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The rut can be one of the most exciting times during the whitetail deer season. Deer are generally more active and bucks are consistently on their feet during daylight hours in search of a hot doe. This time of year can be broken down into phases; pre-rut, peak rut, and post rut. This blog post aims to provide tips for hunting each phase of the rut, along with some helpful insights to help you make the most out of each phase.

When is Rut Season for Deer?

When the whitetail rut starts and ends can vary based on where you are located. The rut in the middle to northern portions of the United States is pretty predictable on a year-to-year basis. In these areas typically spans from the middle of October to the first part of December. The southern most portions of the United States tend to have a later rut, starting in November and ending in the late part of January.  

Deer Rutting Behavior: Phases of the Rut

The whitetail rut can be broken down into three phases:

1.       Pre-Rut

2.       Peak Rut

3.       Post Rut


During the pre-rut bucks can be found moving into their fall ranges and starting to establish the dominance hierarchy in the area. This is the period of the whitetail rut that bucks will start to make rubs and scrapes. These rubs and scrapes allow a buck to communicate to other bucks in the area that he has laid claim to an area.

Very few does are actually in estrus during this phase of the rut and are still on their normal feeding patterns. Because of this, the majority of my success during this rut phase has come from hunting food sources. Bucks will feed in the food sources with the highest concentration of does so that they can scent check them.

Pre-Rut Hunting Tips

1.       Hunt the food sources with the highest doe numbers.

2.       Find active rubs and scrapes located between bedding and feeding areas to strategically hunt.

3.       Cold fronts can be a great time to hunt this time of the rut and will often have deer on their feet earlier in the day.

Peak Rut

In the peak rut does are starting to come into estrus. This means bucks are constantly on their feet chasing, fighting off other bucks, or on the move looking for a doe in heat. This is the phase of the rut where you should consider hunting all day because you never know when a mature buck could walk by.

With the bucks consistently on the move in search of a doe, tree stands placed in funnels, pinch points, and doe bedding areas can be a great way to catch a buck within range. Water sources also make for great stand locations to capitalize on a buck getting a drink.

Peak Rut Hunting Tips

1.       Hunt all day.

2.       Focus on funnels, pinch points, and doe bedding areas for bucks that are looking for a hot doe.

3.       Hunt water sources in high deer traffic areas.

Post Rut

Once the peak rut is over, bucks are run down and will start to move back to their normal feeding patterns so that they can refuel for the rest of the winter months. The occasional doe will come into estrus during the post rut phase, so you are likely to still see a little chasing going on. Bucks will also start to move back into the areas that they will spend the rest of the winter and are more predictable during this time.

Post Rut Hunting Tips

1.       Find and hunt the food sources.

2.       Be patient and stay mobile.

3.       Keep an eye out for younger does that may be starting to come into estrus.

What is the best way to hunt deer during the rut?

The best way to hunt deer during the rut is to determine what the rut phase is and hunt accordingly. During the pre and post rut phases, focus on hunting quality food sources. If it’s the peak rut, areas like funnels, pinch points, and doe bedding areas are great locations to catch a buck cruising for a hot doe.

What time of day do deer move during the rut?

During the pre and post rut phases, deer are more active during the morning and evening hours. On the other hand, when the deer are in peak rut, they are more likely to be moving during all parts of the day.

Should you hunt everyday during the rut?

If you have the time and plenty of areas to hunt, hunting everyday can increase your chances of success on a mature buck but it is not necessary. For the hunter that has limited ground to hunt, hunting everyday might do more harm than good due to putting more human scent and pressure in the area. If you only have a small amount of ground that you are able to hunt its better to take a strategic approach and plan your hunts accordingly.

Final Thoughts

The rut is like deer hunting’s Super Bowl, but each phase requires its own game plan. Plan your strategy for each phase, and you’ll be setting yourself up for one heck of a season. Happy hunting, y’all!

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