By Alex Comstock
Bucks running all over the place – grunting, snort wheezing and chasing does – it’s right around the corner. The rut that is. But, before the rut really takes off, there is that period of time when the bucks are getting ready to breed does, but the does aren’t quite ready yet. This is known as the pre-rut, or also known as the phase of the deer season that is happening right now throughout a majority of the Midwest.
I took to seeking some expert advice on how to hunt mature bucks during this time of the year by reaching out to Todd Pringnitz, President and owner of White Knuckle Productions Web Show. Todd dropped some very valuable information pertaining to the pre-rut, and also some on self-filming and hunting out of ground blinds.
Q: How are you attacking this time of year with the rut right around the corner, but also with things not quite busting open yet? Are there certain tactics that have become tried and true for you during this pre-rut phase?
Because I’m hunting individual bucks most of the time, my tactics are a little different. Right now I’m watching the trail cameras that I have located around food sources waiting for something to show some vulnerability. Some bucks just don’t re-locate to their breeding areas until just before the first doe comes into heat. So I try to be patient right now and not over-hunt anything until I “know” my chances of seeing a mature buck are really good. At the same time, sometimes you have to hunt to know what the next hunt will produce. For example, last night I hunted in a killer spot. I got blown out by a spooky doe, and my hunt was ruined. But, while walking back to my house I spotted one of my shooters. You never know what you have out there, and sometimes cameras can be deceiving on what they are showing you. Pre-rut, if the temps are too hot – I don’t hunt. I mostly hunt the fronts during Pre-Rut.
Q: Are you hunting mornings during this time of the year, or are you waiting until the calendar flips to November to hunt mornings?
Right now, I’m not hunting mornings. I like to wait until the last few days in October to start hunting in the AM just to keep the pressure to a minimum. Now, if I know where a shooter is bedding, I don’t care what time of year it is – I’ll try to kill him. I let the season and intel dictate a lot of how and when I hunt.
Q: Do you usually have stands set for the rut in advance, or are you doing more of a run and gun type setup, and changing things on the fly quite often?
Yes, I have about 30 stands and blinds set before season. I use them as a starting point, and make adjustments as the season un-winds and based on the movement I’m seeing. I think one thing a lot of hunters struggle with is “not” hunting a stand they have money, time, and work dedicated to. Sometimes that makes guys over-hunt a spot; because they are emotionally connected to it. And the works done. If I didn’t have all these stands pre-set, I’d be running and gunning every hunt to get on the deer.
Q: I see that you do a lot of self-filming, what is the greatest challenge of self-filming and how do you overcome it?
Self filming is a great challenge, especially from treestands. Ground blinds over food plots are far easier to self-film because you are only filming for the most part in “one-direction”. I prefer self-filming from tree’s with good cover. If I get busted, it’s usually by does when I’m self filming from trees. Tough to hide from a pile of deer around your stand, film it, and look for approaching bucks. I also have stands that I know I can’t easily self-film from, so I will save those until I have a cameraman. Other than that, I’ve become used to filming all my hunts, so it’s part of my system. I think the #1 thing I can recommend any “self-filmer” is to make sure you have a good quality camera arm that has a good quality fluid head, and a zoom controller. Without those key items, you might as well not even try!
Q: I’ve watched you hunt from a ground blind a fair amount. How do you generally approach your ground blind setups? Is there anything in particular you find that most people can apply when setting up a ground blind?
Most of my ground blinds are set-up on food for a reason. You need that draw to pull a deer close to a blind in most cases. If they can avoid them, they will. I also usually mow a trail right to the backs of my blinds so I can sneak in and sneak out quietly. Another thing I’ve learned over the years is to use terrain to cover your movements as much as possible when coming and going. Other than that, my secret to ground blind success is the same with my tree stands. Don’t over-hunt them. I try not to hunt a blind or treestand more than once or twice during a season unless I have intel telling me otherwise. Whether it’s the first week in October, or the first week in January, I ALWAYS want a fresh stand / area to go to that hasn’t been hunted. That’s where the big mature bucks will be hanging out. Where you and no one has been. Give yourself options.
Q: If you could only give one piece of advice to somebody who wants to harvest a mature buck during this time of the year, what would that be?
Get close to cover, the thickest cover you can find as a starting point. Other than that, every area and situation is so different it’s very tough to give any particular “tip” that works for everyone. I would guess most guys hunt a little too hard before the time is right. If you are really trying to kill a big 5-1/2+ year old buck, you need to realize they are pretty reclusive by nature. They don’t move much; and when they do it’s usually in areas they feel the most comfortable. Most generally, those areas that aren’t or haven’t been hunted in the past. Find those areas, and you’ll find your buck!!!
– Alex Comstock, founder of Whitetail DNA