IT’S COMING TO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD SOON – THE HOT ACTION OF THE PRE-RUT.
There are four definite phases to the whitetail breeding season (the rut). They include the pre-rut, what I term the “big chase” aka the seeking phase, the primary rut and the post-rut aka the late rut. Each phase offers unique hunting opportunities.
The pre-rut is about to kick in during the last week or so of October and offers hunters on the best times to kill a quality buck. Traditionally, Halloween is a day that hunters should not miss being in their deer stands. Year-after-year, Halloween has proven to be a day of excellent buck movement and therefore one of the best times of all the rut phases to tag a trophy.
Deer become much more active within their home ranges, during the pre-rut cycle of the entire breeding season. One of the more interesting and exciting aspects to the pre-rut is that Mother Nature has the adult does, in any given herd, enter into a very brief early-heat cycle, usually 36 to 48 hours long. It is meant to kick off the primary rut.
The importance about being successful during the frenzy period of the pre-rut is to know exactly when to hunt during this exciting pre-rut stage of the rut. Understanding when the best times are to hunt can definitely make all the difference in either taking a buck or missing the opportunity.
Keep this very important fact in mind when planning a pre-rut hunt. Have the willpower to sacrifice hunting just for the sake of being in a treestand to bag a buck. Instead, entirely focus your mindset to select the best quality days and hours to be in your stand rather than just a stump sit.
Remember that the pre-rut creates a lot of excitement for bucks (they have waited a year for does to come into estrus again) and as soon as some of the adult being to come into their early-estrus cycling, bucks get busy making what is known false scrapes. They are the small circular rubs hunter’s first encounter in the woods. Generally, there are a lot of these small circular scrapes, some close to each other and all of them are pawed up bare to the ground. Bucks also begin making rubs earnestly now too. The scrapes are generally made along wooded funnels, and fence lines and they will expose a buck’s current travel route from its bedding area to its feeding area.
Set up a tree stand along this sign (rubs and scrapes) that’s about 100 yards from the buck’s bedding area. Try to set the stand so deer will be quartering into the prevailing in order to avoid having the buck wind your scent. Once your stand is set up, leave and wait for the most opportune time and day to go back and hunt it.
It isn’t rocket science that the absolute most important decision to hunt the stand will be when the wind is perfect wind. Another key factor is to watch a barometer. When it falls get out and into your deer stand pronto! Moon phase is a bunch of crap, so don’t worry about the moon’s phase. There isn’t a single biologist or scientist that agrees that different phases of the moon relate to setting rut dates and/or when bucks will be moving. That’s why God made barometers – they’ll tell you reliably when deer will be moving most.
The absolute best time to take advantage of hunting the pre-rut is not to hunt your stand in the mornings. Instead, hunt them on an evening post. The last few days of October will be the best laid plan you can develop, with Halloween being the best bet. That’s when your plan will pay off in big dividends or should I say antlers!
A terrific tactic this time of year is to rattle, but keep it realistic. During the pre-rut bucks spar a lot, but rarely get into fighting. So mimic a sparring match made by two bucks. Gently tickle the antlers together several time followed by some light meshing and grinding of the antlers as well. I use buck urine and a small amount of estrus scent to complete the entire illusion. Don’t rattle a lot, I like to wait until the last 30-minutes of legal shooting light to rattle during the pre-rut. It usually gets a buck up out of its bed and excites it enough to come in to investigate what is going on.
Lastly, remember that as I just wrote in my latest book The Shooter’s Bible Guide to Deer Hunting – Practical Advise by a Master Hunter -- published by Skyhorse Publishing: The pre-rut usually ends up with hunters seeing and taking a quality adult buck. But don’t over pressure a stand too much. Simply put don’t hunt it every day. It is much more practical during the pre-rut and it will provide more success, if a hunter employs just a few well-planned and equally important, well-timed hunts instead.
Over my 55 years of hunting whitetails, I have found it is best to hunt a high choice stand in a prime location only in the afternoon and not day-after-day. It will prove to me much more valuable and provides much more action and success. I can absolute assure you it is better than hunting a bunch of second-choice sits in a treestand in the mornings and in the afternoons.
Be patient. Be selective. Wait for the best wind, barometer reading (a falling barometer), and sneak into your choice stand in the afternoon. I’m waiting to see pictures of the buck you will inevitably kill if you follow this advice.