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While the masses are brainstorming spooky costumes, buying candy, carving pumpkins and planning parties for Halloween, deer hunters are preparing for the most exciting phenomenon of the fall hunting season. The rut.

rut hunting during halloween

Something changes in the deer woods when October comes to an end. Bucks lose their minds. They come out of the shadows. They lurk among us during daylight hours.

Target bucks ghost you, but new bucks appear out of thin air. Bucks scrape, rub, fight, chase; and for the next few weeks they become relentless in the need to breed. Halloween is the kickoff to the rutting chaos that will unfold during the month of November.

Halloween has a history of producing big bucks in Kentucky. Buckmasters scored the Joey Smith buck at 246 2/8 inches, harvested on Oct. 31, 1997, in Lewis County, Ky. BTR scorer Dale Weddle measured a 197-inch buck taken by Adam T. Engnes in Bracken County, Ky on Oct. 31, 2020. Nine other monster bucks were taken on Halloween between 1997 and 2020. An indicator that Halloween is a great day to be in the woods.

Bucks will not be tending, or breeding does on Halloween, most does will not be in estrous. Bucks’ testosterone levels are increasing by the day, they become anxious to breed before the does are ready. That energy is building with nowhere to go, and it causes bucks to get antsy. This leads to an increase in daytime movement. Another reason why it’s important to be in the stand and hunting on Halloween.

As testosterone levels increase in bucks, so to does the urge to confront each other. Bucks are starting to spar and fight. Halloween is the perfect time to use rattling horns/bags and grunt calls. 

Here are some rattling tips from Zach Ferenbaugh:

Ferenbaugh suggests that hunters add realism to their deer calls. For example, when bucks fight, they make all kinds of noise. Leaves are thrashing, saplings snap and break, deer are stomping and falling to the ground.

Most hunters hit the antlers together, but don’t make any other sounds. The bucks you are trying to call in are going to hear those antlers, but not the other sounds they expect to hear when a big fight is taking place. Rattle, shake saplings, kick leaves and thrash some brush when you are trying to mimic a buck fight. 

Below are some of the best options for rattling during the rut.

Illusion Systems Black Rack

$27.99

This rattling horn is highly regarded among hunters for their realistic design and effective performance in simulating the sounds of two bucks engaged in combat.

Known for their durability and authenticity, these rattling deer antlers produce lifelike sounds that effectively attract bucks during the rutting season. The Black Rack’s innovative design allows for easy operation, enabling hunters to create a range of aggressive rattling sequences to entice curious bucks into their hunting area.

The antlers’ rugged construction further ensures long-term use in various hunting environments, while their portability makes them convenient to carry during hunting expeditions. The Illusion Systems’ rattling horns are a valuable addition to any hunter’s arsenal, providing an efficient and reliable method for enhancing the hunting experience and increasing the likelihood of a successful hunt during the rut.

Flextone Battle Bones 

$36.40

This is a top-notch hunting tool, highly regarded for its ability to produce incredibly lifelike and realistic buck sounds. The Flextone Battle Bones feature a durable yet lightweight construction, making them easy to carry during your hunting excursions.

The system’s versatility allows you to create a variety of sounds, from subtle sparring to aggressive clashes, catering to different rutting scenarios. With its user-friendly design, even novice hunters can easily operate the Battle Bones to attract game. Overall, the Flextone Battle Bones is a reliable, effective, and versatile tool that can significantly enhance your chances of a successful hunting expedition during the rutting season.

Nationwide Scents Deer Call

$23.71

This one is a popular choice among hunters, renowned for its effective buck calls tailored specifically for Whitetail Deer. Designed to produce realistic and authentic deer vocalizations, this deer call effectively mimics various buck sounds, including grunts, snort-wheezes, and tending grunts, to attract and engage Whitetail Deer during hunting expeditions.

The user-friendly design allows hunters of all levels to easily operate the call, making it an accessible and practical tool for enhancing hunting experiences. The Nationwide Scents Deer Call is known for its durability and reliability, ensuring consistent performance even in challenging weather conditions. Hunters appreciate its compact size, making it easy to carry in the field without adding unnecessary bulk.

Flextone Easy-to-Use Battle Bag Deer Call

$23.48

Designed to simulate authentic and realistic buck sounds, this game call utilizes a unique “Battle Bag” design, which makes it easy to produce lifelike rattling noises, imitating the natural clash of antlers.

The call’s ease of use allows hunters of all experience levels to create a variety of buck vocalizations, from aggressive fights to subtle sparring, thereby attracting curious bucks within the vicinity. Its durable construction ensures reliability and performance in various hunting environments, and its compact size makes it convenient to carry during hunting expeditions.

Bag-O-Bone Deer Rattle Bag

$17.99

The Bone Collector Bag-O-Bone Deer Rattle Bag, known for its Sure Grip feature, is a popular hunting accessory among deer hunters. It is designed to mimic the natural sounds of deer antlers clashing during the rutting season, effectively attracting bucks and enhancing your hunting experience.

The “Sure Grip” attribute is particularly beneficial, providing a secure hold and allowing for consistent rattling without slippage, even in damp or challenging weather conditions. Hunters appreciate its durability, ease of use, and realistic sound production, which can entice nearby bucks to investigate and potentially come within shooting range. Additionally, its compact and lightweight design makes it convenient to carry during your hunting expeditions.

Rut Hunting Strategies:

Focus your hunting efforts on food sources, bedding areas and travel routes. Bucks will be checking for does in food sources and bedding areas. They will be using the trails that go to and from those locations. Scrapes are appearing everywhere on field edges, along heavily used trails and around bedding areas.

Bucks will choose low, overhanging branches in these areas and rub his preorbital glands all over the branch. Under the branch he will scrape up the ground to expose the dirt. In some cases, he will also stand in the scrape and urinate on his tarsal glands, which are located on both back legs.

Scrapes are a way for deer to communicate with one another through leaving scent behind. If one deer uses a scrape, there is a good chance another might come along to investigate. Hunting a good scrape line on Halloween might be the tactic you use to harvest a mature buck. You could also consider using trail cams to “scout” the areas that you’re looking at beforehand and Best Trail Cameras for Hunting 2023: Step-by-Step Guide could help with that.

Halloween 2023 is looking to be on the warm side during the day. Morning temperatures will be in the mid to low 40s. Some lower lying areas could see temperatures in the upper 30s. Day time temperatures will reach 60 degrees with rising pressure. At this point in the season, it may be time to be thinking about all day sits.

To give you a short run down of what you should be doing, consider:

  1. Scouting Thoroughly: Spend time scouting the area for signs of deer activity, including rubs, scrapes, and deer trails, to identify high-traffic locations where bucks are likely to be active during the rut.
  2. Focusing on Food Sources: Target areas with abundant food sources such as acorn-rich oak groves or agricultural fields, as deer are likely to frequent these locations during the rut in search of nourishment.
  3. Being Patient and Persistent: Rut hunting can be unpredictable, so maintaining patience and persistence is essential. Be prepared to spend extended periods in the field, as the timing of deer movement during the rut can vary.
  4. Opting for Elevated Stands: Consider using elevated tree stands or ground blinds strategically positioned along deer trails or near bedding areas to increase your vantage point and shooting opportunities during the rut.
  5. Staying Aware from Wind Direction: Pay close attention to wind direction and its impact on your scent dispersal, as deer rely heavily on their sense of smell, especially during the rut when they are more alert and cautious.

Add some calling to your approach. Watch the wind, hunt near food sources, bedding areas and travel routes. Leave the candy bowl on the porch or turn the lights off at the house. Halloween is for deer hunting!

Till next time.