Make Sense of Whitetail Scents by Scott Haugen
Tagging a big whitetail buck out West is one of big game hunting’s great challenges. With seasons running from pre-rut through post-rut, and everything in between, the challenge lies in figuring out the wise bucks. One of the keys many hunters rely on, no matter where whitetails are hunted, is understanding the glandular system of these deer.
Be it through sight, sound, smell, or even taste, deer communicate with one another in several ways. These are year-round forms of communication that deer rely on. A common misconception among hunters is that deer only communicate through scent during the rut. While it’s true that scent-based communication activity increases during the rut, it’s also true that scent-based communication rises during the pre-rut period. This means September and October can be a time of heightened scent use activity among deer, something hunters can capitalize on.
The pre-rut period is an important time for bucks, and hunters. Personally, I feel the pre-rut is the best time of all to hunt, whereby offering the best chance of tagging a trophy buck.
Pre-rut, or the timeframe prior to the rut reaching its peak–is when bucks cover a great deal of ground in search of does in heat. I’ve found this to be particularly true among foothill, valley floor and open country whitetail populations. These are largely resident, non-migratory bucks that know their domains well, and most of the does within them. In an effort to ensure they gain first breeding rights, bucks will start cruising the country in search of receptive does. This activity begins well ahead of the majority of does actually coming into estrus, which means it’s also the best time for hunters to be in the field, trying to intercept these bucks as they move around.