As October transitions into November, temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing color and falling from trees and whitetail bucks through most of their range are feeling the rut kick into high gear.
Accordingly, hunters are taking vacation days and kicking their time in the woods into high gear as well as this is definitely the best time of the season to be hunting. Regardless of whether your locale limits you to stick and string this time of year or you can reach out a little farther with a muzzleloader or even a modern firearm, the following tactics will help you make the most of this exciting time of season.
Scent Magic – Bucks are beginning to harass does and fight each other to establish dominance. Rubs and scrapes are popping up and being worked along field edges, woodland trails and throughout the forest. You’ll be tempted to use estrous scents in order to make bucks think a doe has come in early, but don’t jump the gun. You’re most likely not going to fool them. Instead, stick with a good, basic doe urine to relax deer and make them think other deer are in the area and all is good. Want to mix it up some, you can also try a dominant buck scent as you rattle and grunt in an effort to agitate a big boy cruising the area.
Making the Call – The prerut is absolutely the best time to break out the rattling antlers. Unless you live in an area with some serious big buck genetics or are solely hunting a buck in a trophy class, maybe back off using the biggest set of antlers you can find. No need to intimidate trophy-worthy but less dominant bucks. Set up where curious bucks have to circle in front of you upwind and rattle in sequences no longer than a couple of minutes long. Mix in grunts for added realism. Stay alert, typically, if one is going to show up, he’s going to come in pretty quick and he’s going to be alert. If he busts you moving, the gig is up. When hunting a stand and you spy a big boy slipping past just out of range, don’t freak him out with suddenly rattling. Grunt or doe bleat at him first to get his attention. If he keeps going out of sight, then give the antlers or rattling bag a try. Rattling and calling works best after you spot a buck and know he’s there, but to up your blind calling odds, don’t sit a stand but move from location to location, setting up on the ground and rattling about every 200 to 300 yards.
Best Stand Locations – Traditional season-round stands can produce at any time, but to make the most of your limited time in the field or forest at this time of year, there are several spots that provide for higher traffic setups. Deer, regardless of whether they are hitting a field or cruising the woods, tend to landmark, meaning they navigate by features they recognize. When setting up on a field, deer can pop out anywhere, but setting up just off a corner with a well-worn deer trail to it can put you in better position for a closer shot. Likewise, if the field is surrounded by young growth forest and there is a single larger tree on the edge, deer will also tend to enter the field not far from that larger tree. Natural or man-induced funnels can be one of the best spots to set up, especially holes in fences or when hunting near a cluster of trees downed from a storm. But low spots in fences or missing wire along a fenceline near a field almost guarantees deer will travel by you if set up downwind of them. In the woods, a narrow neck between two fields or the edge of a swamp or large creek or river will be veritable deer highways into mid-November.