As the warm and humid days begin to taper off into cool and breezy ones, every white-tailed deer hunter waits for the next few weeks ahead – rut season. This is the time of year when does go into estrus and big bucks get reckless. Why is this important? The more deer move around in the woods, the better the likelihood of you seeing them! The time of year deer are most active are during three phases: pre-rut, peak rut, and post-rut.

The pre-rut phase is when bachelor groups of bucks start to break apart and gear up for the chase. Bachelor males will be rubbing trees and starting to lock antlers to establish the pecking order. This is a good time to play the territory game to lure in a big one. To increase your chances of a larger buck moseying your way, try making mock scrapes in the ground. You can also try active calling like antler rattling and snort-wheezing. Deer will also frequent feeding sites to put on all the weight they can before the rut ensues. Take advantage of hunting active oak stands that are dropping lots of acorns as well as food plots with thick cover nearby.

bachelor group

Photo credit: James Sorrow

Peak rut phase is when hunters have the best chance of bagging a big deer. This is the time of year when does go into estrus, and at this point, does call the shots. Any movement a doe makes, you can bet the buck will be right behind her taking the same steps. Bucks will be more active during the day throughout this phase.

One of the best tips for hunting the rut is to try and be in the stand or blind all day. The weather should be getting cool, and big deer will be active not only in the morning and evening, but also during the mid-day lull. Between 10 am to 2 pm when most hunters are back at the camp eating lunch, you would do well to be in the woods getting ready for a monster!


Post-rut is the last phase and poses a few more challenges than the first two or three months of the season. Deer are a little more wary now due to hunting pressure from earlier in the season. This is a time to get back on the food sources and winter cover. After the peak rut ends, bucks are running on empty and need to replenish. Keep your eye on oak stands that are still producing acorns, late cut corn fields, or other winter food plots. There will also be a lot of movement on the trails leading from bedding areas to these food sources.

There may also be another breeding period during this phase. Many hunters call it the second rut, because 28 days after peak season all the does that did not breed will come into estrus again. This rut will not be as chaotic, but you would do well to use the techniques seen in the peak rut. Young doe bleats and buck grunts work very well in this late rut.

Knowing all you can about how the rut and how its phases effect deer movements and patterns will increase your ability to predict where deer will be. This will not only make you a more educated hunter, but it will also help you see and bag more deer season after season. To find out when peak rut will be in your area, use this link to take you to the Wildlife Resources Division state rut map: