The pre-rut is the last couple of weeks before the primary rut. Indeed pre-rut hunting is one of the best times to tag a trophy. During this time, bucks become much more active within their home ranges. This is when they are putting down rubs and scrapes as well as looking for those first early-cycling does.
Pre-rut Hunting and Scouting Go Hand in Hand
Now is the time to scout at every opportunity so you can figure out where a big buck beds. Once you have that figured out then walk nearby creek bottoms, wooded funnels, and fence lines to find the rubs and scrapes. Now you know the buck’s travel route to its feeding area. Of course you need to make sure you are wearing rubber boots and scent-free clothing while walking his area.
Select a tree along this path around 150 yards from the big boy’s bed. Place it so the approaching deer will quarter into the prevailing wind. This should allow the buck to approach without catching your scent. Now is not the time to hang a stand! Leave and wait for the right time.
Moon phase is important and of course you have to have the perfect wind. The Deer Hunters’ Moon Guide is an excellent way to determine which evenings a buck is most likely to be moving. You can usually count on two or three nights in late October when the wind and moon are perfect.
Quietly Sneak in and Hang Your Stand
When the stars align for those 2-3 perfect nights it’s time to hang that stand. Sneak in during the early afternoon when the buck is bedded. Quietly hang your stand in the tree you chose during the scouting trips. Make sure you are settled in by mid-afternoon. Hang tight as most big bucks will not get on their feet until the last half hour or so of shooting light. Now that it is almost dusk, grunt softly. Once you have grunted, wait 5 to 10 minutes. Give a 15 to 20 second rattling sequence to mimic a pair of bucks sparing. The idea is to rattle just before the buck gets out of bed. This should bring him right to you.
A second option is to key in on the scrapes. Studies show that 85 percent of scraping activity happens outside of shooting hours. However, there are five to seven days after the October full moon that are the exception. Daylight scraping activity heats up t0 30-40%!
Not just any old scrape will do. You need to find a large scrape in the timber near thick security cover. Large rubs nearby are an added bonus. The best scrape hunting lasts about 10 days. You have to get it right with this short window.
Do Not Waste Your Time
Do not waste your time by setting up right on top of the scrape. It is important to remember that mature bucks routinely circle downwind to scent check the sign. Your best option is to put your stand 75 to 150 yards away to intercept the circling buck. Ideally it should be in security cover.
You need to beat unfavorable winds by circling the scrape with three to five tree stands. Your primary stand should be between the buck’s bedding area and the scrape. Circle the scrape like spokes on a wheel with the others. With little time during prime scraping, you have a chance to score no matter which way the wind blows.
These are just a couple of strategies we use while pre-rut hunting. We are always looking for new tactics so if you have something you are doing feel free to share it with us!
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