FOCUS ON DOE CONCENTRATION AREAS
During the rut, bucks are searching for does. So, it only makes sense that the easiest way to find the bucks is to first find the does.
Does spend their lives at, or between, two places: their bedding areas and their feeding areas. I am going to call these the endpoints – or the concentration areas. If you know where these endpoints are located, it is not too tough to figure out where to set up to catch the bucks.
Doe Bedding Areas: Bedding areas are excellent morning stand sites during the early and middle phases of the rut. Bucks are all over these areas and will show up about an hour after sunrise. The action often stays good here until midday because the bucks feel secure when concealed deep in the cover.
It can be tough to hunt doe bedding areas regularly without educating the does, so you have to hunt carefully and only go into the areas that you can to by avoiding the feeding areas first thing in the morning and away from without bumping into the bedded deer. It can be tough.
The perfect setup has you coming into the wind from the opposite direction from which you expect the deer to be feeding at night. Most people go in very early, but I like to wait until gray light and then I walk fast. I seem to spook less deer at this time (when the woods is waking up) than to try it in the dead of night.
Ideally, you can find a stand near a terrain feature that allows you to sneak out at midday without bumping deer.
Doe Feeding Areas: Feeding areas are good evening stand sites. The deer vacate the bedding areas in the afternoon, so those spots become dead. You want to be set up where the deer are going toward, rather than where they are leaving. That is why bedding areas aren’t good all day stand sites. The action moves toward the feeding areas.
Just as hunting the other endpoint, the bedding area, is hard to do without educating deer, hunting feeding areas is fraught with the same issues. It is hard to get away from a feeding area at the end of the hunt without bumping deer. So, again, you have to hunt only those spots that set up well for undetected hunting and avoid the others.
Alternatively, you can have someone come to the field at the end of legal shooting time in a vehicle or ATV to blow the deer off so you can slip out undetected. That works very well in areas where there is some normal human activity. The deer will forgive this intrusion very quickly.
Hunting Between the Endpoints: Possibly the best way to hunt doe concentration areas is to hunt funnels between them. Bucks that are cruising from one bedding area to the next in the mornings will tend to take the most direct route, but when substantial obstacles exist (lakes, bluffs, field edges, ditches, etc.) they will detour and converge on the easy passage points (funnels).
You can keep this simple by hunting any good funnel between any two adjacent endpoints. You don’t really need to know much about the deer living in that area to do this effectively. I had great success hunting this way for years.
These mid-point funnels are nice because the deer generally aren’t there when you arrive and they aren’t there when you leave so there is much less chance of bumping and educating deer. These are travel routes, mostly used by bucks during the rut. They pass through, they don’t hang around.
When deciding on a rut strategy for this year, keep this simple approach in mind. The buck are hunting does. If you take advantage of that fact, you can get to speed very quickly even in areas where you don’t know a thing about the local deer. The terrain and food sources will tell you want to do.