Rut Tactics for Warm Weather
When most whitetail hunters in the Midwest picture hunting the rut, they think of cold, crisp November mornings on ridges or timber funnels. There's likely frost on the ground and a big buck crunching through the leaves looking for a hot doe. Or, maybe they see a cool, overcast afternoon spent overlooking a small food plot near a doe bedding area.
Either way, we usually imagine being bundled up in warm hunting gear in hopes of not freezing out before the hunt is over. Not wearing our early season gear and still sweating on the way to the stand, only to see very little action during the daylight hours.
Unfortunately, the latter has become a reality for most of us in the early part of November 2022. With no sign of the heat letting up until almost the lockdown phase, how can we make the most of the rut, even with the suppressed movement?
Though success is not as likely as it would be with highs in the mid 40's or low 50's and bucks cruising all day long, there are some things you should be doing to give yourself the best odds at arrowing a heat wave buck.
1. Put Emphasis on Morning Hunts
During normal November temps, hunting the morning is a tried and true method for harvesting a mature buck. But, even then it isn't imperative to filling a tag. However, when the mercury is sitting high in the glass, hunting mornings becomes a must if you hope to increase your chances of seeing good buck on his feet after the sun come up.
Even with highs in the low to mid 70's, we still regularly see temperatures in the 40s and 50s until late morning, before they start a swift ascent in the middle of the day. This time period is generally your best bet for catching a daylight active buck.
Try to key in on timber ridges and saddles where bucks typically cruise throughout the day on a normal year. Look for these places between or near known doe bedding areas and set up on the leeward side of them. The lower morning temps combined with the shade of the timber will be the most comfortable and likely place for bucks to run when it's hot during the rest of the day.
2. Water and Bedding in the Evenings
If you are unable to get to the stand in the mornings, there are still some strategies that might work in the evenings. While any potential movement will likely occur during the last 1/2 hour of light, if you're in the right spot, you might get a chance at your target deer.
The right spot will typically be one of two places: near water, or in tight to a bedding area. If you can find water close to a bedding area then you're really going to be in the chips.
Much like in October, bucks aren't going to move very far in the heat. Even during the rut. That's why some of the same tactics you used in the previous month may be fruitful during the hot spell.
During a cold weather rut the deer often come to you because their movements become prolonged in those times. Conversely, when it's hot, you might have to go to him. The closer you can get to a bedding area, the better your likelihood of catching a buck moving around before dark.
Now to the water.
While water sources can be good midday locations during a traditional rut, they become important evening spots when heat is a factor. Even more so during the dry late summer/fall that we've had here in the Midwest.
Ponds, rivers, creeks, and ditches tucked into cover that hold water year round are like magnets right now. The deer are already exhausted and needing water from chasing all night. High temperatures only increase that need.
Oftentimes bucks will quench their thirst late in the evening before going back on the prowl after dark. This gives you a window of opportunity, albeit a relatively small one, to get a fairly predictable shot.
3. Be Persistent
Even if you implement the above strategies flawlessly, there are inevitably going to be more slow times in the stand than you're used to during the rut. This can cause burnout and become extremely discouraging.
Now isn't the time to give up though. Persistence still pays off in November, even when the temperatures are unseasonably warm.
That's not to to say you should burn out all your spots, hunting them every morning and every evening. You still have to be smart about when and how you're hunting. But, you do have to put your time in right now.
Given the heat, that shooter buck may only pass by your stand once or twice during shooting hours. You want to be there when he does.
Though it May Seem Unlikely, Success is Still Possible
No one is going to argue that the current weather situation is not ideal for hunting big whitetails. That's something we have no control over though. We play the hand we're dealt and we have to try to make the most of it.
Don't get discouraged by the forecast. Hunt smart and stay after them. Try to use these strategies to up your chances and have fun while you do it. After all, a hot day hunting beats a hot day at work anytime.
Good luck and stay safe.
Featured Image: Mossyoak.com
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