Early Rut Tactics: Shake, Rattle and Roll

I hadn’t seen a deer. Telling myself the weather was too breezy, and too hot, I dejectedly inched down the tree using my climbing stand. As I left the woods and crossed the edge of a bean field, I spotted a lone button buck. This made my spirits rise, and here’s why:

My home state — Pennsylvania — is in the midst of a fascinating study of button bucks. Biologists are studying why, when and where the little guys go when they disperse from their doe.

Basically, they disperse two times a year. The doe either gives them the slip in the spring, when she’s given birth to a new fawn or two; or the doe starts to kick them away in the fall, just prior to the kicking in of the rut.

Each fall, when I start to see lone button bucks, I know the rut is in its infancy. And I know it’s a perfect time to launch “early rut” tactics:

1. Make a scrape, and add scent to it; or add scent to an existing scrape. I like to use a buck urine first, just a few drops on the fringes of the open dirt area, and an orbital gland lure on the licking branch. Many urine-based deer lures have a multitude of ingredients, and I always SHAKE the bottle well before using. Use the lure where it makes sense, for example, does it make sense to put doe-in-heat on the licking branch? Nope!

2. I start to RATTLE. I won’t be creating the slam, bang sounds of the full-bore, all-out fight. Before the rut is in full swing, I “tickle” antlers together as if two young bucks are checking each other’s strength. I’ve seen bucks do this, even in late summer. I believe that by the time the rut starts, every buck in the woods knows who can lick who.

Brenda Potts with her trophy buck
Brenda Potts has bagged many mature deer. The author has hunted with her, and says she uses an array of calls.

3. I have a couple grunt tubes I really like to use, but my favorite call of all — which never fails, no matter what the weather — is the can-style ROLL over doe bleat. You can’t make a mistake by making it too loud, and it won’t freeze. It’s a must for any backpack.

4. When you’re in the midst of all that “shake,” “rattle” and “roll,” remember to factor in the weather conditions. Has the area had rain or snow? Freshen the scrapes with your favorite lure, and take care to keep the lure from freezing. Is it breezy or windy, a noisy day in the woods? Rattle more often, because the sound won’t carry as far. “Sell” your tactics by making sure you’re making sense — does also use scrapes, which are good spots for estrus urine. Bucks may also encounter each other and fight near scrapes and rub lines. If all seems to fail, go back to hunting the does along their travel routes to food sources. You can bet that the bucks will be following them soon.

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