7 Tips for Deer Hunting a Warm, Slow Rut
Warm or cold weather, the rut will happen; just be ready to change your strategy if you find yourself sweating while hunting in a t-shirt
The author harvested this nice Oklahoma buck in warm weather at the beginning of the rut in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Burkhead)
After observing deer hunting reports from around the nation, it would seem that the recent stretch of warm, sunny Chamber of Commerce weather – Indian Summer as the meteorologists like to call it – is causing quite a bit of consternation among deer hunters.
Because the stretch of record warmth and cloudless skies in the fall of 2015 is leading to a slower than usual rut in most spots, grinding daylight movement of bucks to a virtual halt in many areas.
While such conditions are certainly tough for rank-and-file deer hunters to stomach, they are even more so for Outdoor Channel hunting personalities trying to film a series of high quality hunting shows to air in 2016.
"There are obstacles that we face that can seem pretty darn insurmountable, the biggest of which is warmer than normal weather," Realtree Outdoors executive producer David Blanton has told me in past interviews about the subject.
"Nothing can suppress the rut more than warmer than normal weather," he adds. "It can be very frustrating to us, since it seems like these bucks hole up and don't move until dark."
But Blanton stressed to me that all hope is not lost, something that a number of his fellow Outdoor Channel hunting personalities strongly agree with this fall.
With that in mind, here are seven steps to combat the current slow rut being found in much of the country as the 2015 Deer Season rolls on:
1. Focus More on Morning Hunts: With the weather being so unusually warm – more than 10 to 20 degrees above normal in some places – adjusting the time that a hunter is in his or her stand can be a big key now.
"Focus on the a.m. portion of the day," advises Mark Drury, co-host of THIRTEEN.
Why are morning sits now preferable? Because with the coolest air of a 24-hour period lingering in the early morning, deer movement is more likely early in the day rather than later in the day after the sun has baked the autumn landscape for hours on end.
And that movement often includes a rutting buck who has run around the woods all night looking for love, a wall-hanging bruiser that just can't help but make one last pass through an area as the sun comes up.
2. Hunt Carefully Near Bedding Areas: One of the best ways to find a burly buck in November is to find the winsome does that such a buck is seeking.
And Michael Hunsucker, co-host of Heartland Bowhunter, has a pretty good idea how to do just that.
"I like to hunt close to bedding areas," said Hunsucker. "And by close, I mean fairly close on the downwind side.
"But you also have to balance that out (at times) by waiting the weather out, hoping for better conditions. Or hunting on the perimeter of your better spots, waiting until the time is right to go in and hunt those spots."
Why is that?
"Because you don't want to bow a spot out (by hunting it before the time is right and the conditions allow for such hunting.)"
One thing that Hunsucker reminds hunters to keep in mind is that blowing a stand out doesn't just happen when a hunter is actually sitting in that stand.
"There are certain spots that you can get into and out of without making much disturbance," he said. "If you can get into a spot without making much disturbance, that's a good thing."
3. Hunt Major Food Sources: Most hunters know that food is an important consideration early and late in any deer season.
But it's also a big key during the rut says David Morris, the founder of North American Whitetail magazine and a co-host of The Bucks of Tecomate television show.
"You're really hunting the does right now because where they are, the bucks will be coming around," said Morris. "And the does are most likely going to be on or near the best food sources available."
But hunters need to be cautious when hunting near food.
"(Yes), you want to hunt the major food sources, but you also want to keep the pressure low," said Morris. "So I'd advise hunters to hunt food only in the afternoons so that you don't run any deer off."
Morris also adds: "And you never want to hunt a bad wind when you're hunting food sources or an approach route to those food sources."
4. Hunt Waterholes: If food is an important resource to capitalize on during the rut, a secluded waterhole can be just as valuable according to Tiffany Lakosky, co-host of the Crush with Lee & Tiffany.
"When it's hot and the bucks are chasing does, we utilize our ponds," said Tiffany. "We've come in and pushed these out, so they are secluded and the deer feel safe."
Not only are secluded ponds security cover that deer feel safe in, they also offer a cool drink for a buck or doe wearing a heavy winter coat on a warm November day.
And such spots are usually a bit cooler than the surrounding environs, sometimes by several degrees due to shady cover, the presence of water and the fact that many ponds are found in a low-lying areas.
"(Ponds) can be awesome for an all-day sit when the temperatures are warm," Tiffany adds.
Just like using food sources as a strategy to pinpoint deer, secluded water sources can be used the same way during a warm-weather rut. (Photo courtesy of Lee and Tiffany Lakosky)
5. Capitalize on Weather Changes: While the weather is unseasonably warm in the early days of November 2015 as this is being written, meteorologists are hinting that a change is coming.
And that's by way of a series of storms and big cold fronts that are scheduled to move across the country at mid-month, something that could usher in the first real deer hunting weather of the 2015 rutting season.
And if that happens, Hunsucker says that hunters have got to cash in their kitchen passes and get time off from work so that they can be in the woods.
"Yeah, wait for and hunt the fronts," said Hunsucker. "The change in weather - i.e. lower temps, higher pressure, etc. - (certainly) increases deer movement."
How does Hunsucker take advantage of such changing conditions?
"This time of year, I love being in a tree right after a cold front with rain, hunting near active scrapes," he said. "It seems like after the rain stops, they can't get (back out) and freshen them up soon enough."
6. Turn the Tables on Nocturnal Bucks: One reason that slow early November rutting action brings frustration to hunters across the nation is that those same deer hunters have spent the last year waiting for the rutting madness of November.
And that craziness is still taking place, mind you, albeit at night under the cover of the cool darkness.
During such mild weather ruts, Blanton says that it often pays for a hunter to avoid being passive.
"When we go somewhere, we try to make something happen and we will get very aggressive with rattling, grunting and (using) decoys more," said Blanton.
"I don't think being aggressive hurts an area," he adds. "As a matter of fact, I've seen more does come into the rattling horns out of curiosity. They are not alarmed, they're just curious about what's going on.
"That helps to create deer movement and you need deer movement (during a slow rut.)"
Another way to create deer movement is to make mock scrapes and use doe-in-estrous scent bombs that are left out overnight.
"When the bucks come through in the middle of the night, they come through and get a whiff of that scent and it excites them but it also aggravates them since there is no scent trail leaving the area," said Blanton.
"I think (that) registers something in their mind that there is a doe in heat, but they don't know quite where."
Hopefully such irritated bucks will go on a search the next day to find out where that doe is, perhaps cruising right past a waiting hunter's stand.
7. Stay Strong Mentally: Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle that hunters have to overcome during slow rut hunts is to avoid the urge to toss the towel in and head back to camp.
"You've got to stick with it," Blanton has told me. "Too many hunters hunt early and late in the day (and that's it). But you've just got to get out there and hunt longer into the morning and even into midday."
Major League Fishing competitor Brent Chapman, a Kansas resident who loves to deer hunt as much or more than he loves to bass fish, believes the same thing.
And Chapman finds great similarity between perseverance for deer hunting success or in catching a key bass that rocks the ScoreTracker Live! leaderboard at the end of a Major League Fishing day.
"It becomes a mental game," said Chapman. "You still have to just get out and put your time in.
"It's amazing how many times I had no confidence to go (out and hunt) and still end up having a great hunt," he added.
"All it takes is the right buck to walk by you. You can't kill one unless you're out hunting."
Even during a rut that has been slowed to a trickle by mild weather and cloudless skies.
Because even such a dull season can change in zero to 60 mph fashion when a hunter hears a grunt and sees a flash of headbones coming through the woods.
After that, all that's left to do next is to shoot straight and true, slow rut or not.