While science can provide many answers, there is no substitute for actual time spent in the woods observing deer.
So I turned to two hunters who have been chasing bucks most of their lives in Southeastern Louisiana and South Mississippi to get their perspective on hunting bucks during the rut.
Here’s how they leverage the rut to put trophies on their walls.
Baton Rouge’s Mark Hartman has hunted for 45 years in East Feliciana Parish and South Mississippi, and he has taken some fine deer.
He is always in the woods around Christmas and New Year’s.
“I have killed several nice bucks the week before and the week of Christmas,” Hatman said. “They were all either chasing or trailing a doe. Once, I watched a spike pass three times trailing the same doe, and on his fourth trip a nice 9-point was with him.”
When asked what effect weather has on the breeding season, Hartman said he definitely keeps his eyes on the forecast.
“I think we all know that weather affects deer movement, but the peak breeding is consistent each year,” he said. “The most likely explanation for why hunters think weather affects the rut is because weather affects deer movement in general. Although the act of breeding happens at the same time, I just don’t see as many deer running around the woods during periods of warm weather.
“The general consensus is that deer movement increases prior to the front passage, declines during the passage (especially when wind and rain is severe) and picks up again when the weather clears. Some hunters report that movement is high during a light rain, but minimal during heavy rains.”
Hartman’s final advice to hunters heading out during the rut is pretty straightforward.
“Do not leave the woods,” he said. “I have killed some very nice bucks mid-morning, as well as in the middle of the day. You cannot kill them at the camp.”
He also believes it’s more than just hunting that makes this time of the season special.
“The kids are out of school, and it is a great time to bring your family up to the camp and spend some quality time with them in the woods,” Hartman said.
Louis Maduell has been a dedicated deer hunter for nearly 50 years, and he has had great success hunting wildlife management areas across Louisiana and owns property in South Mississippi.
He has taken some real wall hangers, especially during the breeding season.
And, yes, you will always find Maduell in the woods between Christmas and New Year’s.
“Over the years, I have probably seen more rack bucks during that time of the season than any other,” he said. “I especially like to hunt after a good rain: The bucks are usually on the move freshening up scrapes and looking for does.”
But he doesn’t worry about getting out at first light, preferring to wait for the right conditions.
“I like to hang around the camp waiting for the rain to slack or stop and then immediately head to a stand that has a few scraps in the area,” Maduell said. “I will often see bucks moving in the woods right after the rain stops, no matter what time of the day it is.”
Maduell is a firm believer in spending as much time in the woods as possible every day he’s at the camp. Sometimes he hunt several different locations on the same day.
“I may start the day hunting in thick woods for a few hours,” he said. “Around 9 a.m., I might move to a pipeline where I can see a long distance, hoping a doe will cross with a buck behind her.
“I normally hunt until noon, but if I see good deer activity, I will stay until 1 p.m. After a quick lunch at the camp, I will head out around 2 p.m., and might choose a food plot where I have been seeing does. Sometimes a buck will circle downwind of the plot to see if does are feeding, but normally they will not actually go into the plot.
“So you want to be looking into the woods on the downwind side of the plot.”
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