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.
Pre-rut bucks start making sign and moving more.