Throughout most of the whitetail’s range across North America, peak rut time starts in mid-November and ends around Thanksgiving.
During the primary rut, bucks are engrossed in finding receptive does. This lusting stage makes them most vulnerable during the rut. During the pre-rut, two or three weeks prior, is a good time to look for scrapes to decipher buck travel. Two or three weeks prior to pre-rut is a good time to set up along an active rub-line. Bucks are quite predictable during the earlier periods.
However, bucks abandon their pre-rut patterns as soon as does come into estrus. It is important not to continue attempting to use pre-rut tactics during the rut. During the primary rut, it’s a good idea to hunt doe family units since bucks are hunting doe family units as well. Look for signs of bucks chasing does across open ground, such as large and small running tracks together.
When hunting for receptive does, bucks can cover 10 to 15 miles each day. One of the reasons bucks become so vulnerable during this time is because their travels lead them away from their familiar core area. Bucks will become careless when following the scent of an estrus doe. For morning and midday hunts, you’ll want to hang your tree stand in an area that overlooks funnel locations because funnels often connect bedding areas. Bucks will walk from one bedding area to another bedding area searching for estrus does. For evening hunts, you’ll be better off placing your stand in locations that connect bedding areas to feeding areas. Even though the bucks are more interested in finding does than they are in feeding, the does are still on their same feeding patterns. A buck hunting for does in estrus will make very careless mistakes, such as following the doe into a wide-open field.
Remember to hunt your stands according to the cycle of the rut. Proper stand placement and understanding deer travel patterns on your land will help you connect this November.