It's November 6th and it's time for a long sit in your favorite bowstand; where do you go? Do you have a go-to mid day rut hunting hotspot? From 2002 to 2013 my family, hunting partners and I were able to enjoy a great chunk of hunting land in SW WI. We were able to get to know the land "inside and out", and at the same time practice just about anything that had to do with whitetails. Can you remember some of the many changes, advancements and innovations that took place during the last 12 years?
*Make sure to check out my whitetail book series including, "Whitetail Success By Design" and "Food Plot Success By Design", to help you find mature bucks this hunting season!
1. The full swing of film and flash, to IR digital, to "black out"game cameras
2. Considerable improvements to the strength, quality and comfort levels of treestands
3. Waterholes, waterholes, waterholes
4. Hunting season specific food plot blends and no till planting advancements
5. The continued rollercoaster of mechanical vs. fixed blade broadheads
6. Scientific evidence to deminish the value of moon phase induced rut timings
7. Significant, industry-wide advancements in the quality control of bow manufacturing processes
8. Hinge-cut bedding area and travel corridor creations
9. Smart phone gps, topo map and ariel photo navigational capabilities
10. Lithium batteries...need I say more?
It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was hoping to be able to capture 100 pictures before my 6 Volt lantern battery needed to be replaced on one of my game cameras. Now, I stick in a handful of lithium batteries once a year and expect 10K to 20K photos on each camera throughout the entire season. Although the methods and equipment evolved along the way during those 12 years, one thing remained the same: Our 4 mid day rut hunting hotspots. Those 4 hotspots were reliable, they each contributed numerous times to our mature buck harvest totals and the bulk of our hunting efforts revolved around multiple stands sites and access points for each location.
Why was each spot such a hotspot for mid day rut hunting opportunities?
There were several consistent ingredients that each location included, and after I list them, I would be willing to bet that you will recognize these same set of ingredients in some of your own hallowed rut stands. My new lease land has 2 hotspots of these combinations of mid day rut conditions, and it didn't take very long to recognize them! If you can't find these ingredients I would do one of two things:
1. Keep looking
2. Create them
Follow along as I reveal the 10 ingredients for a mid day rut hunting hotspot and when you reach the conclusion, make sure that you find my confession about each of my past personal favorite locations.
1. 200 To 400 Yards From Food
It may surprise you or not, but out of my top 25 bucks, all but 2 have been shot well away from a food source. On the flip side, out of over 100 doe harvests, roughly 80% were shot on, or very near a food source. This speaks as much about my personal hunting style as it does one of the top conditions that I look for when narrowing down my preferred mid day rut hunting stand locations.
*While I rarely hunt over a food source during the rut, that doesn't mean that a great food source (Like the one pictured from Northwoods Whitetails) doesn't typically play a vital role in the majority of my harvests! For one of my favorite food plot strategies, try reading "Food Plot Designs: Thin is In".
2. 50 To 150 Yards From Doe Bedding
Do you ever watch bedded does while sitting in your favorite rut stand? With a pair of quality binoculars always around my neck, one of the most enjoyable aspects of spending time on a great rut stand is keeping a watchful eye on a doe family group or two nearby. They not only provide the perfect decoys, but they will alert you quickly to any approaching monster cruising through the timber. If I have several does between myself and a major food source located a couple of hundred yards away, than I know that I may be in for an incredible rut hunt!
3. Mid Day Rut Hunting Between Heavy Cover
If you can picture a few does bedded directly in front of you, with heavy daytime security habitat located to either side and the wind in your face, it is time to sit back and enjoy the show. Mature bucks love to cruise downwind of known doe hang outs, and if you can get in and out of a stand location between known daytime mature hotspots, than you may have just found the perfect pinch point cruising funnel.
4. Downwind Blocked
The best form of scent control starts with stand placement. If you have done your scouting homework, you should be able to smell like a rutting buck and still remain undetected. If you have heavy cover to either side and a solid doe bedding area in front of your position, than keeping your wind away from it all is critical to not only the first time you use the stand, but for maintaining the quality of your future sits as well. An open horse pasture, steep terrain feature or even a hidden pond can all serve to "block" your wind to allow you to remain on stand completely undetected. I rarely sit in a stand unless my downwind side is completely blocked.
*Proper scent control often starts and ends, with strategic stand locations. For a detailed look at scent control, check out "Advanced Strategies For Scent Control".
5. Foodless Access and Departure
Can you get in and out of your stand without having to access through a food source? Even if you have to wait until well after daylight to cross an open ag field, it is certainly worth the extra effort for keeping the deer unaware of your hunting activities. Although in many cases I plan on crossing an open food source during the daylight, I strictly avoid doing so during the dark, when I run the risk of unwanted deer encounters.
6. Heavy Cruising Sign
Huge clusters of rubs or scrapes typically spell "staging area" or "bedding area". What I encourage you to seek are areas that contain cruising sign. What is cruising sign? Typically cruising sign seems to pop up suddenly, and close to or during the rut. Rub lines and scrape lines spell daytime mature buck activity and this is a solid ingredient to all mid day rut hunting hotspots.
7. Limited Lines of Sight
I love a great funnel between patches of heavy cover that facilitates a quick pass-thru. Saddles, point benches and brushy inside corners are all locations that not only serve to trasnfer cruising bucks through quickly and definitively, but they allow you to get in and out of a stand location without spooking the entire woodlot.
8. Extensions of Expansive Mid Day Cover
One of my favorite mature buck hunting practices is to climb into a stand, facing an expansive sea of heavy holding cover that could be offering secure refuge to the oldest buck in the neighborhood. If the cover is broken and inconsistent with a significant portion of mature timber or open low-grass field cover, than it may be a poor choice for a mid day rut hunt, even if the immediate habitat adjacent to your location is high quality. Where do "nocturnal bucks" cruise during the daylight hours? Typically well away from major food sources, and nearly always within heavy, unbroken large blocks of secure cover.
9. 200 Yards of Hunter Free
One reason that you will rarely see one of my stands along a property border, is that I don't want to scout, recognize, prepare, access and sit in my stand during an early morning cold snap only to have my neighbor walk below me and potentially spoil a high value sit. I recommend that not only do you plan around the members in your own hunting party on your own lands, but your neighbor's on their land as well. Also for me personally, I tend to avoid areas that have been hunted during the last several days by my own hunting partners. Over the years I have found that an average potential rut stand can turn into an incredible stand if it has remained "hunter free".
10. Poor Warm Season Mature Buck Hotspots
What is one very interesting mid day rut hunting hotspot characteristic? Very rarely do they make very good locations for warm season game cam observations. Mature bucks follow warm season food sources and open, shaded cover during the months of Summer and the early bow season. This is typically the exact oposite of the habitat conditions that you should be taking a seat within during the middle of the rut.
*Often the best place to find a monster during the Fall, is not where you find him during the Summer. For a complete look at this annual phenomenon, check out "The Shift of Whitetail Habitat".
Can you think of any current or potential mid day rut stands that include each of those 10 ingredients? If you can, it most likely isn't a stretch to say that the location has a huge amount of potential to tap into, if you haven't already been enjoying the proven conditions of a mid day rut hunting magnet.
And what does it take to create a great mid day rut hunt? Often nothing at all, other than making sure that the conditions of food, cover and hunting pressure are located accordingly. The confession that I have to make is that in each one of our 4 favorite hotspots that we enjoyed for 12 hunting seasons, the only thing that we created were waterholes. No hinge cut bedding areas or travel corridors were ever enhanced within the surrounding few acres of some of the best stands on the property. Now this isn't to say that we didn't have a 1/2 mile food plot pointed at our stand locations from 200 yards away, or that we didn't add waterholes or the occasional mock scrape(s), but often experiencing a quality mid day rut opportunity has more to do with habitat alignment, eliminating hunting pressure and appropriate access, than anything else. A poor location can rarely be created, if the majority of the above 10 ingredients are not already in place first. If you can recognize the components for a high quality mid day rut hunt, then making sure that you make the most out of a November 6th opportunity, should never pass you by.
*If you enjoyed the article, please check out my books including the reviews, by visiting "Whitetail Success by Design, and Food Plot Success by Design".