Hunting Waterholes During the Rut

Hunting in-woods waterholes is one of the most overlooked rut tactics. A mature whitetail buck pushing his body hard during the breeding phase needs water, and even more so when the mercury rises.

Hunting Waterholes During the Rut

water hole huntingWhen the temperature rises during the rut, keying on a waterhole can pay huge dividends. On a recent hunt, I'd found a location where several points dropped down to a dry creek-bottom. The points and the creek's sharp banks created a natural funnel. However, the gem was that the pool of water at the creek's elbow was the only water the area held. Does were bedding on the points, too, which added to the allure.

Just after first light, I caught the movement of a 140-ish 8-point trotting down the point to my right. Pausing for a drink, he sucked down the water in greedy gulps. Several minutes later, two yearling bucks entered the scene and began sparring.

That's when the doe appeared. With the monster buck in tow, she funneled her way toward my stand. Reaching the erosion cut between the points, she decided to avoid the young bucks and climb up the other side.

The big buck had a different idea. Wanting a drink to quench the thirst generated by his night of carousing, he used his rack to nudge her back toward the waterhole. Several nerve-wracking minutes later, the buck was mine.

When the temperature rises during the rut, waterholes can be powerful draws. So long as these ponds are near doe concentrations, in-woods water sources are one of the best ways to beat the heat.

Like it or not, there are many factors in hunting we can't control. When the recent all-too-common November heat waves hit, we can't walk over to the great thermostat in the sky and flip on the AC.

As my grandfather used to say, what we can do is stop whining and deal with it. In this case, that means adjusting tactics and hitting the woods. The two most powerful draws under these conditions will be does and water. Because bucks reduce their daytime activities, hunting on top of these hotspots is often required.

Rutting whitetail bucks will often stop at waterholes while cruising the forest looking for a doe-in-heat.
Rutting whitetail bucks will often stop at waterholes while cruising the forest looking for a doe-in-heat.


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