Over the course of the next several weeks, I’m going to devote one post per week to report on the status of the rut in the area I’m hunting. I’ll discuss the deer behavior I’m seeing and how I interpret it, and also share some of the tactics I’m using. Hopefully you’ll chime in and use this space for the same purpose…and we can all learn from each other, as well as share some hunting tales.
With my Minnesota tag filled, I headed across the river to Wisconsin, where a friend lets me hunt his 280-acre farm. My first hunt was an evening sit, and I was in the stand about 2:40. As I was prepping gear and settling in, I glanced downhill and spotted what looked like a white antler against dark brush. My binocular confirmed it was a buck, but I couldn’t judge age/size at all. I grunted several times to the deer, but he gave no indication he’d heard me. So I amped things up some and tickled my rattling antlers. Two minutes later the buck was 10 yards from my stand! He was a handsome 2-1/2 year old, with a nice 4-point side, but the other beam was snapped off (from fighting, I assume) and was nothing more than a fork! I passed this deer, knowing there are much bigger on the farm.
I saw no other deer until nearly dusk, when a young 6-point appeared, made a rub, and walked past my set. To me, this type of buck behavior–bucks on their feet throughout the afternoon–indicates the late stages of the pre-rut; I have seen no signs of chasing, but older bucks are on their feet, nosing around and checking does, but with little sense of urgency….yet.
Right now, I find grunt calls and rattling antlers very effective. But if I’m hunting an older buck, I use them very carefully. I prefer to call to deer I can see so I can read body language to see how the buck is responding. If I’m blind calling (to deer I haven’t seen) I only do so when I know the wind is perfect for me. Older bucks will still use caution when approaching a call now, and I don’t want to educate anything I don’t have to! Scent drags and mock scrapes can also be highly effective in grabbing the curiosity of a cruising buck.
The buck pictured above was shot by my friend Billy Jerowski in Wisconsin this week, a full two hours before dusk. When mature bucks like this are moving that early, it proves that the tension (and testosterone) is building! So what are you guys seeing? Stories to share?