The rut begins at the same time, every year. It never wavers as a constant, annual non-stop reoccurring train ride of whitetail opportunity; and that ride begins every year, just on time! In my experience the rut begins when the boredom of September and October ends. That drastic change is taking place right now in the upper 1/2 of the Midwest in locations like MN, WI, MI and NY, and it will be taking place within the next 10 days in the more southern portions of OH, IN, IL, MO and KS.
*Check out the timing of the rut and how to hunt the entire rut, in this 2018 Whitetail Rut Guide!
When The Rut Begins - don't miss out
Years ago we completed our long-weekend hunts by driving from the UP of MI every 2 weeks from the beginning of the season. We placed a major emphasis on hunting in early November, which placed our October trip squarely during the middle of the month. What did we see in mid October? Not much. 1-2 Scrapes, a handful of rubs and very little activity other than by focusing on hidden oak flats during the morning hours, and food source movement during the afternoon. But then, something would always happen!
When we arrived around November 1st, the woods had obviously exploded in aggressive buck activity! 1-2 scrapes turned into 30, a handful of rubs turned into dozens, and the buck movements had gone from 0 to 60 in a matter of 2 weeks. The only problem? We missed hunting the movements that took place between the stages of 0 and 60. In 2005 we adjusted our hunt timings and never looked back. Today is the 23rd of October, and the local mature bucks have began the climb from 0 to 60 right on time.
*When these giant rubs suddenly appear during the last 1/3 of October, it is time to start getting serious!
When Will The Rut Started Yet In Your Area?
Each year when we focused on our early November hunt, we missed the explosion of some of the best rutting behavior that Fall has to offer. The only thing that we were able to actually gain by waiting until November was to experience all-day cruising opportunities. That's it. However we typically hunt specific bucks, traveling specific routes, using specific bedding areas. Although during the November Peak Rut we gained the opportunity to witness any buck cruising at any hour, anything specific was thrown out the window. We found that the best time to kill a specific mature buck, was right now during the last week to 10 days of October. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are there numerous new scrapes and rubs popping up in the woods?
2. Can increased activity be observed on trail cams?
3. Are new bucks showing up on the land that you hunt?
If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, than the Pre Rut has begun, in your area too!
*My morning hunt on October 22nd, 2015 featured the classic signs of a Pre Rut hunt, as this 3 year old 8 point cruised by over 2 hours after first light. He was slow, browsing, and freshening every scrape he came in contact with. By lunchtime I am sure he was most likely bedded down for the day after his instincts created a lot of extra morning work for him, but by the late afternoon hours I am sure that he was back at it again. Also typical of Pre Rut morning hunts, about 8 new scrapes could be seen along with one monster rub, just on my way back to the truck. To check out a complete guide to taking advantage of Pre Rut morning buck movements and beyond, try reading "Morning Sneak Tactics For Mature Bucks".
Why Hasn't The Rut Started Yet In Your Area?
This is a sad fact that many hunters have to realize each year, but if you have mature bucks in the upper Midwest on the land that you hunt you will see Pre Rut sign, and if you do not, you will not. Without an adequate buck age structure you may see very little sign, if that sign is dependent on several yearling bucks and a 2 year old or two. But there are a few more reasons even deeper than that:
1. Has your land been overhunted during the early season?
2. Has the food on the land that you have been hunting been shrinking, while neighboring food sources have been either growing or remaining stable?
3. Even adequate cover will help to hold deer, but has that cover been compromised by hunting pressure in any way?
There are several reasons that sign may not be exploding in your area right now, so it pays to do a little reality check if it hasn't happened yet, and doesn't any time soon.
Evening Pre Rut Hunts
My evening hunt on the 22nd of October, 2015, nearly ended like it did in 2011, with a monster buck in the back of my pick up. A real nice buck passed by over an hour before dark, making rubs and scrapes along the way. A distant snort wheeze in the field reminded me of the giant fight we witnessed in 2011 as well! Only this time, instead of the mature buck coming my way, he chose to turn and proceeded to tear up the woods in the opposite direction. Great hunts don't always end with a shot, but the experience came just about as close as it could get! I hadn't hunted this stand since last year, which is a huge part of my stand use strategy. For more ways to make sure that you are getting the most out of all your hard work, try reading "Stand Timing For Mature Bucks".
*Weather sure can increase or decrease daytime rutting behavior, and my Latest Book, "All Weather Whitetails", can help you use the weather to help you hunt from the beginning of the rut, and all the way to the end of the rut!
Has the rut started yet in your area? Well if not already, it should very, very soon! Years ago we did not realize the power of the Pre Rut, and therefore we never realized the potential level of success that was within our grasp. But now after years later and several 5 and 6 year old bucks have been placed on the wall; right now has become a major Can't Miss Time in the deer woods. Potential success if happening in a deer woods near you; are you ready?