By Erik Barber
Despite a market packed with products designed to put a big buck on your wall during the rut, nothing trumps hours logged on stand. That’s why lovesick bucks aren’t the only ones to wear out during those frantic days. Many bowhunters patiently wait from sunup to sundown, watching a favorite funnel or pinch point. But when deer sightings slow and patience runs thin, don’t get frustrated. That’s when it’s time to hit the “restart button” on your whitetail season.
Sitting all day in a treestand is a mental grind, especially when deer activity is slow. When you’re burned out, you lose focus and confidence in your setup. We’ve all been there. We start spending more time scrolling through social media than watching intently for deer, increasingly envying hunters who’ve already filled their tags. Rather than wallowing in deer hunting’s blues, recharge your attitude and find a new spot.
Early morning wake-up calls run all bowhunters ragged. When you’re mentally and physically exhausted, pause to catch up on sleep. Don’t think of the extra rest as wasted time. Instead, sleep until midmorning and find something productive that benefits your hunt.
I found myself in that situation after my hunt Oct. 31 drained my energy. I sat all day and drove more than three hours roundtrip. Instead of setting my alarm for another bright-and-early wakeup on Nov. 1, I slept until 7:30 a.m. Then I sipped warm coffee from the comfort of my truck as I drove the perimeter of a public property near home. After seeing the parking lot void of vehicles, I returned for the afternoon hunt.
The change was just what I needed. My hunt produced a few close calls with a nice buck. I adjusted my plan and pushed deeper into the public grounds the next morning, Nov. 2. Reenergized and refocused, I was excited to hunt. At 6:23 a.m., the buck from the previous day walked within 14 yards of my setup. A well-placed shot and short blood trail gave me one less deer tag but lots more venison for my freezer.
Hunting spots are usually hot or cold during the rut. If an estrous doe is nearby, you’ll likely enjoy an exciting hunt, while a bowhunter 500 yards away might feel frustrated. If you start losing faith in your favorite spot, it’s time to be mobile. Scout your way through the property while paying attention to sign and listening for the commotion of a buck chasing a doe. Scout until you find deer, even if you spook a few in the process. It’s the rut. If you bump a buck from its bed, your luck can still change any time.
Bowhunting the rut is a marathon, not a sprint. Bowhunters who adapt and stay sharp are consistently more successful. So, if rutting activity frustrates you, control what you can and stay sharp. Deer activity can go from zero to 60 faster than any race car, so buckle up and enjoy the hunting season’s most exciting days.