Crossbow hunting the rut is almost as fun as it is challenging. During this time of the season your tactics will have to be as dynamic and flexible as the environment you’re hunting in. That being said the rut can be confusing and if don’t have an understand what is going on during the different phases you could blow a rare opportunity at a trophy buck.
Here’s a rut breakdown that will help you figure out what phase of the rut you’re in and what crossbow hunting tactics you can use to maximize your odds of success.
Normally occurring 1 or 2 weeks prior to peak of the rut, bucks will be starting to move around in order to locate does so you’ll begin seeing more buck. Also. look for an sudden increase in the number of rubs and scrapes in the area
- Make Some Scrapes – Bucks will hit just about every scrape they see now, so mock up several in a transition area between feed and bed that’s already peppered with good buck sign. Quitely hand a stand in the early afternoon and get ready for a trophy to work over your creation.
- Sit the side trail – You can find big buck gold now not more than 20 to 60 yards away off a prime feed field. Look for a faint trail or rub line that parallels the edge. Bucks will follow this discreet path to scent-check every trail leading to the field.
Usually one week prior to the peak when the does are just starting to come into estrus. Bucks will be wound right up and will be chasing does. The unpredictability of this period makes a favorite phase for most hunters.
- Beat a buck to bed – Now’s the time to slip into a buck’s bedding area and catch him coming home late from a night of doe chasing. Pack in a light climber or hang-on and set up in the dark. If your stand placement isn’t perfect, calling will coax him in.
- Fake him Out – Bucks run to just about every deer they see right now, so exploit that weakness with doe-and-subordinate buck decoys.
When the rut peaks almost all the does will be in estrus. During this period you will notice a decline in deer movement as the bucks will now be with the does.
- Stay in the saddle – Almost every buck in the area has better things to do than walk by your stand. You’re looking for that one big buck who’s between doe’s and looking for his next mate. The way to find him is to site in a terrain funnel (like a saddle) and just hang in there all day, and call.
- Check out the view – Find a breeding pair by setting up in an area where you can see a bunch of country, such as a fence line or high spot and just wear out your optics. When you spot a breeding pair, get down and make a stalk.
One to two weeks after the peak breeding will be wound down and bucks will be returning to their home turf. After the rut you’ll notice the does reaaperaing at their food sources.
- Return to Rubs – Mature bucks often revert to their old bed-to-feed travel routes marked by their pre-rut rubs. Watch for one or more to get freshened now, and then hang your stand within shooting distance.
- Hunt the Grub -Bucks have been running steady for a month and they need to replenish. If by chance they are still looking for does, guess where they are going to find them. Right, the hottest food source. Focus on acorns, waste grain, cereal and young clear-cuts.
A month or so after the first rut peaks unbread does will go into estrus again. By the time this occurs the deer will be in winter survival mode and should be close to food. Hunt nearby to capitalize on this second chance.
RUT Rubs and Scrapes
For the most part bucks abandon rubs and scrapes once the rut kicks into full swing but there are two key exceptions that can put a rutting bucks with range.
- Core Area Sign
- Most of the rubs and scrapes that a buck makes in and around their core area during the pre-rut are largely ignored during the ruts peak. However, bucks will make regular return visits to his core area and he may freshen those rubs and scrapes, or make new ones.
- Doe Area Sign
- Rutting bucks will also open new rubs and scrapes just off prime doe feeding or bedding areas. This sign may be active for only a short time but can draw visits from multiple bucks when a member of a doe family group is nearing or in estrous.Don’t forget to keep an eye out for fresh rubs and scrapes that can tip you off that bucks are active in the area right now. This can be a great place to hand a stand or to still-hunt if the wind is right. As with the core areas, use trail cameras or speed-scout at midday to check for freshened spoor. With bucks preoccupied with does and moving unpredictably you can get away with more intrusions. So hunting that fresh sign as soon as you find it can really pay off.