Whitetail Hunting photo

The pre-rut can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times of the season to hunt. With cooler weather arriving, acorns falling, and bucks amping up their activities, even a novice hunter can find and locate hot sign.

But the pre-rut can also be frustrating. Sometimes a bumper acorn crop will scatter the deer and it can be difficult to determine exactly where to hunt.

The other aspect of the pre-rut is the arrival of rubs and scrapes. It can be energizing to see shredded saplings and freshly pawed out scrapes in your hunting area. But sit over this sign for a few days without seeing the buck and it can quickly become disconcerting. Chances are, the buck is visiting the scrape at night or you’re just missing him. Either way, the tantalizing sign lets you know some bucks are around even if you can’t see one.

By all indications, it is solidly pre-rut in South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and parts of Louisiana. If you’ve been hunting in these states, you’re probably already seeing rubs and scrapes. Some hunters are also seeing some chasing. Most of the does are being chased by younger bucks. It seems that some serious chasing is just about to bust wide open.

Brian Whetstine shot a 195-pound nine-pointer this week near LeBlanc, Louisiana. He was hunting a food plot when the buck showed up at dusk, but Brian reports that the buck’s neck was swollen.

A few days ago I took a friend hunting in an area here in Georgia that was loaded with rubs and scrapes. The first deer I saw were two young does. Shortly thereafter I heard a grunt, which sent the does running uphill. A young seven-pointer came out and began feeding. The does returned and began feeding also. A handsome nine-pointer showed up, surveyed the scene, then slowly walked in and began feeding. He didn’t seem interested in the does or in running off the young buck. Perhaps he already knew that the does weren’t ready, or that the other buck was not a threat.

The nine-pointer walked directly under my stand and sniffed the branches that I had cut. Though I had already taken a buck this season and our limit is two, I just couldn’t pass him up. My Muzzy broadhead zipped through him and he dropped 30 yards away. The seven-pointer walked by my friend, who arrowed him. We had a tough but happy drag out.

If it’s pre-rut in your area, hunt the rubs, scrapes, and oaks. If you’re hunting Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, or certain sections of Louisiana, pre-rut is still in the future and you need to target food sources still. Either way, it’s starting to get good and the rut is getting closer.