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Pre Rut Tactics for Ambushing your Buck

          As cooler weather comes around, hunters are looking into using different tactics to get a buck into their range. Bachelor groups have dispersed and bucks are establishing their territories. Scrapes are being noticed, rubs are getting more common in travel corridors. Hunters who notice this and key in on it will find more opportunities to ambush a buck.

          Across South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, bucks react to the cooler weather. After a long very hot summer, cooler weather will get bucks on their feet more than any other factor outside of breeding. Studies show that beside during the rut when breeding is the key factor; the number one element that gets deer moving is weather. In the south the magic number seems to be around 60 degrees. When its cooler than 60 degrees in the early season, bucks travel more. When a warm spell hits, and temperatures arch into the mid 80’s hunters notice a considerable decrease in activity. Let the mercury drop into the 40’s and its like turning on a light switch. Deer movement increased considerably.

          As early pre-rut begins, it starts with cooler nights and mild days. Bucks have their winter coats on by the middle of September in most cases and certainly by the beginning of October. Territories are being established. This is one of the best times to use grunt calling and rattling to bring in bucks.

          As bucks establish territories, they do not like intrusion from other bucks. This is when using grunt calls can bring in wary bucks to investigate. Personally, I like calling rather often. Every ten minutes or so, run through a series of soft social grunts, nothing too intimidating at this time of year. I am looking to peak the curiosity of the bucks, not bring him in for a fight. (That will come later in the season)

          Using wind is crucial, bucks will often circle downwind to try and get a sniff of the intruder. Using your best scent control is imperative. If you have it, Scent-lok will help hide any human scent that may blow his way. More than once, it has saved a hunt for me when a big ole buck got downwind of my location.

          By grunting every ten minutes of so, I am hoping to pick up on some bucks that are traveling. Once I see a buck headed my way. I stop calling all together and get ready for a shot. I never call to a buck that is headed my way.

          It can also be a good idea in the pre-rut to use decoys to get bucks into range. I prefer a doe decoy during this time of the year. Its non-threatening and is more of a curiosity item. Bucks see the doe and relax and often come right in to investigate. Be sure to cover the decoy with some type of cover scent so there is no trace of human odor on the decoy.

          Pre-rut is my favorite time to hunt. I believe bucks respond more to calling during this time. They are easier to pattern, and prior to the fighting stage they are still rather social and can be courted into range.

          Another approach often used during the pre-rut is one of food. As October rolls around, more and more acorns are falling. This is the dinner bell to bucks. Finding the best acorns on your property will increase your chance of finding a buck and harvesting a buck. As one well known hunter puts it, “I want to be where the buck is going to end up.” And during the pre-rut, that is usually the dinner table. While a lot of oaks are dropping at the same time, there is usually one area that has more than any other, find that area and hang a stand. It is just a matter of time before ole mossy horns comes into view.

          If you have the opportunity to hunt the pre-rut, get out there, get into the oak groves and make sure you have your grunt call. Let them look for you and you will be the one smiling at the end of the day.