How to Track Phases of the Rut

How to Track Phases of the Rut

Phases of the Rut

Learning what phase of the rut you’re in can help you pin point deer locations and get you a big buck

It’s that beautiful time of year, the rut. We all love it. We all wait all year for it. The question is… when does it start? How do we know when the rut is on and what phase it’s in? Some of you are going, “well who cares? As long as I’m seeing bucks.” Understanding and being able to tell what phase of the rut is on will help you pin point where big bucks are and where they are going to be. Learn how to track phases of the rut below.

The rut doesn’t follow rules and isn’t always “on time”. Last year was a great example of that. Using these time stamps and the clues that you can see in the woods will help you learn what phase the rut is in and how different factors such as weather, crop harvests, hunting pressure and more can affect what the bucks are doing in your area.


The pre-rut is when people start getting excited, and bucks too. You’re going to notice scrapes being freshened up and more buck tracks around. Licking branches above scrapes will also be tended. You may also notice more bucks in the area moving around and more photos on your trail cameras. Hunting along corridors, funnels and pinch points can be good spots to see action. Action is still best in the morning and evening, but don’t rule out later in the day either. Commonly referred to as the chasing phase.

Intense Rut

How to Track Phases of the Rut

How to Track Phases of the Rut

Scrapes are not being hit as much because bucks don’t have to put out their signs with all the does in estrus. Hunting scrape and rub lines will not be as productive as hunting food, which is where the does are. Bucks want to be near hot does, so find does and you’ll find bucks. Food plots, harvested fields and other feeding spots are all go-to areas.

Heat of the Rut

Bucks are cruising the woods at all hours, including mid-day. Deer are everywhere, in fields and on the road hit by cars. Hunting now all day can produce. Any time the biggest buck of your life can cruise by. Rattling antlers, grunt tubes and doe bleats are all tools that should be in your arsenal during your hunts.

Breeding Phase

Deer movement has slowed down considerably and many people are saying that the rut is over. Right now though, does are hot and bucks are breeding them. This is the lockdown period and bucks will not leave a doe for days sometimes. Sit where the deer bed and be ready to wait a while. You never know when that doe and buck will get up and eat, so be on the lookout for any deer.

Post Rut

Farm fields are being cut and the temperature is dropping. Deer are moving to find food and the fresh cut stuff is the ticket. Does are still in heat and fawns can be coming into heat now. Hunt fields and food again and look for bucks tending does. There may be some that are still dogging and the deer will bed in fields all day long.

Storm Fronts During the Rut

Storms come all year long and you’re sure to get a good November storm. Bad weather gets deer on their feet early to feed. Make sure to watch the fields and feeding areas when does are up and out during any time during the rut, bucks will be right behind them.

Need more rut information? See the best days to hunt the rut and these rut hunting tactics.

PJ Cashman

PJ is the co-founder of and is an avid hunter and lover of all things outdoors.

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