GET CRAFTY WITH YOUR RUT STAND LOCATIONS
I filmed my grandfather hunt in Kentucky the last couple of days, and it's obvious the daylight buck activity is increasing. Most of that activity is by yearling, 2-year-old, and 3-year-old bucks, but that will soon change. If they aren't already, it won't be long before bucks of all age classes get up on their feet in search of estrous does.
As the rut kicks in gear, doe behavior will change. Estrous does don't like being around other deer. They often avoid traditional bedding areas. They choose isolated locations away from the majority of the local herd, instead. Think unconventionally to find those places.
This goes back to the idea that deer are edge animals. A fencerow is an edge. We've all watched deer run up and down them. They're great travel corridors. Good news for hunters: They serve a dual purpose during the rut. Does often bed up in thick, overgrown fencerows to hide from the bucks harassing them.
I had an encounter almost a decade ago that still haunts me to this day. I shot a buck with my dad's old Marlin lever action .30/30. I took a 245-yard shot—call me a liar if you want, but it happened—and connected on the deer. A large brush pile was between me and my deer. As I neared it, a doe came dashing out and ran across the field. The largest Kentucky buck I'd ever seen (and still the largest to this day) followed her. I'd avoided brush piles up to that point. Changed my view of them after that.
Farmers hate them. Hunters love them. And the hunters who try to convince farmers they don't need that extra half-acre of tillable ground know the struggle is real. That said, if you have access to one near prime deer habitat, deer will be there. I shot a nice 125-inch 10-point in 2007 on the edge of a small woodlot. The landowner bulldozed it the next year. Haven't shot a deer on that part of the farm since then.
4.DRAINAGES AND DITCHES
I can't tell you how many times I've walked back to the truck after a morning hunt, had to cross a ditch to get there, and bumped deer upon crossing. Deer love drainages and ditches, especially during the rut.
5.OLD HOME PLACES
Ah, the 200-year-old house that still stands. Old and abandoned farmhouses, barns, and other structures are like magnets for deer. Throw in thick, early successional growth around those places, and it's hello deer heaven. I don't know why deer gravitate to those places, but they do, making them a great rut spot.
Water is the big buzz during the early season. Everyone seems to forget about it by the rut. I'd advise against that. Secluded water sources are one of my favorite rut stands, especially for morning hunts. Bucks dog does all night and often visit a water source before going back to bed. I've shot two of my eight biggest bucks coming to a water source during the rut. Both of those deer died between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The pinch-point tactic: Everyone uses it during the rut. But everyone seems to write a creek crossing off the list as a viable option. Deer often cross bodies of water. They take the path of least resistance when they do. Thus, the creek crossing.