Prior to the increase of deer activity leading up to the pre-rut phase, bucks will spend the majority of their summer in all-male groups of three or more, commonly referred to as ‘bachelor groups’. These bachelor groups will most often be seen late in summer evenings feeding together. As autumn nears and the velvet begins to peel from the bucks’ antlers, hormone levels in each buck begin to spike, and the group’s collective tolerance begins to wane. It is during this same time, when the antlers cease growing and begin to calcify, that the bucks begin sparring with each other to vie for hierarchy. As hormone levels continue to increase the bucks break out of their groups and spread out in search of their own turf.
Top Pre-Rut Mistakes
1. Leaving the rattle calls at home during the early season. What most hunters don’t realize is that rattling is very effective in the early season, because bucks are doing a lot of sparring at this time. This is not the time to mimic a violent battle between two 140-class bucks, but instead lightly tickle the antlers to create an image of two bucks testing each other.
The breaking up of bachelor groups signals the approaching pre-rut. During the pre-rut, does are not ready to be bred, but bucks will keep tabs on them. Bucks go about their business of making scrapes, rubs, feeding and occasionally checking out the does.
When the bucks disperse from bachelor groups, each usually stakes out a territory to call home. Each buck will create a series of rubs, or a rubline, on trees surrounding the perimeter of its home turf.
2. Hunting a perimeter rubline for more than a day or two. If you find a fresh rub, look around to see if you see more through the woods, If you see more and they appear to be in a line, often this is the buck’s perimeter and not his bedroom. A cluster of rubs, and not a line, is indicative of the center of a buck’s home turf.
Likewise, there will often be a series of scrapes along this perimeter rubline. The scrapes – called secondary scrapes – will be fairly small and don’t feature a licking branch. Primary scrapes most often will also have a licking branch, an overhanging limb that the bucks rub their heads on, and primary scrapes are where you want to be.
3. Not hunting a primary scrape. Primary scrapes are visited by bucks of all ages. Look for a larger-than-average scrape that features a licking branch. If it appears fresh, with few leaves over the soil and a pungent musky odor, it’s a hot spot. When hunting a primary scrape, freshen the scrape with some buck or doe urine, and be sure to bring a deer call. Primary scrapes are like a website’s message board. All kinds of deer troll by and check to see whose been by, and leave a message or two of their own. As the pre-rut continues, bucks will pay more and more attention to the does and will begin the chasing stage. The does still are not ready to be bred, but the bucks will begin trailing them sometimes to the point of chasing.
Check back for PEAK RUT PHASE advice as the season moves forward…..
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