By Josh Boyd
As the month of November forges on, the annual whitetail rut sets in with force. This exciting period of season offers a wealth of opportunity for eager hunters to punch their unfilled tags. However, little sends the rut into overdrive quite as quickly as the passage of a strong cold front. When cooler than average weather falls over the land, hunter success tends to skyrocket.
Though we would obviously wish for cold, frosty mornings to accompany every outing during the rut, the notion of such tends to be little more than wishful thinking. Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather, and we must accept whatever mother nature throws our way. While we hope for the best, unseasonably warm does occasionally befall the rut, presenting a difficult set of circumstances to contend with.
Nonetheless, one can still find rut hunting success under warm front conditions, by adapting to the situation at hand. The following strategies will assist you in making the most out of your time on stand, despite above-average temperatures.
Key in on Morning Hunts
While deer movement during the rut can often be observed at any time of the day, movement tends to be heaviest shortly after dawn, when warm weather takes hold. Daily temperatures are typically at their lowest point just before dawn and build gradually throughout the morning. On the contrary, afternoon temperatures only drop during the last couple of hours before nightfall.
As such, one can expect to encounter significantly cooler conditions during the first few hours of a morning hunt, than those presented during the final hour of an evening outing. Deer are also keen to daily temperature fluctuations, and move far more readily in the morning, especially when summer-like heat makes a mid-November appearance.
Focus on Bedding Cover
As one would most likely imagine, observable deer movement during daylight hours does tend to decrease during the rut when warmer than average temperatures present themselves. However, bucks are still bucks and will seize upon any opportunity to pursue a hot doe, no matter the temperature. As such, much of this action will take place in close proximity to bedding areas.
When temperatures are trending above average, focus your efforts around known doe bedding areas. While does might be uneager to move more than necessary, you can bet your last dollar that a buck will still check up on his ladies, wherever they may be. When hunting trails to and from doe bedding areas, it is extremely important to monitor the wind and keep excess sound to a bare minimum.
Monitor Watering Holes
Nothing works up a buck’s thirst quite as quickly as relentlessly chasing does across the countryside, especially when a late fall heat wave sweeps across the land. While a buck is unlikely to deviate from its mission of tracking down a receptive doe, they will stop for an occasional drink of water when the opportunity presents itself.
A hunter can use this knowledge to their advantage by locating watering holes that are situated near common doe bedding areas, or are located in route between bedding cover and favored food sources. As a buck travels these routes in search of estrous does, they will often make a quick pit stop to rehydrate.
Call to Coax Movement
Just because deer are not moving freely during daylight hours, does not mean that they will not move when enticed into doing so. During the rut, bucks are naturally inclined to hold their ground during a perceived challenge of dominance. Likewise, many bucks will often respond rather inquisitively when the familiar sound of a fight is overheard.
If movement seems to have ground to a halt, do not hesitate to throw a little calling into your rut hunting repertoire. In many cases, the clash of rattling antlers, or a few doe bleats and tending grunts is all that is required to bring a bedded buck out of the woodwork.
Hunt the Oak Flats
During the rut, success is often achieved by staking out favored food sources that are frequented by does. However, when the mercury rises, does are far less likely to venture out into open fields and food plots during daylight hours. Instead, deer primarily focus their attention on secluded food sources that are shaded from direct sunlight, the most common of which being acorns.
When hunting the rut in the midst of sweat-inducing heat, key in on oak flats to increase your chance of success. Both bucks and does gravitate toward these secluded food sources, presenting a wealth of opportunity for any hunter who is poised to take advantage of the situation.
Beat the Heat, Bag a Buck
While the rut is often characterized by peak seasonal deer movement, and opportunity on every front, a poor turn of the weather can certainly stifle the month’s festivities. However, rather than admitting defeat, a savvy hunter can adapt to the situation at hand, and find success nonetheless. By employing the above-mentioned tactics in the weeks to come, you will be better equipped to conquer the rut, no matter how bleak the weather forecast might appear.