As hunters, we tend to think about the rut A LOT. However, if there’s one time of year it can slip to the back of our minds, it’s during the summer. With the pleasantly warm weather, most opt to spend time in the backyard grilling out and shooting their bow over scouting and refining hunting setups specifically for the rut. Not The Hunting Public – they’re out in the woods 365 days a year honing in on deer sign and refining setups that may have led to close calls the previous seasons. That’s why they succeed on public land more than most. With that, here’s a detailed video with Aaron breaking down a perfect river bottom rut stand.
First and foremost, hunters should utilize the summer months to refine and perfect access routes to their best rut hunting locations (and all locations for that matter). Whether it means clearing/trimming brush, or perfecting the route itself in consideration with the wind. Walking and mapping access routes using the OnX tracking feature is a must, especially if the trek is a long and difficult one in the dark. It’s important to also mark waypoints representative of ditches, creek crossings, and other visual barriers that might help you sneak in to your stand undetected.
Building off the importance of access routes is the importance of identifying the exact tree you plan to sit based on any given wind direction. Finding the exact tree is much more than finding a “good area” as Aaron mentioned in the above video. Often, we scout with the premise of finding the good areas and leave before we really break it down. We might stumble across an area while shed hunting or scouting, mark it on our map, and not return until fall. Only now, we can’t remember the exact details and may end up picking the wrong tree just out of range from the main cruising trail. Don’t let this happen! We all know the type of trees our treestands are best suited for, so take the time this summer to find and mark your exact trees. Make notes if you need anything extra like a longer ratchet to get around the base or if you need to grab an extra climbing stick or possibly even leave one behind.
When it comes to finding the perfect tree to hunt, especially on public land, consider seeking out those hard to reach places that might require you to use a kayak or a set of waders to access. Creeks and rivers can aide the hunter in several ways. First, they serve as a barrier for the majority of hunters, which means you can expect more hunting pressure on one side versus the other depending upon where the main access is coming from. Secondly, they serve as a premier means for undetected access and fool-proof rut setups. The creek channel will often hide you visually, while also keeping your scent and noise to a minimum – all critical factors when it comes to sneaking in on mature rutting bucks. Finding a tree to hunt from that’s right on the bank will allow you to slip in undetected and blow your wind back down or across the channel just like in the aerial breakdown above. Lastly, creeks serve as common cruising corridors for big bucks! It’s almost a guarantee that there will be cruising trails paralleling both sides of the creek and during the rut, bucks will work either side depending upon the wind direction and location of bedding areas. In addition to the cruising trails, creek crossings are another important location to mark and hunt accordingly. In the below image you can see how The Hunting Public crew uses the convergence of a cruising trail and a well-worn creek crossing to double their odds of an effective setup. Be sure to take note of which side of the crossing you should set up on.
The solid yellow line paralleling the creek denotes a buck cruising trail and the dashed lines mark the perimeter of a main creek crossing. Notice where the waypoints fall depending on the wind they plan to hunt on. These tiny details are often the difference between another close call and success.
In the end, there are a lot of factors in play that make river bottom corridors some of the best spots to hunt during the rut. Put in the work now and you’ll be rewarded this fall.