Your Pre-Rut Playbook

Whether you’ve been driving in whitetail country or spending time in a treestand, you’re likely beginning to see some spurts of rutting activity on the part of eager, pre-rut bucks. Heck, in much of the country, the rut is already in full swing.

I just about nailed a buck with my truck the other morning and I’ve seen others cruising during my recent hunts. As bucks begin the hunt for estrus does, you can take advantage of their impatience with some key strategies.

As bucks begin to outline their territories, the amount of scrapes increase daily, and you can steer a buck your way with a mock scrape. Your goal should be place a dripper to disseminate scent, but actually have a buck take over the scrape and eventually show up for scraping duties while you’re on stand.

You can also dispense scent where and when you want. Wicks allow you to soak up scent of your choice and hang it in an ideal ambush site to lure a buck in for a shot. If you want a wider distribution, use a scent-soaked drag and let the scent follow you back to your stand. Be ready and the scent might just do all the work for you.

Scent may lure a buck into your sights, but a decoy can pull the buck to an exact locale and distract it long enough for a clean shot. Decoys can be bulky and noisy to get in the woods, but if you bring them in pre-season you don’t have to worry about spooking deer when the rut is on.

Remember that bucks approach each other head-to-head in a parallel fashion. Set your decoy in a parallel position for a broadside shot. Add some scent and your decoy could be the best tool you ever dragged into the woods.

Bucks are itching for breeding to begin and looking for a fight. They are all ears at this time of year, so put your calls to work. If the cover is thick around your stand site, then you’ll want to use subtle calls such as grunts and bleats to begin your faux conversation.

For a bit more distance, incorporate the snort-wheeze call. It’s louder and more aggressive. You can literally call a mature buck to within spitting distance if the buck is in the right mood. Lastly, if you really need to reach out in your whitetail neighborhood, put rattling into play. This call can carry a mile on a still morning, so stay ready even after 15 minutes or more after the call.

The pre-rut is one of the best windows to tag your buck so get out and put these strategies into play … but the rut is progressing, so get to the deer woods as quickly as you can.