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by Scott Bestul

Before bucks start feeling any hard pangs of wanderlust, hunting can be tough. The early-to-feed whitetails you saw in late summer aren’t as visible in open fields and plots, and the rut is still weeks away. It takes patience and ingenuity to get on a big buck at this time, but you can still pull it off. The three guides below make their living by getting clients on dream bucks right now, and their advice can help you put a monster in your sights.

#1 – Joe Gizdic
Tall Tine Out
Roodhouse, Ill.

Secret Spot
“I love a brushy fenceline between standing cornfields or, better yet, between standing corn and alfalfa. A big buck feels safe there, and I’ve got enough cover to hunt him. A spot like that is a gold mine.”

Secret Weapon
“I use Reconyx trail cameras to help me find the buck, figure out his pattern, and set up a stand. On the hunt, I bring
rattling antlers.”

Tactic
“I slip into a stand along the fenceline, and I tickle the rattling horns to pull a buck out of the corn or brushy cover. If I can’t score in a couple of sits, I wait for the October harvest. A big buck will be on that waste grain immediately.”

Tip
“Listen to squirrels and birds to warn you a deer is coming. Pre-rut bucks move slow and quiet. You’ll hear a twig snap, wait a few minutes, and think, It’s not a deer. But a big buck will stand still forever. You have to stay on alert.”

#2 – Pat Willis
Buck Country Outfitters
Caneyville, Ky.

Secret Spot
“If it’s a good acorn year, I go to the best oaks I know. There are always three or four trees in a given stand that produce the best acorns. I scout them in the middle of rainy days when I can move quietly and not disturb bedded bucks.”

Secret Weapon
“I want moleskin, or the soft side of a Velcro strip, on the bow, quiver, arrow rest, anything that might otherwise make noise. Everything needs to be totally silenced.”

Tactic
“I’ll slip a hunter into those oaks in the morning, but it has to be a guy I know can sneak into the stand and sit still when he gets there. I want him in there an hour before sunup. Then he has to be alert to catch a buck feeding quietly back to bed.”

Tip
“You’ll hunt quieter when you’re not loaded down with gear. For this tactic, go through your pack and lose everything but the essentials. Eliminate calls, rattling horns, clothing, your book–with any luck, you won’t have to wait long.”

#3 – Brad Hopkins
Hopkins Hunting and Sporting Clays
Kennedyville, Md.

Secret Spot
“A remote food plot close to cover and water is ideal now. We plant them in tucked-away corners. There’s a lot of open cropland here. But a big buck will pick a secluded spot where he doesn’t have to travel far to get what he needs.”

Secret Weapon
“I use Google Earth extensively to decide where to plant food plots in relation to cover and prevailing winds, as well as where to hang stands, and how to approach them.”

Tactic
“The open country here lets me glass plots from long range to find a buck on a predictable pattern. After checking the wind, I have a client walk in with a climber and set up on the downwind side of the plot for that evening.”

Tip
“Be patient. Pre-rut bucks will pound soybeans as long as the leaves are green, and it might seem like they’re ignoring a food plot. But as soon as the bean leaves turn yellow, those food plots will get really busy.”

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