Pre Rut Deer Hunting
As all whitetail enthusiasts are aware, just prior to the rut whitetail deer enter into a more lethargic stage of breeding known as pre rut deer hunting. This is the phase where the action or breeding peak has not began to reach the insane chases by monster bucks throughout woodlots in a “trance” like nature, but rather mature bucks begin to become more vulnerable as testostorone levels begin to increase and begin a phase where buck activity begins to increase dramatically. The pre rut deer hunting phase is one wherein bucks that haven’t instinctually thought about breeding begin to become interested in the oncoming rut. While this phase of the rut doesn’t produce as many mature bucks sightings as the “chase phase” of the rut, the quality of shot availability is heightened as bucks are slowly cruising general areas in search of any hint of an oncoming rut, or a receptive doe.
I recall late in October in the State of Illinois that on one calm late October evening I watched a mature buck work a ditch line in search of does. He was slowly walking along the edge of the wooded ditch and would stop about every 20 to 30 yards and look into the wooded ditch murmuring soft grunts in an attempt to interest whitetail does. As he causally worked the ditch little did he know I was waiting at the other end of it patiently waiting for him to come into bow range which would afford me the opportunity to put an arrow in him. As he strolled into bow range I drew back and collected a 150 inch whitetail buck. You see during this phase the bucks are somewhat preoccupied with finding does that have come into heat early.
During the course of this article I will define pre rut for deer, examine successful hunt strategies for harvesting whitetail deer during the pre rut, and look deep into the mind of the whitetail buck as this stage of the whitetail deer’s life cycle is unique and needs wisdom. Remember that your key to killing big whitetail bucks lies in understanding their behavior. If you will train yourself to think like a trophy buck you’ll start killing trophy bucks. Much of that knowledge also encompasses understanding terrain and knowing how to use topographical maps and aerial photos for whitetail deer hunting.
DEFINITION OF PRE RUT PHASE
Let us begin by defining what pre rut deer hunting is. In much of North America late summer and early fall are the start of the pre-rut and/or rubbing phase for white-tailed deer. As their testosterone levels begin to rise the bucks start rubbing trees and shrubs to remove the dried velvet from their antlers. While many hunters know that bucks begin rubbing at this time, they may not realize that bucks may also begin making scrapes at this time. These early season scrapes often go undetected by hunters, because they are either not looking for them, or they don't recognize them as scrapes.
Scientific research has shown that bucks may mark overhead branches at scrapes with their foreheads and chew or lick the tips of these branches all year long. If these year-round licking branches are in an area that the deer use in late summer or early fall the bucks may also scrape the ground beneath them. However, they are often fairly recognizable as scrapes, because they are lightly used during pre rut deer hunting.
When a buck first opens up a scrape it may only paw the ground 3-5 times with first one hoof, then with the other hoof. As a result of this, a small amount of ground vegetation may be torn up and pushed toward the back of the scrape. There may be very little of the ground torn up, and very little vegetation at the back of the scrape, until one or more bucks paws the ground two or three more times. I often find these early season scrapes at the edges of clearings or near agricultural fields, where the deer may be feeding from late afternoon until early morning, before they return to their daytime core areas.
My research in the upper Midwest has shown that some bucks may begin using different feeding areas during pre rut deer hunting (while still using the same daytime core areas), and some buck may move to a completely new seasonal home range (with a completely different core area). I refer to this as the fall home range shift. Bucks may move as little a 1/4 of a mile, or as much as several miles during this fall home range shift. No matter if it has moved to a different home range, or how far it has moved, if you are hunting a buck older than two years old, it is probably using the same travel corridors and trails it used the year before. Either way, if the buck has begun using different travel corridors and trails, you need to begin scouting again, possibly in a new area, to locate it. To be successful when pre rut deer hunting the whitetail hunter must practice continued scouting do to their nomadic behavior. Wherever a buck has moved you should be able to find evidence of old rubs and scrapes (from previous years), and some new rubs and scrapes. If you find fresh rubs or scrapes, where there weren't any fresh ones earlier in the year, it tells you that a buck has moved into that area. To determine which buck it is (and at what time of the day it uses particular areas, trails or rub routes) you can either watch the area, or use a trail camera.
The temperatures at night start to graze the bottom of the mercury barrel. The amount of available sunlight decreases on a daily basis, and whitetail bucks slowly go mad with wanton desire during the pre rut deer hunting phase. Rubs and scrapes appear on the edges of fields and along trails in high-interaction areas. Deer activity intensifies during daylight hours as a sudden influx of animals crossing highways and country roads at night increases. This stage of the whitetail breeding season is commonly referred to as the pre-rut.
Although bucks tend to let down their guard during the heat of the rut, safety is still their No. 1 concern throughout the pre-rut deer hunting period. The odds of arrowing trophy deer are excellent in places where they feel secure. Identifying and studying these areas will earn you the opportunity to harvest a true wall hanger.
HOW TO LOCATE BED AREAS OR SECURE PLACES
Bedding areas that trophy whitetail deer utilize are normally in one of two locations. The nastiest most dense cover close to a food source or the simplest most stupid place you would ever want to hunt. The dense cover provides a place to hide. The stupid places are simply areas that nobody hunts because it just doesn’t seem like a trophy deer would hide there. (For example within 75 yards of an interstate highway, or a patch of woods on the perimeter of the farm that you may have been overlooking for years.) If there are food plots, crops or falling acorns, and if there is a ridge nearby [a few hundred yards] then look in the thickets on that ridge. Look for big rubs and tracks in cover on ridges or benches. Trophy bucks like to bed high where they can scan below and also feels safe. He will probably travel between the ridge and the food source using cover such as an overgrown ditch, brushy fencerow or creek. When you find a likely bedding spot, how do you know if it belongs to a trophy buck? Locating bed areas for pre rut deer hunting is vital.
Because of their size, it will be a large deep oval impression measuring over 45 inches long. It will be by itself with no other bedding areas around it. The strong musky smell should also be there if it is being used regularly. Often if you do some detective work and follow the trails leading away from the bedding area you will find rubs and scrapes. As you don't want to drive the buck away from the bedding area, don't stay too long once you have found a bedding area. Before you leave, note the Locations for a stand [preferably between the bedding area and the feeding area, or close to a promising scrape line]. Prevailing wind direction. Directions and destinations of the trails leading away from the area. Nearby food sources .
Whitetail bucks and does usually differ in the habitat and areas they choose to bed in when pre rut deer hunting. Trophy Bucks like seclusion, they are loners when it comes to their bedding areas. Big bucks often bed at least a half mile away from roads and human activity. Bucks like to bed in areas that give them a good view of any approaching danger, often bedded with the wind to their back and dense cover nearby for quick escape. Trophy deer, the big bucks, will often bed just below a ridge; under a conifer tree, or in tall grass on a brushy slope, sunning themselves. Thus allowing them the vision and a quick escape over the ridge if danger approaches form below. Bucks also like field edges, just inside the wood line. Trophy whitetail deer also favor the edges of swamps; bedded in areas of tall swamp grass or amongst the alder-brush. Trophy deer like to bed in corn fields; but not very often on windy days. Large bucks will always pick a bedding area that is to their advantage; line of sight, wind direction, and have escape cover very close by.
How can we tell if it is a trophy buck's bed? Three things are dead give-a-ways. First; the size of the deer bed, a buck's bed will be oval and at least 40 inches long. Second; the smell of it, does it have a musky, kind of rank smell to it? It won't be sweet smelling. Put your nose to it and get a whiff. Third; is it alone? Trophy bucks usually bed alone. You won't find another fresh bed (is it still warm, any frost in it, melted snow, fresh droppings near-by? After all we seek to locate trophy whitetails during pre rut deer hunting. Trophy bucks may have bedding areas near their rub and scrape line; just off doe trails, resting, and waiting a bit before their next romantic opportunity.
Scout your bed areas as if you were hunting; were rubber boots and remain scent free. Once you have found a trophy deer's bedding area in your hunting area, get out; don't linger there and leave a bunch of scent. Don't do anything to disrupt it. You should almost back out. You want that buck to come back to his bedding area and be comfortable. You don't want him to leave. Take some mental notes. Evaluate a promising stand site; note prevailing winds, feeding areas, and cover. Don't place your hunting stand over his bedding area. If you do, it won't be his bedding area for long. He will leave and you will be disappointed. This practice should occur in any phase of the season but especially during the pre rut deer hunting phase.
Don't drive an ATV right up to the tree stand site, run a chainsaw, hammer and nail, urinate all over, spend hours getting a stand in place. Don't hunt there too many days in a roll either. A serious trophy deer hunter will have multiple hunting stand sites to choose from as conditions dictate. Bed areas of whitetail deer during the pre rut deer hunting phase are very fragile. Too much human activity will ruin one of these locations very quickly no matter how good you think they look. Trust and believe that now matter how good you think you are, a whitetail deer is better at detecting you that you are at detecting them. You may be getting “busted” and not even know it. Studies suggest that for every 1 deer you view there are 7 that have passed by without the hunter seeing them. I wonder of many of the ones we don’t see, do see us. Trust and believe that during the early season and pre rut deer hunting that getting “busted or detected” by whitetail deer can be a critical mistake.
USING AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TO LOCATE BED AREAS
The darkest deposits of ink in the woods on an aerial photographs will normally be displaying the densest areas of cover. Also look on the aerial photograph of the farm for small ½ acre to 2 acre field surrounded by timber. Normally these are open areas that farmers don’t plant crops and they have grown up into thickets of small saplings and chest high grass.
WHERE TO SETUP TREESTANDS FOR DEER DURING THE PRE RUT PHASE
Setting up over trails that link feeding and bedding areas can still produce good results. Bucks will continue to use early-season trails, making short visits at food plots and crop fields as they slowly extend their range into neighboring territory. These excursions focus on assessing the breeding status of local doe concentrations, and storing energy for the rigors of the upcoming rut by quickly consuming high-energy chow.
Whitetail hunters across the United States are becoming smarter and smarter as they are beginning to realize that while pre rut deer hunting has not lived up to the peak of the rut, it often produces more success. Know that during the pre rut deer hunting phase that does are usually utilizing the same old bed areas and that bucks are on the move cruising through these bed areas in search of the natural rewards of mating. It’s almost as if mating is a drug to the whitetail buck. They go looking for it, and are wreckless in their pursuit of it, giving whitetail hunters overwhelming success rates during the pre rut deer hunting phase.
Much emphasis has been placed upon the location of where tree stands should be hung to intercept trophy whitetail bucks. If this is indeed the primary focus for success, however all whitetail deer hunters must consider the golden rule. The golden rule is a whitetail deer hunter must be able to get to and from a tree stand location without being detected by the very deer they seek to harvest. To be plain and simple, it will matter how good a location you select to hang your tree stand in if you spook deer while in route to the ambush site. This golden rule can not only be applied to pre rut deer hunting, the rather during or throughout an entire whitetail deer season. You must learn how to get in position without being detected upon entry and exit.
As aforementioned we have discussed how to locate bed areas while pre rut deer hunting and their relevance to your success as a whitetail deer hunter. However there are many other types of stand locations that can be as productive and more productive than bedding areas. While I’ve touched on this subject and importance of knowing where the deer bed, I rarely hunt whitetail deer at any time during the season with in the core of a bed area. The reason is because those locations are so fragile that you can ruin an entire property by invading them. Therefore let us look at some safer venues or locations to intercept trophy whitetail deer while pre rut deer hunting. All of these locations should in some facet take consideration of the bedding area.
A deer funnel is basically anything that causes deer to pass through a narrow or restricted area. Think of the tiny midsection of an hour glass and you'll get the picture of a funnel. As you look and an aerial photographs the traditional funnel will appear before you as you recognize that if the white areas on the aerial photographs represent fields. The black aerials on an aerial photographs represent woods. A funnel is located on an aerial photographs when the viewer literally sees the shape of a black eye hourglass. In the most narrow portion of the shape of an hourglass is the location where the timber’s width is promptly minimized in square footage. Deer are literally forced to walk through funnels in order to travel from one piece of woods to another. Deer funnels are great places to take your whitetail buck during pre rut deer hunting.
Many whitetail deer hunters are not aware that other types of funnels an exist which cannot be seen with an aerial photograph. These types of funnels are funnels I refer to as terrain funnels. Deer funnels can be nothing more than how the land lays. Game animals normal follow the lay of the land so anything change in the lay of the land that causes them to pass through a restricted area can be considered a funnel. Beaver dams can create great deer funnels if the terrain permits. A Beaver dam may be the best crossing over a creek that there is for hundreds of yards. Deer will naturally walk across a Beaver dam before they will swim. So will Hunters! Man can also create funnels. Fence lines, Ponds, cleared fields, etc. can all create deer funnels. Bodies of water or steep inclines which deer find difficult to negotiate create terrain funnels as well. This is why you will want to know your hunting ground like the back of your hand. I suggest finding terrain funnels during January or February when deer season is over, so you can enjoy their rewards when pre rut deer hunting. Funnels concentrate deer movement, enable you to get the most deer within bow range and provide places where you most likely will see deer at this time of the year. The more funnels you pinpoint on the property you hunt, and the more you learn about when, how and where to hunt those funnels, the more success you'll have hunting deer, not only during bow season, but throughout the entire deer season. Improve your odds by identifying funnels, including those you may be hunting over without realizing it, and altering funnels to provide even-better hunting during pre rut deer hunting.
A funnel or bottleneck is formed when two vast expanses of land neck-down to a small patch of thick cover through which deer can pass. To understand what a funnel looks like, consider an hourglass with sand in one end. For the sand to move from one side of the hourglass to the other side, it has to pass through a small opening in the middle of the hourglass. If we take that hourglass concept and apply it to the property where you hunt, where can you find that hourglass shape on that land? Try to identify where the corners of two fields come together and make a small bottleneck between two large woodlots on either side of the bottleneck, a pine plantation corners into another pine plantation with hardwoods on either side of that bottleneck, a creek or a stream bends into a young clear cut, creating a bottleneck with hardwoods on both the stream edge and the edge of the pine plantation, an agricultural field corners into a road with a woodlot on either side of that narrow neck, a huge field and two narrow points of woods neck-down the field to a small opening, a river bends into the land, bends out and then bends back in again creating a bottleneck between the two bends of the river. Any time you spot an hourglass shape on the landscape where two-different habitat types come close together to create a small opening, you've discovered a bottleneck or a funnel. If you hunt a bottleneck with a wind that blows your scent away from the bottleneck, you'll see more deer passing through the bottleneck than you'll spot on either end of the bottleneck. Bowhunters enjoy hunting bottlenecks since usually they can see across a bottleneck and shoot from one side of the bottleneck to the other during pre rut deer hunting.
SPIDERWEBS AND HOW TO IDENTIFY THEM
A spider web is an excellent location to hunt whitetail deer from. A spider web occurs when four or more ditches or draws intersect at a given location. The spiderweb topographical advantage term is one I originally named. In 1994 I was hunting with a gentleman who was kind enough to spend several years with me who taught me how to correctly interpret aerial photographs. We had leased a piece of ground in Northern Missouri for deer hunting and were sitting in a cab of his pickup truck as he stared at the aerial photograph of the property. Taking his index finger he pointed to a location where five timbered draws intersected into one location. He told me to hang a deer stand in this location no matter how much or how little deer sign was present. Reluctantly I did so. When I traveled to this location to inspect it there was some deer sign but not massive amounts of it. After I returned to the truck and reported my disappointment in the amount of deer sign that was present in the area he stated, “Just go sit in the tree stand and watch what happens.” It just so happened we were hunting the pre rut deer hunting phase. From a stand location I missed trophy buck after trophy buck, some of which would have made the Boone and Crockett record books. It was early in my hunting career and I had yet to refine my shooting skills, that this gentleman had taught me a valuable lesson regarding the success rates of hunting spider webs during the pre rut.
The inside L occurs at a point in the timber where fields make a significant directional change often resembling the letter L. They are found inside the square corner of a field’s edge us just inside the timber. Big whitetail bucks will skirt the field using these inside L’s. By positioning a tree stand for pre rut deer hunting end and Inside L, one increases his or her odds mightily for taking a monster whitetail buck. Often times during pre rut whitetail deer hunting acorns are falling and deer will stage up and utilize these areas as actual breeding zones.
Many other tree stand location strategies exist to enhance your odds of success while pre rut deer hunting. It’s always been said that a good magician never gives all his tricks away. Therefore while I would love to go on and on about where to set up tree stands during the pre rut I realize other whitetail outfitters read my articles. This prevents me from spilling my guts during this article as I would be providing my competition with the answers to pre rut deer hunting or simply where to hang tree stands. Thus while I could literally name a couple dozen more tree stand setups for your consideration I simply cannot do so. However we will look deeper into the issues surrounding this timeframe.
CALLING DEER DURING PRE RUT DEER HUNTING
I have never been a fan of trying to call when deer, however I am aware it can be effective. It would be unfair to the reader not to cover this issue over the course of this narrative. Just remember as we visit this issue of calling in whitetail deer that while many products or calls are promoted in the hunt industry I literally only take 3 calls to the woods with me in my backpack while whitetail deer hunting. These include the True Talker Grunt Call, the Doe in Heat Estrous Can Call, and a rattle bag. (I became sick of taking in a real set of bulky rattling horns years ago.) As I have stated before in other articles I only call to trophy bucks if I see them and literally know they are not going to travel my direction. The reasoning behind this is because too many hunters have watched too many television programs and overcall. Whitetail deer have at some level become very cautious about running into the sound of any deer call at the blink of an eye. Moderate calling can be effective during pre rut deer hunting.
Doe calls work best as during this time bucks are much more vocal and the buck call tends to be ignored by other bucks. Does during this time frame are much less vocal and calling with a doe call can bring in many deer. Call once every couple hours about 3 times in 2 minutes. Some bucks in the area will come to investigate if the doe they just heard is in estrous. A deer calling technique I like to use that has been successful for me is to do two low, soft, gruntal doe sounds. A sound that seems say; "come here, come here." You don't want to alarm any deer in your hunting area with loud, unrealistic or alarming grunts from your deer call. Not yet anyway. Calling trophy deer, calling any deer is a subtle technique. A deer call is used for short ranges; up to a 100 - 150 yards.
Grunt calls work during pre rut deer hunting more effectively than any other deer call made to this date. I have literally lured in monster bucks from over 150 yards away with grunt calls. If you can see a deer and it isn't coming towards you; you may need to be more aggressive in your grunting technique. A running, or fast moving deer may stop to an aggressive grunt call. Notice how the deer reacts to your calling. If you can stop it and get it to look in your direction, you should be able to call this deer into your shooting range. Deer are curious creatures, if not alarmed. If the deer starts coming your way, it will want to get down wind of you to get your scent, remember; "You Stink!". You may need to do some directional or muffled grunting to get this deer to think the deer it is coming to, has moving off in some other direction, but not far off. Normally I will grunt once for maybe 3 seconds and stop. This is a challenge, however remember if you calling in a subordinate buck during pre rut deer hunting you may scare him because he doesn’t want to walk into a fight. Also as odd as it may sound the most dominant buck in the woods isn’t always the one that scores the most. True.
During the rut a tending buck fallowing a doe, or on the trail of a doe in estrus, will make a lot of low gruntal sounds as it tries to catch up to that doe. It's really educational to listen to bucks in this state of desire. It is like the buck is saying, "Stop, stop, stop, please, please, please, stop please, stop please, stop please, please stop, please stop, please stop!" and so on. The sound they make is very similar to the doe sound of "errahh, errahh, errahh, errahh", maybe a little lower in tone, and almost continuous. With there noses to the ground, these guys are much more difficult to stop and you have to take the first shot you have available. Many links on the internet provide audio sound of the different calls whitetail deer make. Learn them in case you need to know them.
As stated above rattling really only works in areas of high buck numbers to low doe numbers if you seek consistent success. Rattling is very effective during the pre rut deer hunting phase. That being said, if you are lucky enough to live in an area with such a ratio, rattling during the pre-rut is an excellent way to see more deer. Some bucks will come charging in to investigate the male intruder in its territory, be ready, when this happens it happens fast. The hunter that rattles and doesn’t set the horns down to pick the bow up is the fool. If a buck responds to rattling he will come in fast and be looking around hard. If your not holding your weapon you probably won’t have the chance to pick it up. Believe me I learned this the hard way.
The different kinds of calls deer make would include contact calls, doe grunts, buck grunts, bleats, estrous, tending, buck brawls, sparring, and aggressive rattling.
So is the pre rut deer hunting better than the peak of the rut deerhunting? Here are the comparisions. “Pre-Rut” is about 10 days prior to “Peak of the Rut” around the first and second weeks of November. During Pre-Rut mature bucks break away from their bachelor groups and begin to fight to establish dominance among the bucks within their home range. This is their way of establishing a pecking order. This time is the most intense time of the season among bucks, when they are the most irritable and frustrated. They often take their frustrations out on trees and saplings in the process of making a rub. Less mature bucks normally under the age of 1 ½ years old will remain together, as they are not yet mature enough to breed because they are too small and too weak. These bachelors will roam the edges of the core areas avoiding the mature bucks for the purpose of self preservation, yet they are curious about the activities among the mature deer. They will also make perimeter rubs and scrapes. They often behave like a group of juvenile boys, sparing among each other with no intent to harm.
Mature bucks, however, play for keeps with the intent to cripple their equal and make the point that they are not to be messed with. Some deer are able to avoid fights just by the sight of their mass and size, which can intimidate a less mature buck. Bucks also make themselves known by their own unique scent that they leave on the rubs and scrapes they make. It identifies them as an individual and their scent can be recognized by other deer. This type of behavior is similar to other animals in the wild and domestically that mark their territory by leaving their scent.
Bucks move more often and begin to roam farther from their bedding area. They start to prowl during daylight hours searching for does. It’s a good time to hunt all day long in a variety of locations, starting with locations that are near rubs or scrapes or where major trails intersect.
Mature bucks will move closer to doe bedding spots and begin to watch the mature does for a sign of acceptance. If you can identify a common staging or feeding area for the does or the edge of their bedding area, this is a good location to hunt.
Does or subordinate bucks will often be near active scrapes. Setting up 20 yards from a scrape can increase your chances of success. Bucks will often check these scrapes, in the night and early mornings so it’s best to be there before first light.
Rattling & grunt calls are most effective during this time. Inject violence in your rattling technique. Bang and grind antlers. Stomp and thrash the underbrush. Rustle leaves and follow it with a snort & growl call. Keep in mind that you have to be prepared for immediate results. Some less secure bucks may come in slowly and cautiously, but others may literally run in.
“Peak of the Rut” also called “Full-Rut” is the time of year when deer come together for the purpose of breeding. It is initiated based on the moon phases, specifically the second full moon the follows the autumn equinox. 1 week after this does begin to breed. The first rut occurs approximately the middle of November and dwindles down by the end of the month for Whitetail deer in most Midwestern states. The second rut normally occurs right around the week of Christmas, for does that were not bred in the first rut. Weather can affect rut to some degree, for example in years when the fall remains hot throughout the day, does in estrus may choose to be more active at night when it is not as hot. It is not abnormal for dominant bucks to prefer to be more nocturnal regardless of the weather. The months of September and October and most of December requires hunting primarily food sources, since they are in a feeding pattern during those times.
During full rut the bucks will run themselves day and night with little rest, to seek out interested does. Often when given the choice a mature buck will select a more mature doe over a smaller doe and the same is true for a mature doe. She will choose a larger buck and not give the lesser ones an opportunity to breed. Does will fight over first rights with a buck if there is a low buck to doe ratio. I have seen on more than one occasion that a mature doe will run off a smaller doe, which has come in to a grunt call or to a buck. During rut, one common scenario is to see 2 bucks fighting over one doe and then have a third buck come in and run her off while the fight is on; so there is no such thing as fair play in their world.
A buck will normally stay with a doe 24-36 hrs. If you spot a buck and doe bedded together or following one or the other as a companion, you need to find a way to get as close as possible to them without them becoming aware of you. Or if you can anticipate the direction they are headed, try to circle in front of them and be waiting for them to come through that trail.
During rut some dominant bucks will already be with a doe and leave the fighting & scrape locations to lesser bucks. Once a buck and doe have paired up they will go deep into a core area and even bed down together. This cover offers concealment for them and reduces the chances for further conflicts. This is why I prefer to have at least one stand in a core area that I can enter into in the darkness for a morning hunt. Use reflective tack trail to help you find your way into these thick areas.
Bucks will often frequent the inside edge of a doe's feeding ground listening for a doe to bleat, sniffing the air and checking scrapes to find out if any estrus doe is in the area. If they encounter a doe, she will let him know if she is interested or not. If she is not she may just try to run away or may urinate on the ground to let the buck identify that she is not in estrus. If she is interested she will hold her tail straight out and walk in a stiff legged prance. When a doe does come into estrus she has 24 hours to become bred and they will actually seek out a buck during rut, but not until that time. A doe in estrus will not accept an immature buck normally. Hunting at a location near a feeding ground is an excellent location to be.
Does in estrus will respond well to grunts during this time. Then if you are hunting for a buck the doe can become your bait. Tending grunt calls can draw in a buck as well as a doe in estrus bleat. I normally try a combination sequence and use different grunt calls as well as changing the direction that I am calling from when grunting.
During peak of the rut deer can be found in many areas, but keep in mind that the ones that want to breed will try most of all to make themselves known and visible to each other. This is an ideal time to spot mature transient bucks because they can be seen through out the day seeking a doe. These are the big boys that you see in magazine photos. Often a mature buck will cross a large open area instead of skirting the edge of a field. I have never seen immature bucks or does make themselves openly visible in this manner. All of the largest bucks I have seen were spotted between mid day and early evening, crossing a large open area, with no cover. I am not a wildlife biologist, but I have 3 personal theories on why they would do this.
This is a very mature animal that has solidly established themselves as dominant and therefore is very bold, confident and almost fearless. By crossing an open field straight down the middle they can see at a farther distance in the hopes of spotting a doe. On the same hand they can easily spot trouble easier, such as a predator. This would be similar to animals that live on the plains and find security in open areas, as it prevents predators from easily sneaking up on them without being seen.
The buck wants to get from one point to another by the quickest route available. If there is considerable hunting pressure, mid-day is when this eases up because many hunters are in the field more often in the morning and evening.
Regardless of the true reason, the fact is mature bucks expose themselves more during this time of the season in places you would least naturally expect it. A hunting spot near main entrance points into an open field can be an excellent location to hunt from at mid-day.
Hopefully over the course of this narrative we have thoroughly addressed pre rut deer hunting. Bottomline is key dates vary from state to state but I like the first 5 days of November. Heck,…………I like it all.