The rut begins: tips to optimize your trip and fill your tag


There isn’t a more exciting time of the year for bowhunters than the rut—the time of year when white-tailed deer are looking for a mate.  

The rut typically begins around the end of October and lasts through the first part of November. These few weeks are the best time to catch some of the biggest deer in the area during daylight hours.

These tips from myself and Landon Johnson, a senior nursing student, will help archery hunters fill their tag during the prime time for deer hunting.

Scent Control – Due to their incredible sense of smell, white-tailed deer can be extremely tough to hunt. Thankfully for hunters, various scent control applications are available to help mask natural human odor. Spray down hunting clothes, boots and gear liberally, and store them in a sealed tub away from unnatural smells.

“I take scent control very serious when deer hunting,” Johnson said. 

He washes his hunting clothes in unscented laundry soap and makes sure to always apply spray to his boots.  

“I specifically spray my boots since deer will have their nose to the ground during the rut,” Johnson said.

Pinch Points Overlooked by many hunters, these areas can be excellent spots to hang a deer stand. During the rut, bucks are constantly searching for does in heat and pinch points are prime locations to cut them off. 

Try setting a stand in a thick tree line between a large body of water and a harvested corn field. Since deer are elusive critters, they will want to avoid the open field, thus being funneled into the tree line and into bow range.

“I monitor funnel areas throughout the summer to understand deer patterns,” Johnson said. “Trail cameras come in very handy with this part of hunting.”

Climbing Tree Stands Having the ability to adapt is key to successful deer hunting. 

Hang-on or ladder-type deer stands often work well for specific wind directions. But improper winds can make hunting those stands unproductive and allow deer to catch your scent. 

Additionally, many SDSU students hunt public land, and climbers come in handy as there is no need to run the risk of leaving permanent stands out on public grounds. 

Johnson agrees that having a climber is important to quickly changing locations and keeping the wind in your favor.

All-Day Sits Typically, deer movement spikes during the early-morning and late-evening hours. As the end of October and the beginning of the rut nears, deer will begin to move more during daylight hours. During the peak of the rut, it isn’t uncommon to see large numbers of bucks during the middle of the day.  

Maximizing time in the stand tremendously increases odds of harvesting a mature deer. Make sure to have a comfortable stand, pack plenty of snacks and dress appropriately for an all-day hunt.

Johnson likes to get into his stand early and makes sure to stay late.

“When most people are leaving their stand for the morning or heading out for the evening, I like to be sitting in my stand, as they can push deer towards me,” Johnson said.

Getting Away From the Crowd When deer hunting on public lands, avoiding the crowd is an absolute must. Much of the public ground in the Brookings area receives a great deal of pressure from duck, pheasant and other deer hunters.

Archery hunters should look for isolated plots of land away from the crowds, which tend to hold better numbers of deer. The more work put in to access remote hunting locations, the better.  

If private land is not an option, look for large parcels of public land containing water, adequate amounts of habitat and nearby food sources. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks does a nice job of planting thick tree belts on public lands, many of which hold deer. 

Hunting away from the crowd is important in Johnson’s opinion.

“Having access to private land is definitely a plus,” Johnson said.