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Let the Hunt Begin

By on November 1, 2018

The Wait is Over, Preparations are Complete

By: BRIDGET FABEL,
Roadking Outdoors Contributor

Deer hunters across North America patiently wait all year for the season to begin. We put in the hours placing trail cameras, making food plots, setting blinds and tree stands, and trying to figure out the elusive big-game animals. I personally put in countless hours all summer and work hard to make sure I get the chance at an animal when the season opens. Although I hunt elk and mule deer out West, New Jersey whitetail hunting has to be one of my favorite experiences of all time. Why? Simply because I hunt the same week in New Jersey every November, which is the peak of the white tail rut.

Hunting the Rut

Whitetail deer rut at different times depending on the year and location. Based on my experience growing up in northwestern New Jersey, rut action typically occurs from Halloween until the last day of November. Some years, the action is definitely hotter than others. When hunting the rut, it’s important to understand that there is no better “prime time.” By this I mean that for the rest of the year, deer typically are most active at first light and last light. During the rut, deer are moving non-stop at all hours of the day.

This is because the bucks are out and about tirelessly looking for does to mate with. My personal favorite times to hunt the rut are the first and second weeks of November. During this time I fly back to Jersey from Utah and check the trail cameras that I set up earlier in the summertime. In New Jersey I have two different tree stands with cameras and corn at the base of each. Setting a camera near your tree stand is important to help you pattern the deer and see which bucks you may have a shot at.

A hot doe is one that’s in estrus and ready to mate. In theory, if you follow the hot doe, it will make it easy to locate the bucks. It’s not quite as simple as just going out and stalking a doe, however, first you have to find the does to stalk. Then you have to figure out how to position yourself for hunting any bucks that come along. Finding whitetail does is an art form in that you have to understand how they travel and feed during the day, and bed when resting.

November falls within the “Permit Bow” season in New Jersey. During this time, avid bow hunters across the East Coast begin to sit in their tree stands and hunt hard. For me, the rut is so fun, because you have the opportunity to lure deer in with scents and calls, which is different from all other times of the year.

Scent Lures

My favorite way to hunt the rut is to put out some “doe in estrus” scent right below my tree stand. This very obvious, piercing smell imitates a whitetail doe in heat, looking for a buck to mate with. Buy some doe in estrus and scent wicks at your local sporting goods store. Next, dip the wick in the liquid scent and hang it around 5-6 feet off the ground on a branch close to your tree stand. I like to hang it this way so that wind blowing in all directions catches the scent and carries it. Placing it close to your stand, rather than far away, is also important, because the bucks will often walk right to it. If it is far from your stand, they will walk to the end of the scent and see that it is not actually a doe and walk away. If this happens and they are not within range, you may never have a shot opportunity. I’ve harvested many curious bucks with the estrus scent. It seems to lure bucks in from miles around looking for does.

Pro Tip

Even though the deer are generally more distracted during the rut, it is still important to use scent control. Wash your clothes in scent free detergent and be sure to use scent-free products when showering. Remember, when hunting a stand, you are usually 20 yards or less away from the deer, so scent plays a big role. The nose of a deer is incredibly sensitive and is their biggest defense.

Rattling & Calls

Another reason I love hunting the rut is because deer calls work and work well. Every morning after walking through loud, crunchy leaves, I send out a couple buck grunts once I’m situated in my tree stand. This helps nearby whitetails think that the noises they heard of movement through the woods were just another deer. There are many different kinds of calls that imitate buck grunts, and they all work well. I send off a couple grunts, usually two in a row with about a twenty second wait in between, and then I go silent.

If a nearby buck hears those grunts, you’ll instantly hear an aggressive grunt back. One time, before legal light, unfortunately, I called in a huge eight point with a couple grunts while I was getting in my stand. He came in with his doe trashing trees and acting very aggressive thinking there was another buck in the area who wanted to fight. Bucks are extremely aggressive during the rut and are always looking to fight with each other in order to win over the ladies. I usually bring a set of deer sheds with me and rattle them together from my tree stand. This imitates a buck fight and often draws in curious, nearby bucks who want to see what is going on.

Bucks & Does

When hunting the rut in New Jersey, my permit allows me to take both a buck and a doe. Hunting a doe is an excellent way to get some of the best meat in the freezer. For the past couple years, I’ve done my best to take loner does who seem a bit young to be rutting. This helps the rut continue as you’re hunting for a big buck, but also helps more genes pass on into the future generations. A smaller-body doe will be the best meat you’ve ever eaten, I guarantee it!

Why I Hunt

Hunting requires a lot of time, effort, and money. This year, I’ve hunted in three different states and have spent a lot on tags, gas, and flights to do so. The truth is, even the best hunters do not fill their tags sometimes, and that is a risk you take putting a lot of money into this sport. Although it isn’t easy and sometimes can be extremely frustrating, it is important to look at the big picture. Hunting is about working hard and spending time in the great outdoors. For me, hunting season is too short, and I try to cherish every moment.

Hunting is an ancient sport that helped our ancestors survive, and it is important to carry on its traditions. Bow hunting for me personally is my favorite, because it is very challenging. When bow hunting you have to get within close range of the animal you are hunting. Bow hunters cannot just pick up a bow and shoot it at an animal for the first time. Sighting a bow takes months of practice and hours of target shooting. The elevation and temperature all affect how your bow shoots, and sometimes, when traveling for hunts, you may have to adjust for your new surroundings. I love the challenge and hard work required to shoot a compound bow. 

Work Hard & Success Will Follow

Remember that the more effort you put into your hunt, the more you will be rewarded. Even if you do not tag out, you can look back on your experience and say that you did your very best. That feeling, and that statement are the most rewarding for any hunting season. Wake up early, practice hard, scout often, and you will have done all that you can do. Always be proud of your successes, for hunting is not easy. Hunting provides an excellent opportunity to spend time in nature with friends and family, and filling your freezer with meat is simply icing on the cake.

Always maintain a positive attitude and success will follow. Believe the deer will come in, and that you will make the perfect shot, and you will. Have confidence in yourself and happy hunting! I encourage men and women who have never hunted before to get into this amazing sport. If you have any questions or want to see how I’ve accomplished so many successful harvests over the years, watch the hunting videos on my YouTube channel by searching: Bridget Fabel. Thanks for reading and good luck to all!

My Gear List

  • Hoyt RX1 Compound Bow, I am a left-handed shooter with a 45-pound draw weight
  • Easton Axis Arrows, 500-grain Carbon Steel Fixed Blade Broad heads, 100 grain
    Reliable and comfortable camo
  • Crispi Hunting Boots
  • Scent Lures (Doe in Estrus)
  • Antlers for rattling
  • Deer calls from Hunters Haul subscription box
  • Tree stand or blind
  • Vortex Fury Binoculars (range finders and binoculars in one)
  • Corn for bait
  • Tassie Tiger Knife, fixed blade Field dressing knife of choice
  • On Track Outdoors “No Mess Dress Kit” for a mess-free gutting experience
  • Mtn Ops Magnum vanilla protein powder for mid-day snacks and fuel
  • Stealth Cam trail cameras
  • Reliable pack to keep your gear in the tree stand, I use my waterproof and camo 40L Rockagator

About Warren Eulgen

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