Mother Nature is probably the number one obstacle every hunter faces when they go afield each year. It’s largely unpredictable, can’t be controlled and all a hunter can do is react accordingly. Beyond weather, there are plenty of other obstacles hunters have to contend with in their quest for whitetail success and in agriculture heavy states, standing crops are a big one. Standing crops create huge sanctuaries for deer to feed, bed, and hide. Many hunters wait for farmers to cut their crops, but there is no guarantee when, if at all, those crops will come out. As such, hunters have to plan. T-Bone says that the answer to this problem is relying heavily on trail cameras. Being able to view and scout the area is essential and cellular trail cameras enable you to do that without having a high impact in the area. Instead of going in and changing out cards you can stay out of the area completely, avoid laying your scent down, avoid pressuring the deer and changing their habits and instead just watch. Getting an understanding of how deer are using a property, figuring out what food sources they are hitting, where/when they are traveling and more can help you develop a more effective ambush strategy when hunting areas with standing crops. If you happen to hunt in a bait state, this can work to your advantage. T-Bone says it’s hard to beat corn for bait. Corn mixed with Big & J Deadly Dust is his go to recipe. The dust adds a really strong aroma that carries in the wind and works as a long range attractant. Good bait sites makes it much easier to predict where the deer will be and when they will be there. This will also allow you to get an inventory of what deer are there through the eyes of a cellular trail camera. T-Bone says another effective way to spur interest and bring bucks in is to use a scent post/fake scrape tree. T-Bone says he digs a hole and places a cut tree or post in it, then attaches a few limbs. The deer can’t help but check it out, it’s essentially a sign post. You’ll always be able to get pictures there, and if the deer come into the field instead of skirting the edges they will likely go to the scent post, check it for smells and freshen it up. It’s a good way to make sure bucks are more visible and it gives you a better read on them by having that scent post out there.
Many bow seasons across the country open in October, just in time for the “October Lull”. The October lull can be one of the most frustrating parts of the season. Some hunters swear the deer all but disappear during this time, but is it real? T-Bone says there is a “lull” in activity but hunters have to look at what causes it in order to more effectively hunt that period. Through September, bucks still adhere to their summertime patterns and hang out in bachelor groups. However, as October approaches, the length of day shortens, the weather changes and they begin to shed their velvet, those bucks then experience a shake up and no longer get along like they once did. The bachelor groups will break up, they’ll find new territories, they’ll deal with changing food sources and more. Hunters who have watched the deer all summer will no longer see the bucks where and when they did before. This transitional period from summer bachelor habits leading up to the pre-rut phase can be tough to hunt and you’ll have to work harder scouting and trying to locate them, he says.
As a bowhunter, T-Bone says that he likes the pre-rut for its predictability. During this time, the deer are looking and they are in a search mode so they respond well to a call, decoy, rattling horns, etc. Decoys add an element of visual confirmation in conjunction with the calls or rattles you use and they can really seal the deal and bring bucks in hot, heavy and ready to fight. While you’ll likely see more deer overall during the rut, actual shot opportunities may be more limited and the activity less predictable. When bucks are on hot does the shot opportunities can diminish and they can also be more difficult to call off of a hot doe. The pre-rut is far more predictable than the rut itself making it somewhat simpler for a hunter to be successful.
Weather is a huge factor in how and when whitetails move. T-Bone says based off of his own observations, the best days for deer activity are bluebird, low humidity and high pressure days. It’s also helpful to have a temperature change, as well. Temperature changes are known for spurring whitetail activity, but many mistakenly think that temperatures need to dip really low in order for deer to get on their feet. T-Bone says that even subtle temperature changes can work to your advantage. If the temperature goes from 50 to 40 on a fall day or from 95-75 on a hot early season day, those changes are enough to make deer move. Deer are out there all the time, T-Bone says, and they will respond to temperature changes you may find insignificant. Change is a good thing he says, so keep an eye on the weather.
Listen in as whitetail wizard Travis “T-Bone” Turner stops by with insight and tips on how to more effectively hunt the pre-rut this season. Watch T-Bone and the whole Bone Collector crew on “Michael Waddell’s Bone Collector”, Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET and “Realtree Road Trips, Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET, both seen on the Outdoor Channel. And don’t forget to catch more of the Bone Collector crew on MyOutdoorTV.