Planning Your “Rutcation”
Best Deer Hunting Stands and Locations for the Rut
Not all of us can travel from state to state filling one tag after another during the peak of the whitetail season. Most hunters lead busy lives with work, family, and other personal responsibilities that just don’t allow us to hit the “pause button” on life and spend countless days in a deer blind. However, the true die-hards have found a way to shutoff the outside world and be at piece for an extended period of time by cashing in all of their personal time and vacation days for the almighty “Rutcation”. The Rutcation that I refer to doesn’t have to involve traveling across the country for an out-of-state hunt. Heck, if you have the luxury to own a decent size chunk of land, you could just spend your entire Rutcation in your backyard. Whichever way you decide to break away from the everyday grind to hunt the most exciting time in the Whitetail woods (a.k.a The Rut), you want to ensure you are taking advantage of every single minute in the stand. You’ve marked off your calendar, sent all your calls to voicemail, and have waited the entire year for this moment. Here are the best 3 setups to nearly guarantee yourself a shot at a buck during the rut.
Location #1 – Doe Bedding Areas
During the rut, bucks will be constantly looking for love and cruising for a hot doe. So what better place to look than where they bed down? When you hunt doe bedding areas during the rut, you want to pay very close attention to the wind and place your stand downwind from those beds. The objective is to position yourself at a distance where bucks will circle downwind of the bedding area, but not you. In other words, place your setup far enough away to allow the bucks to scent check the area in between you and the doe’s. Doe’s tend to bed in thicker areas with taller grasses and shrubbery, so you’ll need find a good mature tree downwind to hang a stand and wait for cruising bucks. Again, the wind direction is very important in this type of setup because one wrong gust could blow out the entire bedding area sending doe’s scattering every which way. The best tip for avoiding getting stuck sitting in a stand with unfavorable wind conditions is to be somewhat mobile. Hang–on stands with a set of climbing sticks are perfect for adjusting on the fly. The last thing you want on your Rutcation is to be stuck hunting suboptimal stands because you don’t have the right winds for your best spots. The Muddy Vantage Point is light weight and can be moved with minimal effort. If you are looking for a more comfortable option for those all day sits, the Muddy Boss Elite AL is another great choice. The Flex-Tek Zero-Gravity flip up seat on the Muddy Boss Elite AL makes it easy to sit from dawn to dusk. Pair either one of those options with a set of Aerolite Climbing Sticks and you will have the perfect system for avoiding detection while waiting for that bruiser to come cruising in.
Location #2 – Food & Water Sources
Depending on where you are hunting, the temperatures during the whitetail rut can vary. Temps in Northern Minnesota could drop below freezing while South Texas hunters could be out hunting in t-shirts. However, the fact remains that whitetails across all regions need food and water to survive. If you have the ability to hunt either an established food source, such as a food plot or agricultural field, or a reliable water source, such as a small pond or stream, you can take advantage of the higher population densities of deer at these locations. Outside of the rut, mature bucks tend to wait until dark before exposing themselves in open areas to feed or hydrate themselves. During the rut, all those survival instincts go away and they have only one thing on their mind; love. These locations are fantastic gathering points and social hubs for whitetail rutting activity. Bucks will target areas that have a high concentration of doe’s to check if any are coming into estrus. These areas also provide a canvas for bucks to spread their scent and posture for dominance using scrap trees, licking branches, and rub lines. Bucks are playing the odds and so should you by setting up on these highly active whitetail meeting grounds. Muddy offers several options for this type of setup. If you have the means to invest in a tower box bind such as the Muddy Bull box blind, you can ensure you’ll have a solid reliable place to hunt year after year. For the price conscious hunter, a ground blind works just as well and is light enough to carry in and out with ease. The Muddy Bale Blind is perfect for placing in those open ag fields, but if you find yourself in a thicker environment the Muddy VS360 ground blind blends into the surrounding vegetation while still providing 360 degrees of shooting options.
Location #3 – Pinch Points and Funnels
If you’ve studied deer movement or scouted your hunting property you’ve probably noticed a few areas with heavier deer sign than others. These heavily used zones often correlate with features in the terrain and topography called pinch points or funnels. The high traffic is a result of deer being compressed into a smaller area in order to get from one place to another. During the Pre-Rut and Rut phases, you can increase your odds of laying eyes on a mature buck during daylight hours by setting up on these locations. A great first step is to look at a satellite map of your property to identify these dense travel corridors and target those areas for stand placement. You’ll want to avoid overhunting these spots, so that you minimize pressure to keep your scent out during most of the year. Save these stands for your prime rutting activity to ambush that target buck with the element of surprise. Ladder stands are a wonderful option here since they can be left up all year-round and don’t require a whole lot of shifting around. Muddy’s Boss Hawg ladder stand is quiet, reliable, and low maintenance for either bow or gun hunter. If you have a buddy or family member you’d like to hunt with, the Nexus and Nexus XTL double ladder stands have plenty of room for two with some elbow room to spare. No matter what type of stand you choose, be ready for things to happen fast in these locations and don’t get caught off guard by cruising bucks.
The bottom line is, a Rutcation taken at the right time of year can be your best and only chance of seeing mature bucks on their feet during shooting hours. When you put life on hold and dedicate yourself to hunting whitetails, make sure you maximize your time in the field. Give yourself options, plan your hunting locations ahead of time, and put yourself in the best possible position to get a big one on the ground before you head back to your daily grind. These 3 locations can payoff year after year if hunted properly and you never know, you just might find yourself tagged out and back to work early with a few extra vacation days in your pocket.