How The Rut's Phases Can Affect Your Hunting Habits
The whitetail deer rut—the annual mating season—is rapidly approaching, and it's one of the best times to nab the trophy stag you've wanted to add to your collection. During the rut, whitetail bucks are much more likely to be active during the daylight hours, offering hunters prime opportunities to take the perfect shot.
The rut typically occurs in several phases, and deer will behave differently during each phase. That's why hunters may have to adapt their tactics throughout the rut to optimize their chances of a successful hunt. Let's take a closer look.
Unlike its name might suggest, the rut is the time of year when whitetail bucks are most active during the daylight. Since this offers hunters some of the best opportunities to hunt bucks, one thing both novice and experienced hunters should commit to memory is, when is the rut?
The truth is, the answer isn’t straightforward. Whitetail bucks typically rut over several weeks during the autumn months. Precise rutting dates can vary based on factors like the climate and the region where the deer live. However, a generally accepted tenet is that the rut usually spans from mid-October to late November.
Still, the rut isn’t simply one homogenous event, and many deer experts and hunters divide it into the following distinct phases:
With each phase comes changes in deer behaviors, and as deer behaviors change, so might your chances of catching a perfect whitetail buck (or doe). Therefore, when you hunt during the rut, you might need to adjust your hunting tactics as the phases change.
Pre-Rut (Mid- to Late October)
During the earliest stage of the rut, Bucks begin performing certain activities related to mating and breeding. Often, they will leave markings of their condition on the ground, tree trunks and branches. These may include:
Scrapes and wallows, where deer have dug and urinated into shallow pits and then rolled around in the mud.
Fraying on tree trunks and broken branches, resulting from where deer have rubbed their antlers to remove velvet and left marks.
During the pre-rut, hunters should carefully note where deer feed and where they nest, as these areas generally offer the best hunting opportunities. Bucks are unlikely to be found abundantly in open fields during this period.
Seeking (Late October to Early November)
When seeking, bucks begin to determine the general direction of females, and mature bucks often wander during the daylight. Others chase does. The number of markings and rutting signs will generally increase, making bucks easier to track.
Hunters can view the seeking phase as a time when deer begin to wander further from their nesting areas. However, they should continue to view the land between nesting and feeding areas as the best hunting locations.
Chasing (Early to Mid-November)
Often called the full rut, peak rut or simply "the rut," the chasing phase is when bucks are most assertive and active. In other words, they are in full pursuit of does. While little actual mating typically happens in this phase, virtually all bucks will be making their plays for females.
During the chasing phase, the area where bucks will travel may depend on your local terrain. However, hunters can often use attraction techniques (e.g., scents, calls and decoys) to maximum advantage at this time.
Tending (Mid- to Late November)
At this stage, mating is typically in full swing. However, deer are less likely to be visible, as they are frequently in their nesting areas. However, hunters should use extra surveillance and tracking techniques to maximize their ability to nab whitetail bucks who wander toward feeding areas or to seek further does.
Post-Rut (Late November)
The post-rut is the final phase of the rutting cycle; at this time, hutting generally becomes very challenging. Breeding has wound down, meaning whitetail deer are less inclined to roam in the open during the daylight. Plus, the post-rut also usually occurs during cold weather, and most animals are least active during these times.
During the post-rut, hunters should again focus on deer nesting areas for optimal hunting opportunities. At this time, bucks may also be feeding heavily to recover from their rutting activities. Therefore, knowing where green food sources are located this time of year can be a great helps to hunters.
Hunt The Rut at Stone Creek Ranch
Now that you know how whitetail bucks will likely behave during the rut let's get out and find them. Stone Creek Ranch offers some of the best whitetail hunting opportunities in Texas, no matter when you visit us, rut or no rut. Our trained guides will be with you throughout your hunt to ensure you have the best chance of snagging the whitetail buck you want. Book your hunt today, and prepare for a one-of-a-kind experience you'll never forget.