If you are trying to scout for funnels to hunt during the pre-rut and rut, there are a few critical elements that will help put you in the right position over and over again. As a strategic bow hunter, my success hinges on understanding and adapting to the dynamics of deer behavior. This includes not only tracking deer but also anticipating their movements during the pre-rut and rut periods. The interplay between doe trails, doe bedding, and the signs left by bucks such as rubs and scrapes, forms an essential part of this puzzle. Learning how to put it all together to find and hunt rut funnels effectively is the key.
In this post, drawing from my personal hunting strategies and years of bow hunting experience, I’ll help decode these patterns for you. We’ll dive into the strategic elements of interpreting buck sign and optimizing your hunting approach for the rut. Join me, as we explore the art of strategic hunting and help you when you’re scouting to find and hunt rut funnels.
Understanding Doe Travel Routes
First, let’s talk about the significance of finding doe travel routes when scouting. Does are the driving force behind buck movement during the rut. Bucks are on the move in search of receptive does, which means understanding doe travel patterns can lead you to the bucks. Does tend to use the same travel routes year after year, making these “rut funnels” hotspots for buck activity, especially during the rut.
To identify doe travel routes, look for well-worn trails, tracks, and droppings. Keep an eye out for feeding and bedding areas as well, as these are locations does will frequently visit. In my previous post, “Deer Droppings: Uncover Secrets for Hunting Success,” I discussed how to use droppings to locate feeding and bedding areas. Once you have identified these areas, you can start scouting for signs of buck activity.
Proximity of Rubs and Scrapes to Doe Activity
Bucks will leave signs like rubs and scrapes along doe travel routes to advertise their presence to potential mates. These signs can help you pinpoint areas where bucks are likely to be during hunting season. In my post, “Rubs, Scrapes, & Tracks: How to Hunt Hot Deer Sign,” I discussed how to identify fresh rubs and scrapes as indicators of recent buck activity. While these signs are useful, it’s important to understand that their proximity to doe travel routes and bedding areas are needed to maximize your hunting opportunities.
In some cases, you may find a “scrape line” or a “rub line” paralleling a doe travel route. These are prime locations to set up your stand or blind, as you’re likely to encounter bucks patrolling these areas during the rut as bucks are likely to cruise for does on these routes.
In hill country, I’ve found that scrape and rub lines in the lower part of the hills that are aligned with doe travel routes and are normally only visited by bucks during the night, have bucks cruising them during the day during the rut. I harvested two mature bucks over the last few years using this specific tactic.
Bucks like to coral does towards “danger areas” like roads and creeks where they won’t normally cross without hesitation. If you find a doe trail coupled with a rub line or scrape line, this could be a hot spot during the rut.
The Strategic Hunting Method Series
- Strategic Hunting 101: Elevate Your Bow Hunting Skills
- How to Prepare & Develop a Season-Long Bow Hunting Strategy
- Still Hunting: The Art of Adaptability in Bow Hunting
- Rubs, Scrapes, & Tracks: How to Scout & Hunt Hot Deer Sign
- Doe Trails & Buck Signs: Finding Rut Hunting Success
- How to Use the Wind to Hunt Deer
Buck Sign and Doe Bedding
The proximity of rubs and scrapes to doe bedding areas is also significant when scouting for rut funnels. Bucks will often create rubs and scrapes on the edges of doe bedding areas, both to advertise their presence and to scent-check for does in estrus. Setting up your stand or blind near the transition zones between bedding and feeding areas, along with doe travel routes, can be an effective strategy for intercepting bucks during hunting season.
When scouting for doe bedding areas, remember that they are often located closer to food sources and in more open, communal spaces. In contrast, bucks typically choose more secluded spots with thicker cover for their bedding sites. Focusing on doe bedding areas can increase your chances of encountering a buck during the rut, as they are likely to be nearby in search of potential mates.
Another factor to consider is the timing of your hunts. Bucks are more likely to be active near rubs, scrapes, and doe travel routes during the early morning and late afternoon hours. These are the times when does are most likely to be moving between bedding and feeding areas, increasing the chances of a buck being in the vicinity. Yes, even during the rut.
How to Hunt Rut Funnels
When setting up your rut stand or blind, it’s essential to consider prevailing wind directions and thermals. You’ll want to position yourself downwind of the travel routes and buck sign, ensuring that your scent doesn’t alert deer to your presence. Be sure to approach your hunting spot quietly and with minimal disturbance to the surrounding area, as deer are highly sensitive to noise and any signs of human activity.
As the rut progresses, you may notice a shift in buck behavior. During the pre-rut and early rut, bucks may be more focused on creating and maintaining rubs and scrapes to establish their dominance and presence. However, as the peak of the rut approaches, bucks may abandon these signs in favor of actively pursuing and tending to does.
I often see scrapes dry up at the end of October or the first week of November when bucks are in the midst of changing their approach to does. In this case, focusing on doe travel routes and bedding areas becomes even more crucial for hunting success.
Top 8 Rut Funnels to Hunt
Knowing where to find these funnels can make the difference between going home empty-handed or landing the buck of a lifetime. Let’s dive into the top eight rut funnels you should focus on.
- Creek and River Crossings
- When the rut is in full swing, bucks are on the move, often crossing creeks and rivers to find does. These crossing points are hotspots. The deer leave lots of scent marks here, making it easier for other deer to follow. When I was stationed in Kentucky, I found a secluded river crossing that turned out to be a goldmine for seeing mature bucks.
- Pinch Points
- These are narrow strips of land between two larger areas, like a small piece of woods between two fields. Bucks often use these as shortcuts. You’ve got a fantastic shot opportunity here since the deer’s path is predictable. In my early years of bow hunting, I learned this the hard way, overlooking a small but crucial pinch point on public land.
- Timbered Ridges
- Whitetails love to roam along ridges covered in timber, especially during the rut. They provide a mix of cover and high ground, making it easier for bucks to scent-check for does. A couple of years back, I had a memorable hunt on a timbered ridge in Tennessee. The bucks were so active; it was like a freeway during rush hour.
- Open Fields Edges
- While it may sound counterintuitive, the edges of open fields can be dynamite spots. Bucks will often skirt these edges, scent-checking for does in the field without exposing themselves. Trust me, I’ve had some epic encounters at the edge of corn and soybean fields, especially during the late rut.
- A saddle is a low spot between two high points on a ridge. Bucks like to move through these areas to conserve energy and remain somewhat hidden. Saddles have always been a favorite of mine. I remember a hunt in Ohio where a saddle served as a deer superhighway, giving me multiple shot opportunities on quality bucks. *Remember, saddles are one of the most overhunted terrain features during the rut. Hunting downwind from a saddle on a common travel route might be a better option if there is a lot of hunting pressure in your area.
- Food Plots and Natural Food Sources
- When the rut hits, bucks are burning a lot of energy. Sometimes they can’t help but stop by a food source to refuel. Position yourself downwind of these areas, and you might catch a buck grabbing a quick bite before he continues his search for does. I’ve found this especially true in areas with fewer natural food sources.
- Transition Areas
- Transition areas are where two different types of terrain meet, like a swamp meeting a hardwood forest. These spots offer deer the best of both worlds: plenty of cover and diverse food options. I had a hunt in Delaware where a transition area between a swamp and hardwoods was like a magnet for bucks.
- Fence Lines and Obstacles
- Sometimes the landscape itself funnels deer movement. Features like fences, stone walls, or downed trees can serve as guides for deer, especially if they create an easier path. One of my most memorable hunts involved setting up near a broken section of fence. I watched a doe break her neck on the top of a fence when trying to escape buck pressure.
Adding these to your playbook can offer more variety and potentially bring you face-to-face with that elusive trophy buck. Remember, the key is understanding deer movement in your specific area. The more you know, the better you can predict where those bucks will show up next.
Changes to Doe Behavior During the Rut
During the rut, does can change their travel routes as they become more active and are sought after by bucks for mating. This seems to be the case in the later part of the rut versus the pre-rut or early rut timeframe. Here are a few ways in which does may alter their travel routes during this period:
- Seeking Receptive Bucks: During the rut, does actively move in search of bucks that are in breeding condition. This can lead them to alter their typical travel patterns as they seek out areas where bucks are known to frequent. Does may traverse larger distances and explore new territories in their quest to find a mate.
- Increased Movement: Does tend to increase their movement during the rut, often exhibiting more frequent and longer travels. They may wander farther from their usual core areas and home ranges as they respond to the scent and calls of bucks. This increased movement can result in changes to their travel routes as they explore new areas in search of potential mates.
- Interaction with Bucks: As does come into estrus, they may attract the attention of multiple bucks. This can lead to encounters and interactions with bucks, which can influence their travel behavior. Does may be pursued by bucks, leading to more erratic and unpredictable travel routes as they try to evade or engage with the bucks in their vicinity.
- Seeking Security and Cover: Does may alter their travel routes to prioritize security and seek out areas with dense cover during the rut. They may choose paths that offer better protection from potential predators or from overly aggressive bucks. This can result in changes to their typical travel corridors as they prioritize safety while still moving in search of breeding opportunities.
- Following Preferred Food Sources: While the primary focus of does during the rut is mating, they still need to meet their nutritional requirements. Does may adjust their travel routes to access preferred food sources as they continue to feed during this period. This can lead to shifts in their travel patterns, as they navigate between areas with abundant food resources.
It’s important for bow hunters to recognize these potential changes in doe travel routes during the rut. By understanding how does behave and adapt during this time, hunters can adjust their hunting strategies and positioning to intersect with the altered travel routes and increase their chances of encountering both does and the bucks that are actively pursuing them.
To effectively find and hunt rut funnels, regular surveillance and a deep understanding of your hunting terrain are key. Understanding the connection between doe trails and buck signs like rubs and scrapes is central to successful bow hunting. It’s my hope that this post has shed some light on how to interpret these signs and position your stand or blind effectively near doe travel paths and bedding areas during the pre-rut and rut.
Strategic bow hunting is all about the application of information and constant adaptability to the changing hunting landscape. So, as you set out on your next hunt, remember that every venture is a lesson in the wilderness, one step closer to mastering the hunt. Here’s to your success in the field. Good luck!
*Our website is supported by our users. We operate independently and do not provide Sponsored content. We sometimes earn a small commission when you click through the affiliate links on our website. We appreciate your help. Contact Us for More Information.