There are many times throughout the archery and firearms deer season that are good to kill a big buck. But if you want to put the odds in your favor, the rut is your best option.
The rut is the whitetail breeding season, and this is the time when the deer woods really go crazy.
This is probably the most important factor in bagging a big buck anytime all season. First, it is important that there is a healthy population of mature does in your hunting area. Even if you do not see many bucks year-round, bucks will cruise from all over the place — -out of their usual hangouts — to find estrus does. Funnels and bottlenecks are a great place to intercept a buck cruising for a doe, as deer will often take the path of least resistance and least effort. This is a popular stand choice for bowhunters, who need a close shot. Ridges are also ideal in some situations; bucks will travel these to scan the area for does. You will often find rubs and scrapes on these ridges as well. Ridges are a great choice while hunting with a gun, as you can scan a lot of ground with the foliage off the trees.
When using the right calls at the right time, calling white-tails can be very effective. The most popular calls are grunt calls, bleat calls, and rattling. Grunting and bleating are useful tools for the bowhunter. They are often used when a buck is not in range, but not that far away-say less than 100 yards. A grunt resembles another buck; usually bucks grunt while tending a doe. A bleat is an imitation of a doe in estrus. I have also heard fawns bleating when they have been lost from their mother.
Rattling is a great long-range calling technique. It imitates two bucks fighting for dominance. I have found it to be most effective just before the peak of the rut, when bucks are looking to assert their dominance to others. When things are really happening, this can be deadly. A few years ago, my Dad and I were setting up a stand midday in early November. While trying to put up the aluminum ladder sections to my stand, they banged together. A couple short minutes later, a wide-racked 8 pointer was standing 40 yards from us, appearing out of nowhere.
When the peak of the rut hits — usually anywhere from November 6-12 in Minnesota — it is important to hunt as much as you can. Morning is generally the best time, but midday and anytime within legal shooting hours can be equally productive.
Scents can also be very effective during the rut. Buying bottles of fresh estrus and dispersing it in reasonable portions — preferably in scent containers hanging from trees — around your stand can do wonders if a buck gets hold of the smell.
While i generally do not hunt with a decoy, many people prefer them in the rut. A buck decoy combined with rattling is a popular choice, and some choose a doe with estrus scent on it.
In the next week or so, pending local weather, the whitetail rut should peak. Bucks will be searching, chasing, and tending does. Take advantage of that big buck putting down his guard for a little while.