The pre-rut offers a better chance to harvest a mature deer compared to the peak rut. Let us explain. Before the breeding season kicks into high gear, mature bucks may still be in a pattern - feeding, checking scrapes, making rubs and chasing off younger bucks. This is when they are the most susceptible to aggressive tactics, such as rattling horns and snort-wheeze calls. As soon as the peak rut hits, there’s no such thing as a pattern. Your chance for seeing a buck are lower because he’ll be wherever hot does are. Here are three pre-rut hunting tips to take advantage of this small window.
Use A Deer Decoy
Bucks are territorial during the pre-rut, no longer fraternizing with other males. They’re also susceptible to calls, rattling tactics and decoys. We like to use a single young buck decoy during mid-October, such as The Freshman by Montana Decoy, along with our rattling horns and a young buck grunt call. As the chasing starts to pick up, we’ll change to a buck and doe combination. Montana Decoy offers the Dream Team, a super-realistic set of decoys. In this scenario, we’ll use a doe bleat, as well as a mature buck snort-wheeze call followed by rattling horns.
Hunt Over Scrapes, But Not Just Any Scrape
Finding scrapes and rubs in the woods this time of year is easy, but don’t be quick to set up next to the first scrape line you see along a well-used travel corridor. These are usually made and tended to by the main herd of yearlings and immature bucks. Does will use this deer highway too. Get off the beaten path and look for larger, fresh scrapes, which is an indication of a mature buck. Look for a licking branch, which tells you that it’s being used by a buck often.
Don’t hunt right over the scrape. Rather, get downwind. Freshen the scrape up with some buck or doe urine. This is also a good opportunity for a young buck decoy as well. During the hunt, if you spot movement, use your grunt call. A mature buck will likely come in to investigate.
Plan Your Hunts By The Weather
There should be cool fronts coming and going this time of year that will increase deer movement throughout the pre-rut. But what you are looking for is a major drop in temperature, hopefully following a strong storm that kept the deer bedded at night. Once the weather clears and the temperatures bottom out, get to a stand near high-traffic funnels: acorn flats surrounded by cover or isolated pockets of heavy cover in between a buck’s bedding and feeding area.