Bucks Edging Toward Pre-Rut

Overall activity status: Almost all whitetails across the West have shed their velvet, and some have been shed and polished for a month. While deer in some places are still in summer patterns, that's changing for some hunters. Coeur d'Alene's Troy Pottenger is patterning big bucks simultaneously in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, and over the past week, Pottenger saw some dramatic and positive changes in buck behavior.

Bucks in the areas I'm hunting are moving away from their summer routines and into the pre-rut," said Pottenger. "They're already staking out areas closer to doe-fawn groups. I'm moving with them, and on them using trail cameras."

Pottenger says whitetail bucks hit his licking branches almost year round, but he's seen a definite spike in that and other behaviors: "I've been observing multiple mature bucks on camera visiting my scrapes already, and their interest level is definitely increasing."

With record chinook and coho salmon runs coupled with elk seasons and many other seasonal distractions, whitetails will continue to take a back seat for weeks out West, but that will change in a month when the pre rut blossoms into the full-blown rut. We still have a ways to go, but changing behaviors are a great sign of what's to come.

Fighting: No reports this week, but it's likely that bucks are sparring as bachelor groups continue to break up, sending bucks solo.

Rub making: The first rubs have been reported.

Scrape making: Bucks are visiting scrapes laid down by hunters. In a couple weeks we should see some early scraping as deer get deeper into the pre rut.

Chasing: Previous weeks yielded reports of playful fighting between juvenile bucks, but with no such reports this week and deer moving into pre rut, chasing and fighting behaviors are likely weeks away.

Daytime Movement: There's plenty of debate about whether moon cycles and other natural phenomena affect deer movement, but there's no denying the affect cooling temperatures have on deer movement. Sources in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have all noted increased daytime movement as temperatures drop in most places. Even where temperatures are still in the summer range here in the first week of fall, deer appear to be more conspicuous during the day, perhaps due to cooler nighttime temps and shorter days.

X-Factor: Bucks are going solo, changing bedding and feeding habits, and becoming tougher to hunt as a result. What's a hunter to do? Take a cue from Pottenger and use cameras to pattern bucks' new movements, and then find a wind scenario that gets you close enough to send an arrow.