Rutting bucks are on the go nearly all day long in their seemingly endless pursuit of a doe near estrus. Indeed, a buck can pop up when you least expect it, now making still-hunting the strategy of choice among ground-dwelling bowhunters.
But you do not want to wander aimlessly about the deer woods; you need a plan to help insure success. Here are five sure-fire “sneak and peek” routes to consider during the height of the breeding season.
Don’t be afraid to hang around for a couple of hours. Rutting bucks will be coming and going all day long.
Does often take refuge in the thickest tangles available, especially those located deep in the heart of water-filled swamps. Sneaking and peeking here is generally impractical, but you can still-hunt along the edges, paying particularly close attention to spurs and ridges that emanate from within the swamp.
Bucks and does will both use these features as exit and entrance routes, making them ideal candidates for a slow walk. Be sure to apply grease paint to any exposed skin.
Cornfields are known feeding areas for farmland whitetails. Does will often arrive early in the afternoon and linger nearby well after sunrise to increase their chances of a sexual encounter.
Play the wind and weave back and forth along the edge of the field using available cover to conceal your forward progress. Stop often to glass grassy hillsides and patches of thick brush for the twitch of an ear or a glint of antler.
One of the best times to sneak around a known doe resting area is at first light right after a cold front has passed through the region. Why? Does will be in their beds due to the tempest.
Work your way back and forth upwind or crosswind, but go slowly pausing periodically to use your grunt tube. A few estrous doe bleats coupled with a series of moderately toned buck grunts will easily get the attention of any nearby buck.
In heavily wooded mountainous areas 2- to- 7-year-old clear-cuts attract deer like moths to a flame. In these situations there will always be some deer that bed high and drop down to feed in the clear-cut.
The secret to getting a shot here is to play the thermals. For example, in the morning start in the high country, and then zigzag your way downhill into the rising thermals in the hopes of intercepting a hot doe en route uphill to her bedding grounds with a racked buck in tow.
Creek beds laced with trees and thick brush allow rutting bucks to move about undetected while at the same time giving them the opportunity to visually scout both fields for does.
The very best creekbeds keep you out of sight, too, but sometimes limit where you can walk. Thus, be very careful what you rub up against. Your human scent will quickly spook any buck that runs that route behind you leaving you but one pass to get the job done on any given day.