LATE PRE-RUT

Field and Stream - - COVER STORY -

THE LOW­DOWN

Does aren’t yet ready to breed, but bucks are feel­ing in­creas­ingly amorous, mov­ing more within their home range, rubbing and scrap­ing. It’s a great time to kill a gi­ant, be­fore he finds that first will­ing doe and aban­dons any pat­terns in his core area.

EX­PERT TIPS 1. HUNT THE BUL­LIES

“It’s time to go af­ter the most ag­gres­sive deer. Iden­tify them ei­ther by di­rect ob­ser­va­tion or via trail cam­era. Bully bucks will pos­ture at other bucks, won’t give up prime feed­ing spots to them, and of­ten move dur­ing day­light. I’ll set up on the edge of thick cover that I know an ag­gres­sive buck is us­ing. Then I work a grunt call that sounds like a young buck tend­ing a doe. I’ve killed sev­eral dandies that came charg­ing to this call.”

—Grant Woods, white­tail bi­ol­o­gist, grow­ingdeer.tv

2. REAP THE HAR­VEST

“Our corn har­vest of­ten co­in­cides with this pe­riod, and when the com­bines come out, bucks that have been liv­ing in corn­fields are forced to use other cover. We hunt wood­lots, creek-bot­toms, and other thick cover close to the corn. And we sit all day. This works well dur­ing the pheas­ant opener too.”

—Tim Clark, Kansas out­fit­ter, red­dog out­fit­ters.com

3. GET THE BIG PIC­TURE

As bucks seek does, their en­try points into fields be­come less pre­dictable. To keep closer tabs, back your cam­eras off specific trails, and in­stead watch the whole field or plot in time-lapse mode. —S.B.

4. GO MO­BILE

“The late pre-rut is when a mostly noc­tur­nal buck will start mov­ing in day­light, but you have only a hand­ful of days to kill him in his core area. So I place cel­lu­lar trail cams, like the Moul­trie Mo­bile, on active scrapes, and when I start get­ting day­time pics, I move in im­me­di­ately and hunt.”

—Steve Stoltz, pro staffer, mossyoak.com

5. SNEAK A SCRAPE

“Scout to find pri­mary scrapes near buck bed­ding ar­eas. Then pick a stand tree and get out. Don’t hang a stand or leave a cam­era. Come back on a day when the wind is per­fect. When you re­turn, you’re there to kill him, not hunt him. Sneak in, and qui­etly hang your stand, be­cause the buck is likely bed­ded within earshot. I’ve seen 19 dif­fer­ent bucks in a five­day pe­riod us­ing this tac­tic. I’ve also killed one in 20 min­utes. It can go that fast.”

—Harry Poz­niak, Ken­tucky out­fit­ter, river val­ley­farm­sky.com

6. TAKE SOME LICKS

Field and food-plot edges are of­ten lined with lick­ing branches now, all vy­ing for a buck’s at­ten­tion. Force a shooter to work the one clos­est to your stand by first walk­ing the field edge and cut­ting off ev­ery com­pet­ing lick­ing branch. —S.B.

Feel­ing It

Pre-rut bucks start mak­ing sign and mov­ing more.

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