Woods and Waters: Pro hunting staff member chimes in on whitetail bucks and the rut

Proper use of scents, decoys and hunting the down-wind side of a pinch point allowed Mike Monteleone to arrow this 141-inch Pope and Young buck during the rut in 2011.
Proper use of scents, decoys and hunting the down-wind side of a pinch point allowed Mike Monteleone to arrow this 141-inch Pope and Young buck during the rut in 2011. Photo provided

I noticed the beginning signs of the pre-rut about two weeks ago — a small scrape in the leaves under an over-hanging branch. The next sign was a five-point buck running across a field in broad daylight.

The first month of Pennsylvania’s archery deer season is history, but for most hunters, the best two weeks will begin on Monday. Hunting during the rut — the peak of the whitetail’s mating period — holds the potential for exciting times afield.

Archery deer hunters run the skill-gamut from “clueless” to “proven expert.” Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss buck hunting during the rut with Mossy Oak pro staff member Mike Monteleone, a hunter who definitely falls in the latter category. Monteleone has several Pope and Young record bucks to his credit and hunts primarily in Maryland, southern Pennsylvania and Delaware. During our conversation, Monteleone covered scents, scouting, stand placement and the use of decoys, among other topics.

We had our first talk while he was driving home from one of his unsuccessful archery hunts. Last Thursday, a week after that interview, he harvested a heavy-antlered 9-point buck in northern Maryland. Monteleone offers advice that every archery hunter could use to his or her advantage.

“You don’t have to be a trophy hunter to love the rut,” Monteleone began. “It is a fact that you are just going to be seeing more bucks. It is a time when the bigger bucks are active during the daylight hours — the time that we are allowed to hunt.”

Monteleone targets what he calls “pinch points” — areas where the natural topography or man-made factors funnel the deer into a narrow area. He is religious about scouting his prey and controlling his human scent. He is a master of using deer lures and decoys to his advantage.

“I have 15 different properties that I have permission to hunt. I keep trail cameras active on all of those 365 days a year,” Monteleone explained. “Beginning about a week before the rut, I start checking those cameras every two days, because the bucks change their movement patterns for the rut. By the time November rolls around (based on trail camera scouting and visual sightings), I might only hunt on four or five of those properties.

“My perfect setup would be in a pinch point that lies between a doe bedding and a doe feeding area. Ninety-five percent of scrapes and rubs are made by bucks during the night — when I can’t hunt — so I don’t put a whole lot of stock in those. However, if the pinch point has scrapes or rubs, it is definitely a bonus,” he said.

“I only use doe-in-estrus lures during the rut, and I always take the scent with me when I leave,” Monteleone continued. “I usually use three decoys — a buck and two does. I put out a buck’s freeze-dried tarsal gland near the decoys, and I spray doe-in-estrus scent on the rumps of the doe decoys. My stand will be about 50-60 yards downwind from the decoys.

“Bucks always walk on the downwind side as they go through a pinch point. I set up so that the buck will walk between me and the decoys. If I planned correctly, the buck will pass within 20-30 yards or closer to my position.”

Monteleone is accurate with his compound bow out to 50 or 60 yards, but he won’t take a shot over 30. “I practice a lot, but I just don’t want to risk wounding a big buck,” he stated. All of Monteleone’s Pope and Young record bucks were taken at less than 12 yards.

“Bucks might act crazy during the rut, but scent control is still very important,” Monteleone affirmed. He always wears rubber boots when he is hunting, and he is a staunch believer in scent-trapping carbon clothing. His camo pattern of choice is Mossy Oak Breakup Infinity on Scent-Lok brand hunting clothing. His hunting clothes are kept sealed from household odors.

“The last thing that I do before heading to my stand is lay out my camo and boots on the tailgate of my truck. I liberally spray them with Lethal Field Spray or Dead Down Wind scent block to kill any human scent. One bottle lasts me only about three hunts,” Monteleone detailed.

Monteleone almost always hunts from an elevated platform.

“Ground blinds have their place, but 99 percent of the time, I hunt from a tree,” he noted. “I can see better from a treestand, and if necessary, I can move to make a shot towards a different direction. In addition, my scent blows over the head of a buck and that lessens the chance that he might wind me.”

Monteleone is a firm believer in the effects of the moon and weather on deer movement. He favors days when the moon is directly overhead or when it is on the opposite side of the earth.

“If I had only three days to bow hunt this fall, it would be Nov. 6, 7 and 8,” Monteleone advised. “I’ll be in the woods from dawn to dusk during those three days. The next best days will be Nov. 13, 14 and the 15th — the last day of Pennsylvania’s early archery season. If we happen to get a colder day during any of those six days, then that will be the single best day. The higher elevations in Pennsylvania are particularly good on a cold day.”

Monteleone convinced me. I will be hunting as much as possible during the next two weeks — particularly during the six days that he suggested. Good luck to all of the archery hunters out there, and let me know if Monteleone’s advice proves to be accurate for you.

Fly rod factory open house

If you have ever wondered how a graphite or fiberglass fly rod is made, here is your chance to learn. The Seele Rod Co. in Bellwood, will hold an open house Nov. 15, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., free of charge. Company owners and rod designers Mike McFarland and Michael Mauri will demonstrate how their graphite and fiberglass rods are made. A factory tour, casting demonstrations and fly tying demonstrations by world class tiers Steve Silverio and Tom Baltz are all part of the event.

The open house will include free food, soft drinks and door prizes, with a grand prize of a Seele fly rod valued at $785. Double your chances to win — if you RSVP by email to info@seeleflyrods.com by Nov. 10, the company will have a second free ticket waiting for you at the door. The address is 1316 N. Tuckahoe St., Bellwood, 16617.