Deer pre-rut

Hunting the Pre-Rut

Grant Woods |


During this stage of the rut bucks will be cruising in the area or just downwind of the area where they expect does to be. When I was in high school and wanted to ask a girl out, I didn’t hang around the boys’ locker room. I strolled through the lunch room (food plots), and in college I frequently went out of my way to walk by the girls dorm (areas where does bed). When boys want to find girls, they go to where they expect the girls to be at that time of day…same holds true for deer.

I tended to clean up and look and smell my best before going to those areas. Converting this to deer, bucks leave their scent in scrapes. The pre rut is the portion of the rut when bucks frequent scrapes the most regularly throughout the fall. If you like to hunt near scrapes, you’ll most likely be successful during the pre rut.

I remember a few fights in high school just before prom – boys trying to prove their dominance or intimidate others from being around certain girls. Bucks often spar and even fight during the pre rut. In addition, many other boys and some girls came to watch as soon as they heard a fight was occurring. Deer do the same. That’s why rattling works. It serves two purposes – bucks that believe they are dominant will often come see who is fighting, and subordinate bucks will come to watch the action. Sometimes does will even respond to rattling.

One difference between deer and humans is that deer rarely leave their territory in an attempt to find dates elsewhere. Deer seem to fear the unknown. Based on data from deer wearing GPS collars, it often appears that mature bucks only leave their home range when a doe‘s range overlaps, and she’s receptive. The buck will often follow the doe to the core of her home range for 24-36 hours and then return to his home range.

Deer don’t have cell phones, etc., to know there are more does outside their range (world) but do apparently have a large fear of the unknown. Their fear is rarely overridden by anything except a receptive doe. I’ve known plenty of men to make stupid mistakes while trying to get a date. I guess deer and humans aren’t that different in this aspect after all.

If we hunters take into account the experience and technology differences between deer and humans, deer behavior and activity patterns are relatively easy to understand – especially during the pre rut.

Growing and hunting deer together,

Dr. Grant Woods,

About Grant Woods

grant woods

Dr. Grant Woods was raised and began his love of white-tailed deer as a bow hunter in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.