The fall colors are starting to appear. The temperatures are dropping, and the days are getting a little shorter. It is mid-October and everyone who hunts are starting to get excited about heading out into the woods. However, before that time actually comes, the pre-rut arrives. What is this and when does it begin?
The pre-rut is the period of time between when the bachelor bucks separate, and the peak rut starts. The group of bucks that you chose to watch during the summer have been together since spring. They have been traveling together to their food source and bedding together as well. Ultimately, for five or six months, they’ve been best friends. As summer ends and falls begins, those best friends will turn into competitors. They will start to branch off from one another and find their individual isolated bedding and feeding areas as they look for areas to claim as their own. This process is what signifies the start of the pre-rut.
The pre-rut serves as a time when the bucks are beginning to get more active and taking an inventory on the does within their immediate area. Does aren’t exactly prepared for the breeding cycle to start and will continue with the feeding and bedding routines that they have become accustomed to for the past several months. On the other hand, bucks are working to establish their main areas and checking in on the does as frequently as they can as October closes and November begins. Their hormone levels are on the rise and you will start to see young bucks chasing after the does. You may even begin to see the bucks sparing in an attempt to establish hierarchy in their area since their antlers have finally calcified.
How do you tell when the pre-rut begins in your area? When you enter and exit your stand each time, it is important to take a few notes mentally of the buck sign that you notice on your routes. These signs will change significantly in a matter of days. You may notice a rub on a tree the first day that is typical each year, and then the next day, you may notice several new rubs on the edge of the field and a few scrapes that were not there 24 hours prior. With signs like that, you know that the bucks are beginning to establish their home turf and that the pre-rut has officially begin. When you notice signs like this, it means that it is time to start implementing pre-rut hunting methods.
Pay close attention to the buck sign within your woods. As soon as you see rub lines, it’s indicative that the bucks are starting to mark their territory. A buck will rub and scrape to ensure other bucks are aware of the boundaries of his turf. Due to the fact that all local bucks will be attempting to establish their own turf, the number of scrapes and rubs that will start to appear should make it easy to notice them. This is a surefire way to tell that the pre-rut has begun.
What exactly makes the bucks determine when pre-rut should start? As far as research and analysis, that is left for another time, but in regard to the timeframe, this has a direct connection to when the pre-rut occurs. Ultimately, the whitetail rut happens around the same date every year. Weather, barometric pressure, moon phase, etc. may play a role in what hunters witness as this rut, but it occurs around the same exact date year after year. And in the same way that the whitetail rut happens around the same time every year, so does the pre-rut.
Checking back in our own notes, there has been a trend around the very middle of October—the 15th. There has always been an increase buck signs and sightings around this date. The closer to November that you get, the action tends to increase, but the pre-rut really begins mid-October. The feeding patterns of summer have faded off, the temperatures are getting cooler, and the daylight isn’t lasting as long. Depending on your particular location, the date could vary a bit. However, as long as you pay attention to the behavior of the deer and the signs in your area, you’ll know when the pre-rut begins.
The pre-rut is referred to as the time of transition between the summer patterns of feeding and the peak whitetail rut. The important thing is to know how to properly identify when the peak rut has started so that specific hunting strategies can be implemented in order to take advantage of it. The bucks will begin to act different, and the does will notice. While the peak whitetail rut is what hunters love to hunt during, it is important to not overlook the pre-rut. If you can position your stand in the right place—between the transitional area between the bedding area and the main food source for the does—then you can run into some great hunting.
For more information, contact us at Full Draw Archery.