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Rut: Lady and the tramp

To tag a big, old, monster buck, Realtree's David Blanton has found it pays to hunt doe-attracting food sources during the rut. 

At the risk of overstating the obvious, whitetail hunting is all about the does during the rut.

That's true for both a rut-crazed whitetail buck with love on his mind and you, the hunter, with such a rut-crazed big buck on your mind.

For all of the techniques and tips available during the rut, it most often boils down to this: If you want to kill a monster buck during the frenzied days of breeding activity, find out where his lady friends are hanging out and, sooner or later, big boy will be there, too … and, hopefully, you will be, as well.

So how can you be sure that your stand will overlook the dreamy hotspot that such a buck has picked out to serenade his lady friend?

Be observant

Jim Lillis, a Texas senior regional director for Ducks Unlimited, is quite an accomplished hunter, especially when it comes to waterfowl.

But the real hunting passion each autumn for "Mr. Duck," as he is known to some of his cronies, just might be whitetails, especially during the rut.

As the peak of breeding activity approaches on the western Texas landscape that Lillis prowls with his bow in hand, he's always on the lookout for areas where does are congregating, feeding or traveling.

"I spend a lot of time looking for tracks on trails," Lillis said. "In damp weather, I love to get out after a rain and look for traffic in an area."

The longtime Texas deer hunter also is content to sacrifice the occasional day of hunting to get on a high vantage point to glass travel corridors, brushy draws and food sources.

Once he detects a discernable pattern or two in the sometimes tough-to-decipher west Texas terrain, Lillis will hunt a pre-existing stand or put up a new one, if necessary.

Usually, after he's invested the time for getting a handle on where the deer are moving and feeding each day, Lillis' odds of arrowing a good buck improve considerably.

By employing this technique of careful observation, yours can, too.

Visit the chow hall

Remember the scene in Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" where the scoundrel pooch treated his fine canine lady friend to a romantic spaghetti dinner?

Well, you can skip the pasta when it comes to deer hunting, but not the concept of finding a good diner.

In other words, locate where a big buck's lady friend wants to dine, according to "Realtree Outdoors" executive producer and big buck hunter David Blanton.

"I think food is the key to deer hunting throughout the year," Blanton said. "Even when I'm hunting in the rut, almost everything we do centers around the food.

"If we're not setting our bow stands right on the food source, then they'll almost certainly be in the bottleneck or funnel that leads to the food source from a bedding area."

Why is that?

"As these bucks go from doe to doe during the rut trying to find another receptive doe, they are going to be cruising to find that doe," Blanton said.

"They know the easiest way to do that is to go where the does are concentrated, which is going to be around the food sources."

Locate isolated cover

As strange as it might seem, Blanton believes that during the height of the rut, one of the best ways to hunt a dominant alpha buck is to find the areas on the property that you hunt where deer seldom go.

"In the rut, big, mature bucks will take that doe coming into heat and cut her out of the herd," Blanton said.

"He will physically force her to go to an area away from the deer herd. This is something that I've seen in Montana, the Dakotas and Canada. I'm sure that it happens in other places, too."

Such behavior actually led Blanton to take the famous Blue Jean buck, a big whitetail seen on a previous "Realtree Monster Bucks" video, from an area where few, if any, deer were normally seen by hunters.

"It was Nov. 14 and the rut was really cranking up there," Blanton recalled. "At midday, a guy came back into camp and said he had seen a buck chasing a hot doe into several hundred acres of brush."

An impromptu deer drive was quickly organized and Blanton was soon in position — wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt — when the buck suddenly popped out of the brush chasing the doe.

After a successful shot was unleashed at the monster buck, Blanton began to put two and two together.

"What really struck me was that this was an area that (the outfitters) hardly ever saw deer in," Blanton said.

"That buck had taken that doe to an area where there wasn't a high number of deer so he wouldn't have to fight to keep her."

In other words, when the rut is in full gear across whitetail country, a big buck isn't often thinking correctly with a hot doe in his sights.

But by employing the right doe-finding techniques during the crazy days of November, you can be in your right mind with that big buck clearly settling in your sights.

Even if you're wearing blue jeans.