Patterning the Pre-Rut
As hunters, we willingly endure countless hours of sitting motionless in brutal weather conditions just for the chance to see a deer, especially a mature buck. Luckily, we can use the whitetail’s somewhat predictable habits and follow these patterns in order to give us an edge. Even during the rut when things are unpredictable, we still have a decent idea of what’s happening and how to capitalize on it. A whitetail has a reason for everything it does and if we can key in on their activity and areas they use regularly, it will increase our chances of harvesting them. The rut is a very unpredictable time of year and the pre-rut offers a better opportunity to pattern a buck before his testosterone sends him over the edge. Here are a few areas that you can catch bucks cruising around at during the pre-rut while they are still able to be patterned, somewhat.
Beaver dams are usually in no way associated with the breeding phases of whitetail deer. After all, these watery furbearers just dam up flowing creeks, create swamps, and destroy surrounding timber. I hunted around an area just like the one described for two years before it dawned on me what I was doing wrong. I was spotting bucks often but couldn’t figure out how mature bucks, the ones I was pursuing, were slipping by me. One afternoon while walking the area, my shed antler hunting dog crossed the narrow beaver dam and came back covered in mud….with an antler. The bucks were skirting my setup by crossing the beaver dam and missing me completely. This shortcut allowed the bucks to check doe bedding areas and easily cross the swampy mire. This also explains why the bucks captured on some of my cameras nearby has their legs coated in mud. In retrospect, I felt idiotic for not connecting the dots but being as how the dam was a relatively new addition to the forest, it had yet to cross my mind. I now have a stand oriented nearby the dam and it offers excellent hunting when the conditions are right.
Most scraping and rubbing is done during the pre-rut. During the rut bucks are too wound up chasing hot does to stop and spend time making scrapes, which are thought to be used primarily to locate hot does…the same does they are currently chasing. See what I’m getting at? In other words if you have an area in mind that historically consists of rubs and scrapes, you may want to hunt them before the peak rut. That being said, there hasn’t been many times that I have walked around a creek or a waterhole, especially if secluded, that didn’t have an abundance of deer sign nearby. These are areas are a hotspot to setup and catch a buck cruising from one doe bedding area to another. It seems almost sacrilege to bail on stands of oaks dropping acorns or a secluded food plot but many old bucks meet their fate in areas just like this every year.
If you were like me and are doubtful of the deer movement around natural areas such as the ones mentioned above, setup a trail camera and check in it a week or so. You won’t be disappointed. Also, not every property has a waterhole or a beaver dam located on it but the same principle applies. Stop overlooking natural areas such as crossings and dams that are right in front of you. Your property most likely has plenty of areas that are deer magnets, especially at various times of the year, you just have to figure it out. Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly where that huge buck you’re after is going to show up next, but that’s just another reason to spend more time in the woods this fall!
~ Andrew Walters Mossy OakClick here to return to our blog