Brantley: Some Evidence of the Pre-Rut

Rut Reporter Will Brantley of Murray, Kentucky, knows the region well. He spends 40 to 50 days each season in the Mid-South whitetail woods. Brantley shot his first deer at age 10 with a sidelock muzzleloader. States covered: KY, TN, WV, VA, NC.

Overall Activity Status: Deer movement has remained steady all week in the seasonal weather. Daytime highs have been in the 70's, with lows around 50 at night. Morning activity has definitely been on the rise, and there's been a surprising amount of movement early in the evening, well before dark.
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Fighting:** Bachelor groups are still clinging together, but I don't think that'll last for long. We watched a group of three bucks earlier in the week, and they were sparring with one another constantly, rubbing trees, and licking branches.
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Rub making:** In western Kentucky, rubs have progressed from a novelty in the woods to fairly common in the past week. I'm finding new ones every time I head out.
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Scrape making:** I haven't found any scrapes yet.

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Chasing:** Nothing yet.
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Daytime Movement:** Times are-a-changing around here, but not so much in other parts of the region. In my neck of the woods, crops are being picked, acorns are falling, and the deer have endured nearly a month of bowhunting pressure. Up until the past week, most of the action I've had this season has been right on the field edges. Now, our luck has been better when we've backed off those fields and hunted travel corridors in the hardwoods-- especially near falling acorns.

But my buddy Jimbo down in Tennessee saw more than 50 deer on opening day of his season (last Saturday), and virtually all of them were headed to bean fields. Jimbo even saw a few of the nice bucks he's captured on trail camera, but none of them came close enough for a shot.

Over in North Carolina, Jerimiah Waddell reports that movement is pretty stagnant. "It's been hot all week, and things are just slow. The bachelor groups have been broken up for a while, though, and I haven't seen a buck in velvet since August. But, I haven't found that first rub or scrape yet, either," he says.

The story is similar in West Virginia. Paul Johansen, assistant chief of game management for the West Virginia DNR, says bucks in the area are still holding in bachelor groups--but he doesn't expect that to last with the days getting shorter. "The hunting could be easier around here this season," he added, "because we don't have the bumper mast crop that we did last year. The scattered acorns should make field-edge and bait sets (legal in West Virginia) a little more productive."

Estrous Signs: Nothing yet.

X Factor: What exactly defines "pre rut?" I'm sure there's an official scientific definition out there beyond "the time before the rut," but I've always considered it to be when the antlers are polished, buck sign is appearing regularly, and bachelor groups are broken up. The bachelor groups around here aren't broken up, but the other signs are in place. Hunting pre-rut type patterns--backing off the field edges and focusing more on travel corridors and buck sign-- is definitely becoming more effective.