East Tennessee Outdoors: The Whitetail Rut – Part 2

Published 12:42 am Tuesday, November 12, 2019




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The Rut. For whitetail deer hunters it is one of the most golden times of the year. We wait for it, we prepare for it and we lose sleep for it, knowing that a trophy whitetail deer could be just over the next ridge or in the next hollow.

Patience becomes our most important asset during this time of year, and more often than not, it pays with meat in the freezer.

The whitetail rut is a wonder of the animal world. Whitetail bucks that are usually nocturnal start searching the woods looking for whitetail does. Their necks swell, their antlers harden and they lose all degrees of caution as they search for love.

It is the time that they are the most vulnerable and the time when anything can happen.

In general, the rut happens in three different parts. Pre-rut happens when the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder. Bachelor groups of whitetail bucks separate and spare with each other.

They then cruise the woods for receptive whitetail does.

In this area, this usually occurs around the first or second week of November. It can be earlier, or it can be later. According to the records of the largest bucks killed in the entire country, most big deer are killed between November 7 and November 13 with the best day to hunt is November 9.

The rut occurs when the bucks find does and stay with them. Sometimes the woods will seem empty once the rut is in full swing. Be patient during this time because the deer will be back soon.

Finally, there is a post-rut period where whitetail bucks are searching the woods for does that have not been with a buck. This can happen as late as the first week of December and can be a perfect time to take a big whitetail.

For deer in the East Tennessee mountains, there is often a second rut that takes place in mid to late December for the whitetail does that are not pregnant. I have even watched bucks following does as late as the first week of January.

But how can whitetail hunters take advantage of the rut?

First, hunters have to remember to stop hunting the bucks and hunt doe instead. Whitetail doe stays in a relatively predictable pattern during this time, and where you find doe, you will find bucks.

Also, remember that bucks are led by their noses during this period. Fool their noses, and you will fool them. Many hunters do this by putting out mock scrapes.

This is when a hunter scrapes the leaves and other debris away from an area and sprinkle buck or doe urine in it. Any buck that comes by will smell the scrape and follow the scent.

Some hunters even put some of the urine on a small piece of cloth, tie it to their boot and drag it behind them. By doing this a buck will often follow them to their stand where they can get a shot at him.

There is only one problem with this technique, however. The TWRA banned the use of real deer urine because it could spread Chronic Waste Disease (CWD).

Because of this hunters can only use artificially produced deer lures, and in my experience, they are usually not as effective as real deer urine.

Another thing to remember about the rut is to be patient when you hunt. Stay on stand all day.

In fact, some of the biggest deer that have ever been killed were taken between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. As deer hunters we are used to hunting until around 10 a.m., taking a break until about 4 p.m. and hunting until dark.

But with the rut, the bucks may be anywhere at any given time.

The rut can be a very exciting time for any whitetail deer hunter and with a little patience and a little luck, any hunter can make it that most special time of the year.