Pre-Rut and Rut Tips and Tactics
The last and final week of October is upon us, and sweet November is just around the corner. It is official, we are beginning to enter some of the best days that you can spend in a tree stand or ground blind hunting. With the mature bucks beginning to get on their feet and make their presence known during the daylight hours, the last week in October and the first weeks of November can truly be an active time in the whitetail woods. This is the pre-rut, rut transition, and rut time frame hunters live for.
When it comes to whitetail hunting, it is important to have a good grasp on many different facets of the sport, and understanding a whitetail bucks physiology and what is going on with him from a biological perspective can really help you to effectively game plan and strategize before hitting the whitetail woods. This time of the year, when the pre-rut is starting to wrap up and the full rut is beginning to kick off is sort of a transitional period, and if you understand this transition you can certainly use it to your advantage and put a mature whitetail in the back of the Chevy this fall!
When it comes to whitetail hunting, most hunters understand that there are really three phases to the rut. There are the pre-rut, the rut, and the post-rut. Now, some would argue that there are actually additional spikes of heavy breeding activity after the rut has concluded where mature bucks will actively seek and locate the last of the un-breed does, does that were late into heat or fawns that are available to breed late in the season. While there is information out there to support it, this mostly this comes from the observation of hunters and biologists. As you can imagine, just like there are spikes in rut activity after the “official rut” has concluded, there are also spikes in activity as the rut is beginning to kick off.
The world of the whitetail knows no calendar. Whitetail bucks don’t wake up one day and say “well, tomorrow the rut is going to start so I had better get a good night’s rest”. Instead, it is the shorter days and the cooler weather that help to initiate the start of the rut, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. There is a steady buildup of rutting activity, that is in the shape of a bell curve and we are currently trending upward in terms of activity.
From now until mid to late November, mature whitetail bucks will become more diurnal, meaning they will be out more during the daylight hours. Right now, we are in what many whitetail deer hunters have dubbed the transitional period from pre-rut to full rut. Right now, mature whitetail bucks are beginning to reaffirm their territory. They are beginning to compete more with other aggressive bucks, they are beginning to freshen up scrapes and rub lines and probably most importantly they are beginning to cruise in search of the first hot doe of the season. When you add all of these factors together, there is certainly an opportunity to take advantage of a mature whitetails eager nature and bring him into range of the Hoyt.
Does & Food
During the rut, sometimes finding the big mature whitetails means finding the big mature does. In other words, if you have the does then you have a good chance of having some mature bucks during the rut. Right now, as we transition from the pre-rut to the rut most of the country is experiencing its first frosts of the year. As the acorn drop has begun to slow by this time, the colder temperatures can have the deer beginning the transition back from masts such as acorns to annual grain crops like corn and soybeans. If still green, clover plots can also still be very effective locations for whitetail deer to forage as well.
This time of year can be one of the best opportunities that a whitetail hunter has to have that surprise daylight encounter with a mature whitetail buck. This is where doing your homework and spending time running the Bushnell Cameras and having a good understanding of what the deer, especially the does are doing on the property that you hunt. As the does begin to transition back to various forages or begin to use different areas of the property, it can be very important to stick with them. Don’t be afraid make a move and establish new stand locations based upon doe activity. Over the next week or so, mature bucks will begin to check these areas more and more in search of the first does to come into estrus, and these areas can be dynamite locations to put a G5 into the breadbasket of a mature whitetail buck. Mature bucks can be harder to hunt once they have locked down with a doe, so stacking the odds in your favor to square up with your hit list buck can be critical to your success this fall and keying in on does and food can help you accomplish this task.
Right now, as the pre-rut begins to give way to the rut using calling and vocalizations can really start to play a big role in your hunting strategy. If you have never tried breaking out the Knight and Hale EZ Grunter and Rack Mag and bringing a big mature whitetail buck out of the hardwoods, you really should give it a try! There is nothing like it!
Right now, mature whitetail bucks are really just beginning to be more vocal, which tends to happen as they begin checking and chasing the first does of the year. Even if the doe is not in estrus, bucks will often grunt, growl and snort/wheeze as they check and court would-be does and bump other bucks off. As the pre-rut ends and rut begins, it is an excellent time to begin ramping up your deer vocalization efforts. If you have a mature buck on the property, he can very easily have his interest perked by the sounds of grunting and rattling, even if he isn’t quite in the mood yet himself he might still be convenient to come and have a look. As the transitional period moves into the full rut phase, you can begin to become more aggressive with your calling and rattling.
The biggest issue that deer hunters tend to have with grunting and rattling is the fear that they will actually spook or scare the deer in the area, rather than draw them in. This can be a very hard fear to get over, and while there is certainly a correct and incorrect way to call whitetail deer the process is not that complicated. Most hunters can learn the proper cadence and process for calling whitetail deer very easily, and many hunters uses vocalizations to their advantage each and every deer season. One quick tip when it comes to whitetail calling and vocalizations, while it is always important to remain as scent free as possible it can be very important if you plan to do much calling as mature bucks can often come from any direction, so ensuring that you have your Bone Collector clothing on is very important.
The Power of Smell
One last tip for hunting mature whitetail bucks during this transition from pre-rut to rut is using the power of smell to your advantage. A whitetail bucks sense of smell is probably his most important attribute, and as the first does begin to come into estrus you can use this sense against him. Right now can be an excellent time to utilize deer scents in general, but as the rut arrives doe in estrus drips as well as mock scrapes to can be used to your advantage.
As the rut draws closer mature bucks become more active, especially when it comes to establishing dominance and a territory. Utilizing a mock scrape can greatly increase your opportunities to encounter a mature whitetail buck. Right now, bucks are beginning to increase the number of times they freshen up their scrapes and rub lines. Consequently, installing a mock scrape on or next to an existing scrape give the buck a sense that his territory is being encroached upon, will often begin to visit the area more frequently. Right now can be an excellent time to deploy such a tactic as the testosterone is beginning to flow and mature bucks are starting to feel the fire. Couple this trick with a doe and estrus drip and you are setting the stage for a close encounter!
Right now is an exciting time to be in the deer woods. Things are starting to come alive and whitetail deer movement is picking up by the day. Remember the old saying “the early bird gets the worm”? That adage holds true in the world of whitetail deer hunting, and big mature bucks. Now is the time to start pulling out all the stops and tap into that big bucks most basic urges.