By Jenna Kaye Taylor
Photos by Hunter Forbes
1. Mock scrapes. It’s good to start utilizing mock scrapes just before the bucks start to do them, so that you can potentially lure them into the area that you want them in, rather than them making an area for themselves. You can also find scrapes and rubs already maintained and add buck scent to it.
For a mock scrape, you will need buck scent (urine) and a dripper or rope to tie on to the tree. Next, you will want to find a low hanging tree in a fairly open area (just enough so that they can put their head up and lick the branch) and tie the rope or dripper to the low hanging limb.
Then, you will rake an area just under that branch to imitate a buck scraping the ground. After you’re done, add some buck urine to the scrape on the ground and voila, a mock scrape. Lastly, put a camera on the scrape if you want to monitor that area.
2. Get your calls ready. Bucks are going to respond to calls the best during this time. Make sure you’re toting a grunt call, doe bleat, and rattling horns in your bag at all times. A grunt can be a great way to get a dominant buck within range.
The downside to this is that it may make the distance greater if the buck in the area is subdominant. The bleat can be a great call as well, with the greatest upside and smallest downside. A bleat won’t send a shy buck packing, whereas a rattle or grunt might. Rattling antlers can bring curiosity from all directions, as it is the loudest way to get the attention of deer in the area.
3. Keep hunting food sources. Where the does are, the bucks will follow. Although bucks have probably stopped coming to the corn as often, the does will most likely still be in the area that you’ve been feeding. If it’s legal in your state of hunting, keep the corn or feed of your choice out so that they don’t wander too far.
If you’ve planted food plots, this is a good time to slip in and wait for a hot doe to come by. Lastly, if there are areas where the acorns have been dropping well or you’ve found other food sources—such as a persimmon tree—make sure to stay close.
4. Utilize cover scents. This is one of the most important things to utilize—aiming to eliminate all of your scent while still utilizing a cover scent such as doe estrus or buck scent. This can distract the deer from any scent that you’ve left behind on accident. I spray a bit on my boots as I walk in and again when I get in the stand.
5. Grab a decoy. Most deer, regardless of where you’re hunting in the United States, will show curiosity when they spot a decoy. This is a great tactic to get a buck within bow range and to lure the bucks out of the woods during the pre-rut and rut. When using a decoy, you will want to use a subdominant buck. When you do this, a more mature and dominant buck in the area may be attracted to it, looking to assert its dominance.
Set up your decoy in an opening, but be sure not to set it anywhere that it can surprise another deer. This can lead to you getting busted by a doe or another buck. Lastly, make sure that you eliminate all odor from the decoy. Spray it down with scent-eliminating spray and when you get to the field, add some buck scent to cover any odor left behind.
Decoys don’t always work when hunting—you may get busted, bucks may be afraid of it, etc.—but if you know you have a dominant buck in the area, it may just work in your favor.