Pre-rut is arguably the best time to hunt trophy whitetail deer. During this time, bucks’ travel patterns are somewhat predictable. They haven’t begun trailing does everywhere, so it is much easier to pattern a particular buck.
Starting in July and running until the second week of October in most parts of the country is the time when deer are putting on body fat… the bulking-up period. Deer need to bulk up to carry them through the rut. Bucks will bed very close to primary food sources during this time. They also tend to travel less than one or two miles in contrast to the rut when they can travel up to 20 miles in areas where doe densities are low. Pre-rut is also referred to as the pre-breeding period since the majority of does are bred during the rut. The rut lasts 3 to 4 weeks, starting in mid-October and ending early to mid-November in the Southeast.
The bulking-up period and the pre-rut are similar in that bucks are most predictable during these times. They’re different in that during the bulking-up period, bucks focus primarily on food sources while during pre-rut, they may be more interested in checking out does than in feeding. This can be very useful to a hunter. If you know areas where does congregate (the “social hub”), you’ll also be able to locate the bucks. Doe congregations are often found at primary food sources.
The same buck may return to a particular social hub many times, but usually won’t use the same trail or arrive at the same time. Although bucks are covering more ground during daylight hours, if undisturbed, even a mature buck can be patterned during this period.
Pre-rut is an excellent time to hunt for whitetail deer. There is a huge increase in daytime activity along with predictable buck travel. Make sure you get out on your South Carolina hunting land during pre-rut and invest time in your stand. You’ll be glad you did.