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The Different Phases of the Rut

For most all of us the rut starts late October and runs through December. This time from October to December can be divided up into three distinct phases of the rut. This time of year is a very popular time for hunters to be in the woods because it gives them a chance at a buck that they may not normally have. This is a brief article about the different phases of the rut and some tactics and techniques that can be used during these different phases. There are a million different ways to hunt the rut, and everyone has there own opinion on what works and what doesn’t work. So feel free to send in your favorite rut tactics to Ultimate Deer Hunting and we will post them for you.

Pre- Rut

Pre-Rut is my favorite time of the year to hunt. The pre-rut in the Midwest should occur around October 28th to the 8th of November. During this time I like to use aggressive calling such as bleats, grunts, rattling, and snort wheezing. I like to combine a bleat followed by a tending grunt and a series of clicking grunts. I also like to do short rattling sequences. I usually don't rattle for more than 10 to 15 seconds. The reason behind this is that I feel the longer you rattle, the more movement you make, and the better chance you will get spotted by an approaching buck.

Another great tactic for the pre-rut is the use of a decoy. While some people refuse to use them because they're bulky and a pain to carry in the woods, those people are missing out on some fun action. During the pre-rut I like to use a buck decoy positioned on the edge of a crop field or in an opening in the woods. While using the decoy I will call frequently, using grunts, paired with snort wheezes and some rattling.

After talking with hunting legend Stan Potts this past summer, he explained how he uses a decoy; “I like to set up on the edge of food sources, on a pinch point and put my decoy out in the open. I do this from about October 25th clear through the month of November. I’ve killed a lot of deer with my decoy.”

Now some people don't like aggressive calling in the pre-rut, and everybody has had different experiences in the woods. The reason why I like aggressive calling in the pre-rut is because the bucks are all wound up and ready for that first doe to come into heat.

The peak rut

Peak rut is another exciting time to be out in the woods. The peak rut in the Midwest should be around November 9th until November 23rd. These dates do vary year-to-year because of multiple reasons.

It's tough to call bucks when they are chasing does but it is worth a try. Bucks tend to lose their doe for short periods of time. During this time, a buck might respond to grunting or bleating. During the 2008 gun season, my brother shot an excellent buck that had been trailing a hot doe and had lost track of her for a second. While the doe traveled up and over the hill, the buck lost sight of her and took a path along the side hill which eventually led to a 15 yard shot by my brother.

Decoys are also a good option during the peak rut. During this time I like to set up with a doe decoy. This is the time of year that you need to spend as much time out in the woods as possible.

The post rut

The post rut occurs in mid to late December when the does that didn’t get bred come into their second estrus cycle and some young does enter their first estrus cycle. While the post rut is difficult to hunt, especially in pressured areas, it is achievable. I like to hunt doe bedding areas and food sources that are somewhat hidden from human sight, roads, buildings. This is a good time to pattern a buck by using trail cameras. If the buck is coming out during shooting hours, odds are it is right before dark. Therefore, locating the trail he’s taking and his possible bedding area is key. Catching the buck coming out of his bedding area just before dark is the solution, which is easier said than done. There are a lot of similarities between early season hunting and late season hunting.

Big things to remember

Lots of hunters get caught up sitting in one or two stands during the rut. Don’t focus all of your time in once spot. Try different spots, hang new stands, hunt away from what the norm would do. If I am not seeing any deer activity in a certain area, I will put up a trail camera there and not hunt that area until the camera tells me I should do different. Best of luck with the upcoming rut and be sure to send in your stories and pictures of your deer.


Clynt kistler