Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream’s Whitetails columnist and writes for the website’s Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.
There’s an easy trap to fall into while hunting the rut: The expectation of quick or easy success. I’ve been bit by this one from time to time, and in each instance I think I know why. We see bucks running willy-nilly across the landscape. Watch them do stupid things they wouldn‚t do any other time of year. Hear hunters talk about the monster they killed that left his brain behind to follow a doe. And of course the temptation is to believe that all that craziness is going to spill over onto us.
Do scads of guys get unbelievably lucky during the rut? Of course they do. But to experience consistent success during the rut, you need to hunt good ground, possess adequate whitetail knowledge, and–no way to sugar-coat this–just get in a stand and grind it out.
My friend Jeff Bunke is a poster child for this trifecta of success. Jeff has killed many whopper whitetails over the years, but the Minnesota buck he shot last week is special. Jeff saw this giant on the first afternoon of the gun season. The buck was too far away for a shot, but Jeff vowed that he would not put his tag on another buck this fall.
“I was ready to go into late muzzleloader season with the same goal, and if I didn’t get him this fall, I’d hunt his sheds and spend the off-season learning all I could about him,” he told me.
It was a one-deer-or-nothing vow that could easily have been filled with a lot of heartache.
But not this time. Jeff saw the buck a couple different times over the 9-day gun season, badgering does but always just out of his effective range or screened by brush. Finally, with one hour of shooting light left on the season’s last day, the buck followed a doe into a clearing, and Jeff made the shot. He’d logged 98 hours of stand time in pursuit of one deer.
Make that THE deer.