If you know what is going on during the pre rut, you can take advantage of it and have a good chance of putting a buck on the ground before the peak rut comes around.
Here are a few pre-rut deer hunting tips that will definitely help you get a shot at a buck this year.
1. Hang Plenty of Trail Cameras:
During this time of year, bucks will have a fairly regular routine.
They will bed in a certain area, like to feed in another, and cruise the trails in between and look for does.
So you want to have all of your trail cameras up on your property in a place of interest.
Where to place trail cameras?
There isn’t one single place that is the absolute best place to hang a trail camera.
But there are some generalizations that are a safe bet and here they are:
If you know where a popular food source is, like a white oak patch, or corn field, you want to hang a camera there.
For a small area like a white oak patch, you can hang the camera in the middle of it all where you see the most activity.
But for a corn field or something else large, you will want to hang your camera on a trail opening up into the field deer use to get to it.
Scrapes or rubs
Other than food, you want to keep an eye on buck signs like scrapes or rubs.
Popular scrapes are a good way to see the majority of deer in the area because most of them will visit it.
Funnel or pinch point
Another great place to hang a camera is on a funnel or pinch point.
These are areas that naturally force deer to “funnel” down to a small area to pass through, something like a fence gate opening or the saddle of a hill.
2. Food Sources Are a Hot Spot:
Bucks are the only ones with rutting on their minds during the pre rut. So the does are going to do what does normally do, eat.
What does it mean?
Like most of the year, that means that food sources are going to be a great place to hunt.
That is where the does will be, and curious or eager bucks will be there checking out the does, and they gotta eat too.
On the other hand:
This time of year is usually when the white oak acorns start falling, and any corn or thick browse that the deer might have focused on before will suddenly be obsolete, that is, until the acorns run out.
The truth is that food sources are always a great spot to hunt just about any time other than the peak rut.
3. Keep an Eye on Social Scrapes:
Scrapes are awesome this time of year. Bucks are regularly checking them, which means you should be hunting them.
The trick or luck of it is seeing a buck that checks a scrape in the daylight. Your best bet for that is to hunt scrapes in the morning.
The scrapes I am talking about here are social scrapes.
Let me explain…
While all scrapes are a form of social expression, a single scrape along a popular travel corridor is likely to have many bucks and does visit it instead of just one buck.
If you find a scrape or rub line, that is likely to be a single buck, and we will talk more about those in the next tip.
4. Rub & Scrape Lines Are Gold:
What is a rub or scrape line?
A rub or scrape line is exactly what it sounds like, a line of rubs or scrapes (sometimes both) in a fairly small area.
Of course, it is not a perfectly straight line, the term scrape line usually just means a lot of sign in the same area, which is often spread out in a line along a trail.
Let me tell you:
A scrape or rub line is likely to be close to, if not inside of a bedding area, and there is a good chance that it is made by a single buck that regularly checks up on it.
That is not to say other deer do not visit the scrapes, they most certainly do.
But by laying out a lot of signs in that small area, the buck responsible is making sure all other deer know he is there quite often.
He might check on most of his scrapes at night, but hunting around a scrape or rub line is never a bad idea.
What should you do?
You know that buck is there frequently and that's a good reason to hang a stand.
Just make sure those scrapes are fresh and that they are not from last year. A fresh scrape will be nothing but dirt, with no leaves left in it.
5. Morning Travel Corridors:
Hunting buck signs like scrapes and rubs or hunting food sources is great, but another option is popular travel corridors AKA trails.
Plenty of people will also tell you to hunt bedding areas if you want to shoot big bucks, and while you might shoot a buck doing that, you might also run them out of that bedding area never to be seen again.
Trust me, I’ve done it.
Hunting the trails in between all of those hot spots.
If you can locate a popular bedding area, and a popular food source that is nearby, I am willing to bet the trails between those two areas are worn down to the dirt.
That is where I want to hang my stand during the pre-rut because I know does are going to head to those food sources, and I know bucks are going to follow.
I also know that there will be plenty of bucks laying down signs and checking up on does, and they can cover a lot of ground while they do that.
So a popular trail is a place they would feel safe cruising while they are not completely rut-crazed just yet.
IN MY EXPERIENCE
The morning is the best time to hunt these areas.
Sure, you can see and shoot deer in the evening too, but I have just noticed a bit more movement in the morning during this time of year.
Plus, deer are highly likely to come off their bed in the morning and head to feed.
6. Watch the Cold Front:
During the pre rut, which is usually mid to late October, there are a couple of golden days right at the end of October.
What I am talking about is the cold front.
Usually at the end of October or close to it, there will be a cold front that comes through, it gets deer on their feet.
Here’s the deal:
If you are hunting a buck that is usually nocturnal and you only have pictures of them at night, the cold front is what will get them out in the day light and give you a shot.
It only lasts a couple of days, but this is when a lot of hunters get their target buck.
But, there's a problem...
The problem is that the cold front doesn’t really care if you are a weekend hunter, it can and will come through on a Wednesday.
I call out of work.
As for general weather patterns, I tend to see a bit more deer movement during the day as the temperature drops.
That of course happens as we creep into November, and the peak rut is soon thereafter.
What is really important is temperature swings, so even here in Georgia, when it is 80 degrees one day and 50 the next, I know there is going to be more movement that morning after that drop.
7. Start Calling:
The pre rut is a steller time to try out some deer calls.
This is when a lot of deer start sparring with each other, so trying out a rattle can do the trick.
Just make sure to match what the deer would actually sound like during this time of year.
Think about it…
They are not trying to kill each other just yet, so you don't need to slam your horns together as hard as you can.
Just lightly and slowly knock them together and then wait an hour or so between sequences.
How to Call Deer in Pre-rut Season?
Vocal calls work great too during the pre rut.
The most common is the grunt, and you can do what's called a blind grunt to bring in deer.
That is when you just throw out a grunt when you don’t see anything around in hopes that you can bring in a deer that is out of sight but within earshot.
Doe bleats are great this time of year.
A bleat usually indicates that a doe is trying to find other does, but during the full rut, it indicates that she is ready to breed.
So you could bring in does, or eager bucks with a doe bleat.
8. Try Out Some Deer Scents:
Finally, deer scents are worth a shot too.
I would hold off until late October to use any sort of estrus doe urine.
That will make you the only estrus doe around because you will still be a couple of weeks early from the rut, but it will not make you so early that the bucks are not quite focused on breeding just yet.
Although, if you time it just right and the does are not quite in estrus but the full rut is very close, hot doe urine can be like a magnet to bucks.
How to use deer scent:
Just make sure that you put it in a spot that offers an easy shot, and that it isn't so close to you that you are going to spook bucks that come to check it out.
Here's my story:
I used to spray some doe urine on my boot before I walked into my stand, and more often than not, there would be bucks coming right down my trail and to the base of my tree.
It is worth a shot!
While there are dozens of more pre-rut deer hunting tips out there, I think these are the most important ones.
Doing plenty of recon with your trail cameras is very important, and hunting the right spot brings it all together.
Food sources, travel corridors, and scrape lines are all awesome places to hang a stand.
Just make sure you watch out for that October cold front and capitalize on it when it comes through.
Patrick is a lifelong hunter who mainly chases whitetail, but also enjoys duck and turkey hunting. He has hunted game in various states throughout the U.S. and always enjoys hunting in new areas with new people. He usually prefers his .308 while in the stand but is also an avid bow hunter.
Patrick is the author of Omega Outdoors (omegaoutdoors.blog) where he regularly publishes his hunting experiences, insights, and expertise. When he’s not in the great outdoors hunting, he’s writing as much as possible.