The late fall is my favorite time to get outside with the camera. Being a wildlife photographer, the whitetail rut holds a special place in my heart. To see big bucks vigorously chase does, mark territory, and scrap with their peers is always amazing to witness — and even better to capture on film.
|A buck spotted by the author while taking wildlife photos during the rut in Eastern Ontario, Canada.|
I've made some observations studying and photographing whitetail in the field. Here are some tips for those that hunt deer during the rut that might help in filling that deer tag of yours.
The Bedding Buck
Bucks bed down quite regularly. Take Mr. 10 point for instance. This past week I have found him in two separate spots, bedded down numerous times throughout the day. Each time he has had a doe within 20 yards of him. On average, each of these "rests" lasts 15 minutes.
Tip: Discover his favorite spots to hunker down and hunt over them. Chances are he will pay a visit or two throughout the course of the day.
Find the Does
The majority of bucks I have found this past week have been keeping a close and careful eye on any present does. Bucks will generally keep a bit of distance, but their prospective mates are always in their line of sight.
Tip: Seek out feeding areas that hold does. The bucks should be close by.
Pay Attention to Separate Territories
I have watched, and found, bucks that have travelled from one territory to another, always using well-worn paths. In both of these instances this week, it was across a busy road. In fact, I found the same buck on each side of the road on two separate occasions within four hours.
Tip: If you hunt an area that is divided by a roadway, search along the edge for a well-travelled path. In my case, they cross where a fence is trampled and head across a swamp that is found on the other side. Bucks will travel great distances to find receptive does. If your spot is turning up blanks, see what is happening across the road.
Heed Rubs and Scrapes
Every buck I have come into contact with, and there have been seven so far, conscientiously check both their own rubs and scrapes, as well as those left by other bucks. I am noticing this primarily happening during the early morning and late afternoon periods. Very few bucks are creating new signposts, but more so, routinely checking those already established — and numerous times throughout the course of the day.
Tip: Seek out rubs and scrapes. The more in a confined area, the better. One spot I photograph in has close to ten rubs and scrapes in a 30 yard radius. Each day this week, at least four bucks have paid a visit to this area — and at all times of the day. Keep this point in mind for tree stand placement.
Hunt the Mid-day Period
Buck activity and movement has been happening all day long this week. Once they are seeking out does, their movements are not confined to just the early morning and late evening periods.
Tip: Take a chance with some noon-day bucks. What you see might just surprise you.