During the last week of October and first week of November, my two brothers and I were able to spend 8 days hunting our family farm in central Minnesota. Although we have hunted many seasons together, this was the first year we were able to coordinate a “Rutcation”.
What is a Rutcation?
For those of you unfamiliar with the term “rutcation”, it is a combination of two words. Rut and vacation. Instead of going some place warm and relaxing for our vacation, we wanted to spend our time in frigid central Minnesota getting outsmarted by whitetails. Our hunting trip started on October 25th and went through November 3rd (two of us had to work the 28th and 28th unfortunately). Given the timing of our trip, it was more during the pre-rut phase. However, going into the trip forecasted temps were low and aspirations were high!
Out of all the days to hunt, I had the lowest expectations for our first evening. On October 25th we had a high of 54 degrees, winds out of the S at 6-10 MPH, and dropping barometric pressure. In addition, I was late getting up to the farm, so I chose a close, safe blind where I knew I wouldn’t spook any deer just in case they were already out feeding. As shooting time was winding down, I had only seen a button buck and already had my mind on the following morning’s hunt.
However, a few hundred yards to the north of me, my older brother’s hunt was heating up. He was sitting in our “Apple tree” stand, which sits in an oak tree (right next to a crab apple tree), right on the edge of a bedding area and one of our food plots.
With only a couple minutes of shooting light left, a 10-point buck hopped our north fence line and made his way 15 yards from my brother’s stand (buck’s route is the dashed line). In the fading light, my brother let an arrow fly. The buck gave a solid mule kick before spinning around and heading east into our woods. My brother felt good about the shot, but since he didn’t see it crash we decided to give it three hours.
We all headed back out around 10 o’clock that night feeling confident. Right away, we found his arrow buried in our brassica plot with good lung blood on it. We had trouble picking up blood on the green brassica leaves (my two brothers and I are all red/green colorblind), so we decided to skip forward to where he last saw it. Tracking the blood on the dead tree leaves is much easier for us and we were quickly back on the trail.
However, after tracking the buck about 150 yards the blood trail was starting to get scarce. In addition, our headlight batteries were dying which did not help our already disadvantaged eyes. We decided to back out and pick up the trail the following morning.
After an uneventful morning sit, we regrouped at last blood. Aided by daylight, we were able to pick up the trail again and quickly recovered the deer about 30 yards from where we stopped the previous night. Our excitement of finding the buck was slightly dampened when we realized the coyotes had gotten to the hind quarters. However, we were still able to salvage most of the meat.
The buck ended up weighing 180 pounds (with about 20 pounds missing from its hindquarters) and having 10 scorable points. We are in the process of getting it scored. After reviewing or trail camera photos, we realized we had a couple pics of him, even one in velvet.
The success in first 24 hours of our rutcation gave us high hope for the rest of our trip. With only one day down and seven to go there was still plenty of time for my younger brother and I to get a buck of our own. Or so we thought.
Snap Back to Reality
Well let’s just say the deer had different plans. We saw a total of eleven deer over the next two days (normally we see that many on a good night). During that time, we also spent a couple hours walking around some public land close to our farm. My brothers and I have been fortunate enough to start hunting more the last couple years now that we are all out of school. However, along with more hunting comes the need to spread the hunting pressure out. That was the goal of scouting out the public land.
As the first part of our trip wrapped up, I spent my two days back at work mentally preparing and strategizing for our second half push. The next five days all looked promising. Temps were going to be in the 20’s and 30’s. Winds mostly from the west around 10 MPH. Additionally, each day that passed would bring us closer to the peak of the rut.
To quickly summarize the second half of our rutcation, the effort was there but the deer were not. We hunted every morning, came back to check some trail camera cards, ate some lunch, then headed back out for the evening. We repeated this process for five days.
There were some moments of excitement during those days. Both my younger brother and I were able to see one of our top hitlist bucks, Eeyore (pictured below), during daylight. For us, simply seeing a buck like that in the stand is enough to keep us motivated for a few days at least. However, neither of us were able to seal the deal (yet).
Was the Rutcation a Success?
Some people may think harvesting just one deer between three guys over 8 days of hunting is an unsuccessful hunt. However, as the timeless Fred Bear said, “A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.” Well said Fred. Were we disappointed all three of us couldn’t harvest a buck? Sure we were. However, as Fred stated, trophies taken should not be the final ruler you use to measure the success of a hunt.
So what successes did we have? From a hunting perspective, we had some important takeaways. First, we realized for next year we would like to have the rutcation a week later. As I mentioned in the beginning, we ended up hunting more during the pre-rut phase rather than the rut itself. We didn’t see as much chasing or rutting going on as we were hoping. Additionally, we got a better idea for how deer are using our farm and where mature bucks like to bed. We tried to treat each hunt as an opportunity to gain additional knowledge which would ultimately piece together the puzzle of harvesting a mature buck year after year.
Finally, there is the soppy crap. As my brothers and I get older, making time for hunting trips like this as gotten more and more difficult (and I am sure that trend will continue). Having my dad and uncle up there for a few days was also a blessing. I may not have enjoyed myself every single moment of the trip. However, a couple weeks have now passed, and I am already getting excited for next year’s rutcation!
*Blog Written by Guest Writer Reid Dale. You can find more information about Reid via Instagram on his page, MGB Whitetail Management, handle: mgb_whitetails.