Contrary to what the name implies, still hunting is the act of walking through the woods, slowly looking for game. It is slow, effective, and very hard to learn to do correctly. Once mastered, still hunting can be one of the most productive hunting methods is the whitetail woods.
Hunting the Pre-Rut can be one of the best times to bag a large buck, they are intent on finding the first does coming into heat, they have not been "spooked" by other hunters and pressure from other hunters is usually light.
The pre-rut is the time prior to the full rut when bucks are preparing for the upcoming-mating season. Signs the pre-rut is underway are fresh rubs and scrapes. Bucks during the pre-rut are very active seeking out does that may be coming into estrous early and marking out territories. Scents and calls are highly effective during the pre-rut and in some areas rattling may also be effective, although rattling tends to help in areas with high to buck to doe ratios.
Calling During the Pre-Rut
The single best method for hunting the pre-rut is the use of calls. Doe calls work best as during this time bucks are much more vocal and the buck call tends to be ignored by other bucks. Does during this time frame are much less vocal and calling with a doe call can bring in many deer. Call every 10-15 minutes with 3-4 calls, any bucks in the area will come to investigate if the doe they just heard is in estrous. Another method is to call 3-4 times and wait 15 minutes and if nothing comes in, move to another area. In the first method you are waiting for the deer to move passed your stand. By moving your location in the second method, you are covering more territory and is useful if you have not done your pre-season scouting (you did scout didn't you?).
Scents for the Pre-Rut
Some bucks may be leery of approaching a call from a doe, if they do not smell the deer. Since the biggest weakness the bucks have during the pre-rut is the desire to mate with any early does, doe estrous and urine work best during this time.
Rattling During the Pre-Rut
As stated above rattling really only works in areas of high buck numbers to low doe numbers. That being said, if you are lucky enough to live in an area with such a ratio, rattling during the pre-rut is an excellent way to see more deer. Bucks will come charging in to investigate the male intruder in its territory, be ready, when this happens it happens fast.
Remember, hunting pressure is relatively light during the pre-rut, many hunters don't understand the dynamics of the rutting season, and choose to wait until the rut is in full swing. By getting in the woods and using the above methods you will greatly increase your chances of bagging a deer this season.
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