Across much of whitetail range, the rut is a scant few weeks away. I’m hearing reports of a wide range of buck behavior from my hunting buddies around the country. Yesterday my dad talked to a local hunter who shot a fine buck traveling in a five-animal bachelor group! Of course there are the usual “October lull” stories, but also tales of some classic pre-rut antics; chasing, fighting, grunting, lip-curling…my guess is that unseasonably cool weather (we had a half-inch of snow here yesterday) has bucks feeling their oats a little early this fall. If so, the next few weeks should see some incredible hunting!


As we approach the rut, the ability to read and interpret sign will often separate successful hunters from the less-fortunate. I’m a rub-guy. Big rubs–like the one pictured above–tell me a whole lot of exciting things about the property I’m hunting. First, they mean “big deer”; little bucks will work a rub like this, but they don’t start it. Second, rubs are directional, meaning they tell me where a buck was heading before he leaned his head into a tree. This not only gives me a glimpse into feeding/bedding areas, but how the buck travels between them. And finally, the number of rubs I find indicate how often a big guy is using an area….the more I find, the happier I am!

There are, of course, other forms of sign that can lead to a close encounter with a nice whitetail; scrapes, beds, tracks, trails….all can play a role in helping hunter and deer shake hands. But as always I’m curious about your experience; what sign do you bank on when you’re putting together a pre-rut/rut game plan?