Traditional Whitetail Activity & Rutting Schedule
The following information is what ALL hunters will need to research and consider and understand "before"
selecting a desired time for their hunting vacation. As well, the following information is for hunters to know what
to expect before arriving, upon arrival and while they are in the field hunting in Illinois. So, If you have never been
to Illinois hunting whitetails? If do not know or are unaware of just what the timing for the different stages of the
Hunting season are or want another opinion on the different stages of the Rut and what the buck activity will be
like? Let us try to help you better understand, so you can feel confident when selecting the right date for your
hunt and while sitting in a tree out in Illinois.
1st week of October: Though I have seen a frost the first day of October, it can spawn some warm weather
hunting. Warm weather hunting can be successful even though at times the experience can be mentally draining
due to a hot uncomfortable sit in the tree stand combined with minimal last minute deer movement. Hunters that
have chosen to be in Illinois at this time can look forward to the opportunity to be able to hunt the bucks that we
have been getting on trail camera through out the summer. Because deer can still be in somewhat of a summer
feeding pattern, Hunters will usually only hunt 3 - 4 hours in the morning and again in the evening when the deer
movement will steadily increase. Big bucks at this time have shed velvet only a few weeks prior and should be
rubbing and scraping both in, around and close to their core area's. Moon position is critical in harvesting a
specific buck at this time of the deer hunting season. (click here to understand moon hunting info) Each year at
this time, we take a few good bucks that have been frequently captured on our trail camera's. Big buck hunting
can seem difficult and some times a waste at this time of year. So knowing what the bucks are doing will be key to
your success. At the first part of October, most all of deer will still be in a normal feeding pattern. "Acorns" are
usually dropping hard at this time of year and hunters will need to focus hard on those area's. Bucks will still be
hitting a little browse but green fields such as alfalfa, clover and freshly cut crop fields can be a key food source at
that time as well. Scraping and rubbing activity will be minimal and can make it sometimes hard to pin down a
good buck. But hunters should hunt travel corridors containing concentrated fresh buck sign that is close to
bedding area's in the mornings and near food and water sources in the evenings.
2nd week into the 3rd weel of October Sometime during the middle of October we will experience what we call "the
October Lull". I feel the lull is just a period where the moons position is generating peak deer activity during the
mid day, thus causing little to no deer activity in the mornings or evenings. To keep our early season/pre rut
success rates as high as possible. We try to pin point just what those lull moon times will be and not conduct any
hunts during that period. But the same hunting tactic that are used for success during the first week of October
should still be applied while hunting during this time of the season. Now again, just know that this can usually be
one of the toughest of times to harvest a slammer buck. Most hunters feel that bucks go nocturnal prior to the
peak of the rut. But I personally feel that most times the lack of buck sightings are due to most bucks just simply
starting to expand their core area's and are beginning to leave their home ranges in search of doe. Thus, they
seem to go strictly nocturnal prior to the peak of the rut. 3rd Week of October? But good news for the bow
hunters that are hunting around the third week of October. You are allot closer to the beginning of the Seek &
Chase phase. Therefore, you should be noticing a substantial increase in scraping and rubbing activity. This type
of rutting activity substantially increases as the bucks begin doing a last minute check in with local doe before
they leave their home range for the rut. As well, some new rubs and scrapes might start showing up due to new
bucks that are moving into and through the area and are announcing their presence to other deer in the area. This
is what we refer to as the start of the "Pre Peak" or the beginning of the sign phase of the rut. So this "IS A TIME"
to start hunting travel corridors with fresh and/or frequented scrapes and active rub lines. Food and water
sources are still a key factor in success. But fresh buck sign will be your odds for success on big and/or specific
4th week of October: This is when the rutting activity traditionally tends to open up take off. So if you are a hunter
that loves to sit on scrapes? Then this is the time for you to be in a stand in Illinois! New bucks combined with a
few of the bucks that we have had on summer trail cams are what a hunter can expect to start seeing. A good mix
of different bucks going into the peak of the seek and chase phase of the rut are just what hunters need to get
their blood pumping. SO BE IN YOUR STAND BEFORE DARK AND DO NOT GET OUR OF YOUR STAND UNTIL
AFTER DARK!! This is the beginning of the time of the rut where bucks will no longer maintain a home range and
are regularly visiting scrapes slamming rub lines. Though hunters should always keep a key food and water
sources in mind. A hunter will have their greatest success while hunting over fresh scrapes & concentrated buck
sign in "travel corridors" between bedding and feeding areas. Rattling and grunting are effective at this time and
no hunter should ever leave for the stand without a good grunt call in hand.
1st Week of November This is the most sought after time for hunters to be in the whitetail woods. During this time
of the rut, hunters will be seeing bucks traveling from bedding area to bedding area in search of a doe. Bucks
have left the safety and security of their normal home ranges are willing to travel several miles away to breed as
many doe as possible. This is the grunting, chasing, timber crashing, horn clashing stage of the rut that everyone
lives to experience. At this time hunters better be hunting travel corridors entering into and going from property to
property and travel corridors between bedding area's. Hunters need to pack a lunch, sit in the stand ALL DAY
suck up the stiff back and sore ass. Leaving the stand midday during this phase of the peak rut can and will hurt
your odds of taking home that trophy buck of a lifetime. Understand that once the doe bed up in the mornings.
The bucks will travel from property to property and from bedding area to bedding area to find a receptive doe.
This is the time of year that our trail camera's show the highest activity of big bucks and big buck movement
during midday. SO >>>---------->DON"T EVER LEAVE THE STAND!!!
2nd week of November This is still the time of big buck travel combined with the chasing of doe. This should be a
time where bucks are starting to pin down a doe and become extremely aggressive about keeping here all to
himself. Because this time that bucks will keep that specific doe for themselves, Hunters will see bucks taking doe
out into the middle of a wide open field to better guard and prevent other bucks from locating his prize. Hunters
should hunt all day and remain in the stand while hunting travel corridors. Hunters may need to start shifting their
stand positions in the travel corridors much closer to the bedding areas. And don't forget the rattling and grunting!
3rd week of November This is the time of the actual PEAK RUT. Bucks are on top of doe's and the hunting can get
sometimes get tough. Mainly due to the bucks have been running the doe around so much for the last three
weeks that the doe are now tired of being harassed. Therefore, they will find the thickest of cover and stay on their
bellies all day long unless it is time to feed or they are in need of water. This is what some refer to as "the lock
down period". Again it is a great time to hunt for big bucks. But it is also tough to sit and watch a buck at a
distance just standing with a doe at his feet. Moral to that story is..... If the doe doesn't move, neither does the
buck. So hunters need to shift to hunting right on the ends of travel corridors that are right on top of the bedding
areas AND BE PATIENT. This style of hunting should be for the patiently skilled and well experienced whitetail
hunter. This hunter needs to have the willingness and the ability to get to the woods an extra hour before daylight,
have the ass to stay all day long and not leave until after the sky turns black. Aggressive grunting can and will be
successful at this time for bucks prowling and listening for any type of breeding activity. So if you are blind
grunting pay special attention to your downwind side as a buck will always confirm a situation with his nose
before committing. As well, ya will need to know that if a buck is actually "locked down on a doe"? You might as
well keep quiet, sit and enjoy the show!
4th week of November usually entails the 1st of the two Illinois firearm seasons. Illinois conducts a 7 day firearm
season that is split up into two different weekends of hunting. The first season is always scheduled the weekend
before and the second season the weekend following Thanksgiving. Now 1st season firearm hunters can usually
count on having a good weekend of hunting with a smoke pole in their hand. The IL DNR harvest statistics show
that 80% of the deer killed during the 7 day firearm season are harvested during the 1st 3 day firearm season.
Hunters need to hunt travel corridors and escape routes going from and coming into a property. This is where the
best success is obtained.
Now not saying that hunters can't harvest a monster during the second firearm season. But I always say that half
of the deer are dead and the other half are spooked. And because this is a time we normally get a cold snap....the
deer start to yard up for winter as well. But with the Peak rut still being on. Any remaining doe are sure to have a
slammer on their tail. And if you are hunting a yarding area? Well.....it can be some of the best big buck rutting
action you have ever experienced.
Just so you know: For archers thinking about asking us for a hunt the week between the firearm seasons? Don't
ask because we wont offer. Though the rut may still be going, we shut our operation down to allow the deer to
calm down from the first gun season. After three days of lead being slung by a deers head, they aren't to much
into coming out of hiding. So we take this down time to start focusing on our second season firearm hunts.
Muzzle Loader Only: There is a 3 Day muzzle loader only season that is usually scheduled during the second
weekend in December. Deer at this time should have calmed down from the firearm seasons and are yarding up
for the winter months. The whitetails mainly will return to simple feeding patterns though hunters may experience
a little rutting activity. But mainly resting and food sources on what is on the deers mind. So the key factors for
success at this time should be on winter food sources. Hunters should adjust stand sites to travel corridors going
from bedding to feeding, bundle up for the cold and stick it out.
Early January: Hunters wanting a reasonably priced bow hunt with some easy to pattern bucks should consider a
deer hunt at this time of the year. No it is not the rut, but I actually prefer this time for hunting and I would definitely
recommend a late season archery hunt before I would a pre rut early October hunt. Deer are all yarded up and
specifically on food sources to replenish from the rut. Therefore if you see a buck one night....you are likely to see
him again the next as he IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE!!! Bucks can be easy to pattern and hunting is usually just for
three hours in the morning and again in the late afternoon. In the evenings, hunters should set up in travel
corridors on the edges of feeding areas. In the mornings hunters will need to hunt those same travel corridors but
closer to bedding areas that are on south facing hillsides.
Extra Advice: For hunters inquiring about the use of decoys and deer scents remember this is my opinion based
on personal experiences.
Decoys: I will be the first to say that they have worked for some hunters and for others not for all. Deer decoy's are
like anything else. They are just a personal choice that can be effective in the right situation and destructive to a
hunt in the wrong one. So with that being said, Hunters should decide if it is worth the gamble and the extra effort
of packing it into the woods where you only got six days to get it done?
Deer scents: As for deer scents, I don't personally recommend the use of bottle or over the counter scents or
attractants. I have personally been the user of several brands of scents throughout my years of deer hunting. I
might have had SOME results while using them, but only with young bucks. In my 20+ years of hunting, I have
witnessed first hand an area that seeming shut off the big buck movement the second a scent was put out. And
sometimes the deer movement stopped PERIOD. I once did a personal experimental study with the use of trail
camera and different over the counter deer scents. The results was as kind of what was expected. NONE! I put out
scent wicks on different farms with some of the top name brand scents like James Valley, Tinks 69, Wildlife
Research and H&S. I am not putting down what they are selling, BUT.... not one buck even stopped to stick his
nose to the wick. Now what i did find to be very much effective and I still use and swear by them to this day is the
use of a FRESH tarsal gland taken right off a deer. I personally don't and/or wont miss a chance at a fresh tarsal
gland and a urine filled bladder from any deer of any sex or size. Not only do the deer respond in a positive way,
but it also makes a deer drop his guard when they get down wind of you.
Bottom Line: Don't spend money to come and hunt Illinois, buy all the scent lock clothing, scent away soaps and
sprays, request an unpressured hunting property and then pressure the hell out of it right off the bat with human
handled, manufactured, old sit on the shelf for more than a year deer scents.
Best way to succeed is to pick the right time of the season to match you as a hunter and then hunt it correctly.
Keep the property and the deers area like you found it. CLEAN & ALL NATURAL!!! Find a stand site that allows
you to enter and leave the property without being seen, heard or smelled. Only use a fresh gland and urine (if you
are lucky enough to get it) then hunt long and hard.
Good Luck this hunting season!!