Hunting the whitetail rut is a fucking grind. It’s the time of year all hunters look forward to, full of lows with a few highs sprinkled in. During the rut, anything can happen at literally any time.
You can go from having a season full of misfortunes to having your hands wrapped around a heavy, dark-antlered buck in a few moments in the midst of the rut. But you have to be in the woods to make the most of a whitetail rut opportunity.
Sounds simple, right? It should be, but so many people hunt the first few hours and last few hours of the day like they would in the early and late season. Don’t do that. Bucks are cruising at all times of the day during the rut in search of the next doe in estrus, and you don’t want to miss it.
A few years ago, I was hunting the big woods of Pennsylvania during the rut and had spent over a week in a tree waiting for an opportunity. On Nov. 8, right around noon, I did a grunting/bleating calling sequence. Within a minute, I heard some thrashing across the creek.
I could see the legs of a deer beneath a row of hemlocks. Eventually, I noticed the flash of antlers going up and down one of the scrub trees. The buck broke the tree in half and started moving towards the opening in front of me. The hair on his neck was standing up and he was ready for a fight.
I drew my bow as he was just steps from the opening. I bleated, stopping him for a great quartering away shot. I watched my arrow pass through his body coming out the front shoulder on the opposite side.
The buck bolted into the creek bottom thicket and crashed inside of 80 yards. I hung up my bow and sat down with a blank stare on my face. Finally.
If I’d been back at the truck eating my lunch, I would’ve missed this opportunity. It takes discipline to stick with an all-day sit, but the rewards can be tremendous. Here are five tips that will make getting through the day a bit easier.
Coffee is Key
Sitting in a tree all day can be boring and tough, and that’s why you need caffeine. I always have an 18- or 36-ounce YETI Rambler bottle filled with good coffee.
Coffee does a few crucial things. It keeps your mind in the game and focused when you’re tired. Opportunities may be few and far between, so it’s important to be on your A-game and be present during those long days.
The heat of the coffee will also raise your core body temperature on those cold, frosty mornings. Every sip gives you that little boost that you need and gets your body creating heat that will be trapped by your layered clothing.
Bring a Lot of Snacks
I’ve been around some hunters that won’t bring food into the tree, because of scent control concerns. I can confidently say that I’m not one of those people.
In fact, I bring a lot of snacks in the tree with me. Food will allow you to stay longer and eating keeps your temperature up. Foods high in protein, fat, and carbohydrates create body heat due to the required energy your body is producing to digest the food.
Wear Proper Layered Clothing
Having the proper clothing to be comfortable all day is key to sticking it out from dark to dark.
You will want to wear a synthetic or merino wool base layer, an active insulating layer, and an outer windproof insulating shells at minimum. This will move moisture on the walk in and trap heat during the cold mornings. Remove layers as it warms up throughout the day.
Stay away from cotton clothing. It’s the enemy of all hunters. It doesn’t dry quickly, which will lead to you getting cold soon after you get to your stand in the morning covered in sweat.
The specific layers you wear will depend on the temperature range for the given day, but you will always find me wearing something that’s windproof. The wind will attack your body’s core temperature down and leave you shivering in no time.
Keep Yourself as Comfortable as Possible
Along with getting cold, being plain uncomfortable sends more hunters back to the truck early than anything else. If you are hunting from a tree, make sure that you have a comfortable tree stand. A tree saddle is also something you should strongly consider.
When evaluating tree stand options, the most important thing is the seat. If you have a thin seat pad, it will not only make your ass sore after a while, but will cause you to get cold faster due to the lack of insulation between your body and the cold metal of the stand.
If you are hunting from a tree saddle, having comfort adjustments on the saddle will reduce hip pinch and allow you to change positions depending on the tree. In addition, wearing knee pads or having a cushion around the tree will give your knees relief when resting them against the bark.
Whether using a treestand or a saddle, shifting positions from sitting to standing to leaning throughout the day will shift the pressure points long enough to get you through a long sit without any major discomforts.
Stay Off Your Damn Phone
I admit, I often violate this rule, but you really should stay off of your phone while you are in the tree. Yes, it can help you pass the time, but it can just as easily cause you to miss a hard-earned opportunity.
I think most of us can remember a time when we were caught off-guard by a deer when scrolling. If you are putting in the time to sit all day, don’t create more reasons for things to go wrong. Besides, boredom is good for you. As Michael Easter writes about in his book, The Comfort Crisis, being bored will allow your mind to wander and not constantly be consumed by media. We go in the woods to escape from the everyday hustle and bustle, so try to stay off your phone and enjoy the silence.
The rut can be a magical time of year if you put your time in and capitalize on the opportunities that are presented to you!