Bone-white antlers of a resting buck show above weeds during the pre-rut
The buck was banging its antlers against a tree, and I listened to him working a scrape for 30 minutes late last October. The buck was within 20 yards of me but he was screened by thick brush and was invisible.
I sat in my tree stand and listened. He was close enough to hear the urine hitting the scrape, and he was upwind and the pungent ammonia odor was strong. He worked that tree over, yanked at the overhead licking branch, and for all the noise and commotion he made, the buck was impossible to see.
I checked the spot the next day. He’d been working two scrapes, and one was eight inches deep and as big around as two large platters. The buck had pulled the old licking branch down, and I replaced it. It suited him because the scrape had tine marks and a hoof print in it, and the new licking branch looked pretty ragged. The second scrape was opened up, and the licking branch was chewed to a frazzle.
A spot with two or more active scrape should produce if you don’t spook it
What was even more interesting was that the buck had opened up a third scrape. Huge clots of wet earth was piled at the north end of the scrape, and he had made it the night before. How do I know?
Buck scrapes have dirt and debris piled at one end or another, and if the dirt is piled at the end closest to thick cover, it generally means the deer is tending that scrape in the evening as he leaves the bedding area for a night of chasing cute little does.
This told me several things: One is the rut had not started but the chasing phase had set in. This chasing phase lasts several days before the full rut starts. As long as fresh activity is seen at the scrape, and it is being tended one or more times daily, the rut has not begun. Once the scrapes show no sign of activity, that means the rut is underway.
One thing few hunters realize is that the mid-day hours just before and during the rut can produce a fine buck.
This buck may have other nearby scrapes that it had been working, but once a buck is shot and is taken out of the woods, another will take its place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when a big brown trout or a big whitetail buck is removed, another moves in and takes over.
Hunting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. works well during the chasing stage and the rut. If possible, be in your stand by 9 a.m., and sit patiently. The bucks will move during the mid-day hours.
Hunt the mid-day hours during the pre-rut
I first learned of this phenomenon many years ago while hunting ruffed grouse. Two days in a row a buck was seen darting away from me in the same area. I checked the area, found his scrapes, and went back and set up a stand 30 yards downwind of it. The buck came by that first day at about noon, wind-checked the scrape from downwind, and offered me a 12-yard shot.
Hunting the pre-rut and the rut during mid-day hours can pay off. Sure, many hunters can’t take time off work to hunt those hours, but keep it in mind for weekends. Hunt near natural funnels between bedding and feeding areas, and once the rut kicks in, start hunting the heavier cover.
My only real problem with hunting the mid-day hours is a personal one. I’m good for three hours maximum in a tree before everything gets sore. I’ll stick it out until about 2:30 p.m., grab a bite to eat, and then hunt from 4 p.m. until legal shooting time ends. It means spending long hours in a tree, but it can pay big dividends with a husky buck and the hunting is more fun than writing about it.
This method has worked for me, and can work for you regardless of where you hunt. Try it this fall and see if it doesn’t produce action at a time when no one is hunting. It’s rut hunting’s biggest secret, and now only you, me and several hundred thousand other people will know. Mark this blog and go back and read it again in mid-October, and maybe it will produce a nice buck for you next fall.