Remembering Classic Whitetail Rut Hunts

For many deer hunters, the whitetail rut is their favorite time of the year because mature bucks come out of hiding in search for a hot doe.

Remembering Classic Whitetail Rut Hunts

The author arrowed this Oklahoma river-bottom buck during a memorable November rut hunt.

I remember it like it happened yesterday. It was the second week of November, and I was atop a small cedar tree. My perch overlooked a transition area between the cedar-covered plateaus and winding river-bottoms to my north. Two does — their breath visible in the cold, damp air — fed beneath me. Then it happened. The fast moving clouds parted, the rising sun lighting the top of a small knoll — off to my left — like a Broadway stage. At the same time, the buck appeared.

In the remarkable light of the golden hour, the buck looked giant. Taking a few steps to my right, the buck slipped into the shadows, coming my way. As I reached for my bow, I felt my heart racing. The two live decoys beneath me were staring intently at the buck. I was alive with anticipation as the buck continued my way. The buck stepped into my shooting lane, then turned left, walking behind several cedars that were between us. Quickly, I reached for my grunt tube and let out a couple of soft grunts. To my dismay, the buck flagged and bounded away in a rush. My heart sank.

I hunted the same treestand the following morning, but didn’t see the buck. That afternoon, I found myself perched in another small cedar tree just up the hill from the previous day’s encounter. Shortly in to my sit, and right on cue, two does made their way toward me. The does stopped 30 yards short of my hide and began to feed. Minutes later, I caught movement in the brush to my left. I quickly discounted it, believing it was just the wind. I sat statue-like watching the two does feed.

Now, just an hour into my sit, it happened again. Off to my left, the brush moved, but there was absolutely zero wind. Carefully, I reached for my bow. Moments later, I saw the buck’s tines as he vigorously engaged a cedar sapling. The small tree suddenly stopped moving, and the buck appeared out of nowhere. With the buck at less than 20 yards, my heart again pounded. The buck caught the movement of the two does and headed their way. Unknowingly, he was walking right into my shooting lane. At 10 yards, the buck paused, his vitals covered by understory. The buck glanced toward the does, looking away from me. I drew and anchored.

As the buck took his next step — clearing the brush — I vocalized a “Bwaaat!” The buck stopped at 9 yards, my arrow already on its way. The broadhead hit its mark and the buck perished within sight of my stand. The buck wasn’t the giant he appeared to be on stage the previous day, but he was a respectable buck for the Oklahoma river-bottom country I hunted; I was satisfied with the harvest (photo above).

With it, the whitetail rut brings ups and downs, highs and lows — chaos! As bowhunters, we live for this time.

I’m certain your November will be filled with the peaks and valleys of rut hunting. With a little luck, hopefully you will encounter and take home your dream buck. If so, please feel free to share your story with me:

Until then and as always, if there is a topic you would like to see highlighted or expanded upon in the pages of Bowhunting World, or you would just like to write a note, please do not hesitate to send me an email with your thoughts. Best to you!


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