Lots of my friends save their vacation days to hunt during the peak of the rut. This seems like a great plan. However, without a good strategy to hunt this portion of the rut, it’s easy to eat tag soup.
To be certain we are all talking about the same portion of the rut, I define the peak as when the largest percentage of does are receptive. When the biggest percentage of does are receptive, most bucks can find a mate. And a buck will tend a hot doe for approximately 24-36 hours.
After the dance with that mate is over, the bucks will seek another receptive doe. During this period, bucks typically move less compared to the pre-rut, when only a small percentage of does are receptive. When only a few does are receptive, most bucks will be seeking.
This is why I hunt general travel corridors and feeding areas during the pre-rut. However, during the peak of the rut, I prefer hunting travel areas that offer cover and are the shortest distance between bedding areas or thick cover.
It seems a doe gets tired of being scent-checked and harassed by bucks during the peak of the rut. A doe often stays in thick cover during this portion of the breeding cycle, and bucks tend to cruise through or downwind of these areas (see photo above).
I used this strategy last year during the peak of the rut to tag a good-size buck! I had placed a Summit ladder stand on the edge of a utility right-of-way that faced south. During previous years, I’d cut cedar trees and created thick bedding areas on both sides of the right-of-way.
The stand was located near the top of the ridge, and it sloped down to a creek. I could approach the stand from the east along the ridgetop. When there was a south wind, I could approach the stand with almost no chance of being detected by deer that were using either of the two bedding areas on the south slope.
I got in the stand about 3 p.m. and within 15 minutes had tagged one of the better bucks in the area.
You can watch this hunt and learn more details by watching the video below.