It's early November. In the world of the whitetail, love is in the air. Amorous bucks are seeking does, with reproduction on their minds.
Hunters should use different tactics when hunting deer during this special time of the year. For example, October bowhunters usually hunt in the evening near known deer food sources. Or they hunt deer trails leading from bedding areas to those food sources, with hopes of intercepting a hungry buck. In December, muzzleloader hunters and archers use similar tactics.
The peak of whitetail breeding occurs, roughly, from Nov. 8 to 12. Deer are scent-oriented animals. During the rut, bucks will be focused on traveling downwind of spots they expect to find does, using their ultra-keen noses to check the wind for does in estrus. So the best place for hunters to find bucks is wherever the does are hanging out. Try hunting downwind of a known doe bedding area. Or, better yet, hunt downwind from a deer trail between two or more doe bedding areas.
During the rut, morning hunting usually is the best time to spot bucks making the rounds. However, a lonely buck in search of a mate can appear at any hour.
Another good location to bag a buck is downwind of any pinch point, or bottleneck, in your hunting area. Bottlenecks concentrate bucks as they travel in search of does. Examples of these are a saddle between two ridge tops, a strip of high ground surrounded by swamp, land between two bodies of water or a shelterbelt or woodland connecting two fields.
The real hot spots are remote feeding areas where deer have been eating undisturbed for the past few weeks, such as picked fields of corn or soybean. Remember, bucks don't feed much during the rut. But if does are using the fields, a buck will come in search of a girlfriend. As the season wanes, don't expect bucks to step into these open areas during daylight. They'll be wary of hunters by then.
A buck that is tending a doe in estrus can show up almost anywhere. I've seen bucks courting does in wide open fields at midday. The lesson is: Be ready to shoot at all times, even when walking to and from your deer stand in areas you don't expect to see deer.
Hunting during the rut is exciting. You never know when that buck of a lifetime might show up.
Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.