The whitetail rut is most commonly discussed topic among hunters and yet it is also the probably the most misunderstood. If you want to be successful this season then it is vital to understand which phase the rut is currently in. (the pre-rut, peak rut and post-rut)
During the summer months and while the weather remains warm the majority of buck activity occurs in bachelor groups. You will see bachelor groups in the early mornings and late evening as the bucks head to food sources for nourishment. As the fall approaches and the weather begins to cool, a buck’s hormone level will begin to increase and their acceptance of group activity starts to fade. That is when antler growth stops, velvet is rubbed off, and sparring begins to determine male dominance. Once a hierarchy is established bucks break from their groups and carve out their own territory. This marks the beginning of the pre-rut stage where bucks protect their territory and begin searching for hot does even if the does are not ready to breed. Those are the current conditions throughout Pennsylvania.
Since we are now in a pre-rut stage, we thought it would be helpful to step through some common mistakes hunters make during this time of year. Avoid these miscues and improve your chances of putting a quality buck on the ground.
Rattle Them In: Leaving the horns at home during the pre-rut is a big mistake. Most
hunters don’t understand how effective rattling can be this time of year. Bucks are sparring, determining a hierarchy, and making claim to their turf. We aren’t recommending a rigorous and aggressive rattle simulation but rather a light and short rattling set designed to emulate a sparring session. If a big boy is hiding in the heavy brush a sparring session between two inferior bucks in his kitchen may just be the thing to draw him out.
Hunt Rublines and Secondary Scrapes: We say rubline and not rub clusters because a rubline is indicative of a mature bucks perimeter. Check to see it the rubs are fresh. We always want the latest intel and fresh rubs and scrapes show recent buck activity. If the rubs are new, then he isn’t finished staking out his territory and he will be back. Remember, this is not the center of his home turf. You will find rub clusters there. Too many pre-rut hunts in a bucks central area could tip deer off to your presence and give away your location. We recommend moving in closer to his bedroom later in the season.
Similarl to rublines, you will likely find secondary scrapes along a bucks perimeter. Unlike primary scrapes, secondary scrapes will not have a licking branch and be smaller in size. Look for fresh rublines accompanied by secondary scrapes during the pre-rut to catch a shooter staking out his territory.
Avoid Primary Scrapes: This is a common miscue during the pre-rut. Primary scrapes are visited by bucks of all ages, which is a good thing, but if you are looking to put a big boy on the ground in the pre-rut then catching him marking his perimeter is the better option for the early season. As the pre-rut continues, hormone levels will continue to rise and bucks will begin paying more attention to does. The does may still not be ready to breed but the bucks will begin trailing them. Once you notice this in the woods, then it is time to hunt the primary scrapes as the peak rut is about to commence. Good luck and happy hunting!
As always, if you have any questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.