Whitetails can exhibit rut behavior during the entire hunting season and they can obviously be harvested during the duration. However, most hunters’ favorite time is the rut, but what most hunters mean by the rut is, more specifically, the chase phase and the residual activity that can be caught on either side of actual breeding. Why is this their preferred time? Obviously because there’s more activity and mature bucks are up moving during legal hunting hours more than any other time.
Out of all possible tactics, the use of scent can show the highest rate of success. Scent isn’t a tactic you should use every time afield and often it should be used in combination with another forms of stimuli like calling or decoys, but scent is a tool that you should have with you always to use when needed.
Bucks have been ready to breed since huge levels of testosterone began surging through their body during late August and September. They’ve been waiting for the does to kick it into the next gear and start exhibiting signs of coming into estrus. During this period a scent-trail in Special Golden Estrus can be killer…literally.
A Pro-Drag soaked with lure brought through strategic areas and then ended crosswind from your ambush location is a long-time proven tactic. End the trail by hanging the drag on a branch about four feet off the ground at your maximum effective shooting range crosswind from you. You don’t want the buck to smell you, that’s why crosswind is important rather than upwind. Sometimes bucks will follow the smell emanating from the wick on the breeze from downwind and you want to draw the buck into the lure before he gets directly downwind of you.
Sometimes (actually a little less than half the time) they’ll follow your trail in the wrong direction (they actually follow trails from real does in the wrong direction just as often). This is why a Pro-Drag will outperform boot pads. It leaves a constant, easy to follow trail for the buck. He can put his nose to the ground and follow it without distraction or having to relocate it. Most of the time, if they follow the trail in the wrong direction and don’t find what they’re looking for, eventually (sometimes several hours later, sometimes immediately) they will follow it back in the right direction…to you. Give your bucks the smell they’ve been waiting for!
This tip is courtesy of the GameKeepers Field Notes, a weekly wildlife and land management email newsletter produced by the Mossy Oak GameKeepers.
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