By Alex Comstock
There are so many ways to send an arrow through a mature buck during the rut. There are also a lot of ways to fall into a rut of your own that can hinder your success. One of those ways that are easy to fall into a rut is with treestand placement. I’ve talked about it periodically over the years, but it’s easy to hang a stand and then hunt it over and over again, maybe even year after year. Sure, every once and awhile you’ll find that magic spot where it seems like you have a chance at a mature buck out of it every year, but that is few and far between. Today, I wanted to touch on how running and gunning can be a successful strategy, and specifically why during the rut it can be particularly effective.
Before I dive too far in here, I want to clarify what I mean by running and gunning. All I mean here is hunting mobile. My version is going in with a stand and sticks on my back and hanging the stand, hunting, and then pulling it when I’m done. Running and gunning to you might be hunting from the ground through still hunting, using a climber, popping up a blind and then taking it down after you hunt, etc. All I mean here is to be mobile and not corner yourself into one spot or one tree for the duration of the rut.
You Can Cover More Ground
When it comes to running and gunning, having a stand on your back allows you to cover more ground, and this can be beneficial for a multitude of reasons. Things might be happening on a property that you hunt such as bucks chasing or seeking does, but by staying in one tree, you might never know. Think of it this way. How many times have you hunted an area with a buddy and after a sit, he/she says the rut is rocking, but it was the dead sea where you were at? That’s because when it comes to the rut, there are going to be small pockets of area that bucks are frequenting, and you need to find those. By having a stand on your back, you can identify areas on a map on a property, go in and hunt it, and then based on what you see, decide if you want to hunt that area again. You won’t fall into that trap of just wanting to be lazy and hunting the same tree over and over again, even if you continue to see nothing.
You’ll Uncover Previously Unknown Things about a Property
One thing that I’ve learned about running and gunning, and this seems to be particularly true during the rut, is that you end up going into places that you maybe never have before on a property. By bouncing around and trying to be creative, you might uncover previously unknown things about a hunting property, even if you’ve hunted it for multiple years.
A great example of this is a piece of public land I hunt in North Dakota. In a chunk of timber along a river bottom, there is a small field tucked into the woods, only about thirty yards off a main crop field. From the edge of the crop field, there is big drop-off to the small field tucked into the woods, so it’s more or less in a bottom. I had identified it in the summer as a major bedding area as I had busted tons of deer out of this field one day in the summer. But, I what I didn’t realize is that once it got cold and the long grass died, it turned into a major food source and acted as a staging field during the rut. One day, from a stand I hung previously I saw a ton of deer, but everyone headed towards this field. The next day I did a run and gun setup and setup over the edge of this staging field. What blew me away was that about every five yards or so on the edge of this field was just littered with scrapes. I saw a few deer that night, but the big lesson came from after the season. I had put a trail camera up that day, but wasn’t able to hunt in there the rest of the year. But after checking the trail camera, I had photos of a mature buck in that small staging field EVERY day between the 10th and 17th of November, and many of those photos came from between 10am and 2pm. It was definitely a game changer for me and going forward and I wouldn’t have learned that had I not been running and gunning during the rut.
It’ll Keep You Fresh
Something that is real during the rut is burnout, especially if you are logging a lot of hours in a tree. I’m a big believer that if you keep hunting one stand, you’re likely to burn out quicker, and it’ll take a bigger toll on you every time you hunt and don’t see a mature buck, or don’t connect on one.
Running and gunning can help you here too. I’m a strong believer that with fresh scenery comes a fresh mindset, and you’ll have just as much hope and enthusiasm each sit, because you’ll be in a new area, not fully knowing what to expect. I truly think this can go a long ways with your mental edge, and that’s important, because if you’re not mentally sharp, at some moment, you’ll have a buck pop out of nowhere and not be ready for the moment. The last thing you want to happen when you’re spending so much time in a tree is for everything to come together so fast, and you act lethargic because you’re mentally worn out. Running and gunning will help keep you mentally fresh, and that could lend to helping you be successful during that moment of truth.
The rut is most deer hunters favorite time of year right? We lay our head on our pillow each night, hoping and wishing that the following day brings grunts and does bleating, bucks chasing by our stand, and the woods are filled with craziness. It doesn’t happen as often as we would like, but through being a mobile hunter, you might find yourself in those occurrences more often while being mentally ready at the same time.