By Alex Comstock
Sweet November. The magical rut. However you refer to this time of the year, it's usually got to do with the rut, and how exciting this time of year is. No doubt, it can be the best time to be in the woods, and things can happen at literally any moment. But, at the same time, the rut can be hard. It can be tough. It can be tiring. And it can be utterly frustrating. That's about how I feel right now. I think many of us can relate to the love hate relationship we have with the rut, and the roller coaster we are sometimes put on.
The Good: What do we love about hunting in November so darn much? We long for those days when a hot doe runs by our stand, with a parade of bucks in tow. It doesn't happen often (never for me), but I've heard some pretty unreal stories of buck after buck on the tail of that first (or last) doe that is in estrus.
We long for those beautiful, cold, crisp mornings where it seems every buck in the woods responds to a rattling sequence, or a grunt call. We live for those days that you actually pull an all day sit, and even see mid-day movement from mature bucks. What do we love most about the rut? Well that one is easy. We are addicted to the feeling of it all coming together. That moment we dream of, where we send an arrow through a rutting buck. There's nothing in the world that compares to that feeling of getting it done. The pride, the joy, and the sheer emotion we display after a successful harvest is unlike anything else in this world.
The Bad: Let's be honest though, the rut isn't always what it's made out to be. There are long stretches of time where you're thinking to yourself, "Man what's going on" or "It's got to turn on any day now". We've all been there, that's for sure. Whether it be related to weather, lack of activity, you name it, the rut isn't always "on". Be prepared for slow days, and failure. It's inevitable. Mature bucks are mature for a reason, they might not be as smart during the rut, but let me assure you, they aren't downright stupid. You can get away with a little more during November, but you won't be able to get away with murder. And just because you do everything right, doesn't automatically guarantee you a buck. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work hard though, because the bad can always turn into the good.
The Ugly: Oh boy, the ugly part of the rut is when you feel like giving up. You're defeated. You just want to throw in the towel. But you don't, and you keep grinding. When it's all said and done, the rut is a grind. When it gets to this point, it could be for a variety of reasons. You might choose the wrong stand night after night. You might be tired from getting up at 4:00am every morning for the past two weeks. It's not always easy.
What can make the rut even more challenging is when you're so close to success you can taste it. For instance, yesterday afternoon, I went into a new area and hung a new stand in a great looking area. I really thought it might be "the night". The rut has been tough on me, but I've kept at it, and last night felt like a great night to be in a tree. Towards the end of the evening, I had an encounter with a big mature buck. He stayed just out of bow range, and wouldn't respond to any calling I tossed his way. It was heartbreaking to watch him walk out of my sight. Days like this will test you as a hunter. It's like your so close, yet so far away. Yes, it was painful to be so close, but not getting a shot at a buck, but I will keep after it, and hopefully before long will have a shot opportunity. When instances like this happen to you, it can be easy to give in, and feel defeated. Don't let the ugly part of the rut get the best of you. Keep after it, and the good will show itself soon enough.
Conclusion: The rut isn't always easy. A big mature buck will not be handed to you in your lap. You have to go out and earn it, just like everybody else. Just know that it can be a roller coaster ride with there being the good, the bad, and the ugly. Persevere through the bad and the ugly, and when the good shows itself, you capitalize and enjoy every moment while you can.