Pre-Rut Whitetail Hunting- Using Decoys & Calls

Pre-Rut Whitetail Hunting Using Calls & Deer Decoys

Pre rut Whitetail checking a scrape line

Hunting whitetails during the pre-rut can be a great time to get a shot at a mature deer. Cupple the right weather conditions, trail-camera scrape monitoring, a good food source, and you have all the right ingredients for a high-quality pre-rut hunt.

Hunting Scrapes

Monitoring social scrapes during this time of year with trail cameras can be a great tool to help pattern bucks, especially for evening hunts over quality food sources. Although most scrape activity is done at night, there’s a window of opportunity during the pre-rut that can yield success. A high-pressure cold front during the early stages of the pre rut can be a great opportunity to get in and kill a core buck that’s been hitting a scrape consistently. Not necessarily in the middle of the night, but the bucks that have been hitting them at last light or an hour after dark will be the most killable bucks during this time of the season.

Using Calls During the Pre-Rut

Grunt calls and rattling can be effective calling methods during the pre-rut phase. a mature buck marking his territory during the pre rut phaseBucks are still typically in their core area and if you have a bully buck with an aggressive temperament, now can be a great time to hit him with a couple short grunts to get his attention. During the pre-rut phase, bucks start to really work the outskirts of their core area and become very territorial. Hearing a few grunts from a subordinate buck close to his main bedding area can raise his curiosity just enough to investigate who’s moved in on his turf.

It’s probably never a great idea to just randomly blind call. A mature buck will typically try to circle in downwind of the call, winding the hunter without the hunter ever knowing. I rarely call unless I actually see the whitetail first.

Decoying for Whitetails During the Pre-Rut

Decoying mature bucks during the pre-rut can be highly effective. A buck and a doe or just a single buck decoy can be a great tool in areas of open terrain where whitetails can see a decoy from a distance.Pre rut deer hunting using a deer decoy and calls If possible, place the decoy upwind of your treestand quartering towards your stand at a 45-degree angle. Bucks will typically circle in downwind of the decoy and come in towards the direction the deer is facing. Align it with your treestand just right and you can get a quality broadside or quartering away shot. Decoys can be a bit of a risk and sometimes it backfires. Overly curios mature does can really mess everything up if they spend too much time around the decoys and end up scenting you. Keeping your decoy as scent free as possible is a necessity. There’s a lot of surface area on a decoy for you to leave your scent and if you get a noisy nanny that doesn’t like the imposture, it’s game over.

Check out this video and story of a pre-rut hunt over a buck decoy at Heartland Lodge. You’ll notice how the buck tries to circle downwind of the buck decoy.

The pre rut phase is one of the most enjoyable times of the season for bowhunters. The temperatures are usually comfortable, the leaves are vibrant colors, and the anticipation is high for the upcoming several days of pre rut and rut action! Good luck!

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Zach Jumps

Last Updated: October 9th, 2023

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