’d see them eventually.
On the morning of November 10th I saw one of them in daylight looking for females just out of range. He trotted around a patch of goldenrod, scanning the wind for bedded females.
After a brief strategy session, we quietly slipped into two different stands that afternoon in sight of one another and made for what we had hoped to be another buck encounter.
Luckily we didn’t have to wait long. After only about 15 minutes in the stands, a hind ran past me 15 meters away. She seemed out of breath and tired, and I instinctively readied the bow for the buck I knew must be chasing her.
A few minutes later I heard him coming. He sounded like a bull moose charging through the leaves and brush and at 15 yards I stopped the 8-point with a loud grunt and my arrow hit his lungs as he screeched to a halt.
After my shot he just fell out of sight and the deer continued for the next 30 minutes, going circle after circle, loop after loop, dodging around trees and over logs around us while several different bucks chased them. What a sight! The rut was definitely on – a short while later I heard my grandson Chase shoot and his well-aimed arrow hit a 6-point still trailing the hind! I could see his buck disappearing out of sight.
A few minutes later we saw him lying in a ravine. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Each of us had a dollar down in minutes and only a few minutes in the stands. Another classic example of the rut – fast and furious action! Talk about making memories!
With the first archery season almost over, hunters are reminded that the rut may continue into rifle season, which is now just days away.
Many of my bigger bucks have been reaped with a firearm in rifle hunting season! Firearm hunters can still use some of the bow hunters’ tricks, such as
For those hunting in firearms season, remember to wear your 250 square inch fluorescent orange clothing on your head, chest, and back; Adult hunters remember to count these points up for three points and try to take a young hunter with them.
You’ll both enjoy the camaraderie, friendship, and the lifelong memories you make!
Good luck and safe hunting!
Cochranton-area resident John Crooks is a longtime outdoor writer.