8 Whitetail Hunting Mistakes: And How To Avoid Making Them

Posted: 11/03/2012 in Archery, Gable Sporting Goods, Hunting, Real Avid, Tips and Tricks, Whitetail Deer
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From Knight & Hale

The white-tail deer rut is the most talked about aspect of hunting, yet may be the most misunderstood. The rut can be broken down into three distinct phases: the pre-rut, peak of the rut and the post-rut. Let’s start with deer activity as it leads into the pre-rut.

Bucks spend their summers in bachelor groups – 3 or 4 or more bucks spending most of their time together. These bachelor groups can be seen late in summer evenings feeding together. As autumn nears and the velvet peels from the bucks’ antlers, hormone levels in each buck begin to rise and the bucks begin to tolerate each other less and less. This is when the bucks begin sparring with each other and a hierarchy is established. The bucks spread out and establish their own home turf.

Mistake No. 1: Leaving the rattlebag or rattling antlers at home during the early season. “What most hunters don’t realize is that rattling is very effective in the early season, because bucks are doing a lot of sparring at this time,” said Chuck Tiranno, an Ultimate Hunting Team member of the Knight & Hale Game Calls pro staff. This is not the time to mimic a violent battle between two 140-class bucks, but instead lightly tickle the antlers to create an image of two bucks testing each other.

The breaking up of bachelor groups signals the approaching pre-rut. During the pre-rut, does are not ready to be bred, but bucks will keep tabs on them. Bucks go about their business of making scrapes, rubs, feeding and occasionally checking out the does.

When the bucks disperse from bachelor groups, each usually stakes out a territory to call home. Each buck will create a series of rubs, or a rubline, on trees surrounding the perimeter of its home turf.

Mistake No. 2: Hunting a perimeter rubline for more than a day or two. “If you find a fresh rub, look around to see if you see more through the woods,” Tiranno said. “If you see more and they appear to be in a line, often this is the buck’s perimeter and not his bedroom. A cluster of rubs, and not a line, is indicative of the center of a buck’s home turf.”

Likewise, there will often be a series of scrapes along this perimeter rubline. “The scrapes – called secondary scrapes – will be fairly small and don’t feature a licking branch. Primary scrapes always have a licking branch, an overhanging limb that the bucks rub their heads on, and primary scrapes are where you want to be.”

Mistake No. 3: Not hunting a primary scrape. Primary scrapes are visited by bucks of all ages. Look for a larger-than-average scrape that features a licking branch. If it appears fresh, with few leaves over the soil and a pungent musky odor, it’s a hot spot. “When hunting a primary scrape, freshen the scrape with some buck or doe urine, and be sure to bring a deer call. Primary scrapes are like a website’s message board. All kinds of deer troll by and check to see whose been by, and leave a message or two of their own.” As the pre-rut continues, bucks will pay more and more attention to the does and will begin the chasing stage. The does still are not ready to be bred, but the bucks will begin trailing them sometimes to the point of chasing.

Key to this buck activity is another key whitetail hunter word, “estrous.”  “The word ‘estrous’ means that an animal will stand for mating and not run away,” Tiranno said. “So the peak of the rut is when most of the does are standing where you hunt.”  As the peak of the rut nears, bucks will spend their time near does, keeping constant tabs on their receptivity. At the peak, a buck and a doe will travel and bed together for a day or so, then the buck will move on to find another receptive doe.

Mistake No. 4: Hunting a buck’s home range during the peak of the rut. “Hunting a buck’s bedroom during the peak of the rut a hit or miss situation,” said Tiranno. “A buck may not return to his home range for several days. It’s old advice but it rings true: hunt the does during the peak of the rut to find the bucks.”

Hunting big bucks during the peak of the rut features an air of unpredictability. When a doe is receptive to a buck, the two will remain together for eight to 24 hours, then the buck is off to find another doe. This makes funnels and “shortcuts” important hunting location. Shortcuts are void areas such as an open pasture between two patches of doe-rich woods or cover. Old country cemeteries are classic shortcuts. Whereas a buck normally would use a drainage or thin line of timber to travel from one patch of cover to another, at the peak of the rut that same buck may cut straight through the short cut.
Read the rest at Knight & Hale Game Calls

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