Even from one neighbor to the next, the annual Pre Rut can begin a week apart or more. There is a great reason for this, and you can use the Pre Rut beginning to create your own highly defined hunting strategy, specifically tailored to precisely when and where you should hunt on your land.
There are two types of land at this time of the year:
1. Core Buck Lands
-Mature bucks are present close to and during the hours of daylight. This means that a buck is most likely living within 200 to 400 yards of your land, during the hours of daylight.
2. Non Core Buck Lands
-Mature bucks are infrequent random guests well outside of the hours of daylight. Most non core bucks that I have personally experienced, had established core areas at least a 1/4 mile from the locations I have hunted, and most often a 1/2 mile to a mile +.
WHEN WILL THE PRE RUT BEGIN?
The Pre Rut begins at the same time each year, but not the same time. That may sound confusing because it brings up two important points that you can not miss: Pre Rut sign can explode if mature core bucks are present and the annual rut begins at the same time on your land, every single year. The old way of thinking was that the moon, weather or even a particular dominant old doe, would determine the start of the rut each year. However, we have known for years that the rut begins at the same time each year. The only variance though, is if you don't have a core buck on your land.
Annual rut watching reports can be extremely misleading, because they do not take into account the presence or not, of mature bucks. This is why on parcel "A", Pre Rut activities could begin 10 days or more before the activites begin on parcel "B". Folks if you don't have a core buck on your land, don't expect the Pre Rut to begin at it's normally scheduled timeframe.
WHEN TO BEGIN HUNTING THE PRE RUT?
On the lands that my hunt, the mature bucks that enter the land are peaking right around the Pre Rut start time. Because I have a collection of core bucks to hunt, spread out on a couple of parcels, I focus on hunting Pre Rut movements every cold front around October 20th and beyond. I find that October 20th start date to hold true for much of the upper Midwest, and then I adjust that date to the end of October, when I travel to hunt Southern Ohio public land. If I didn't have any core bucks to hunt, I would add another 10 days to both of those timeframes, and then focusing on hunting the Peak Rut.
Upper Midwest Pre Rut Start Times: October 20th -or- November 1st, depending on the presence of a core buck or not.
Lower Midwest Pre Rut Start Times: Late October -or- Early November, depending on the presence of a core buck or not.
Keep in mind that in all reality, if you do not have a core buck hanging around, the Pre Rut timing for your land, actually becomes the Peak Rut. Without a core buck hanging around, you will most likely experience very little Pre Rut activities.
The Pre Rut comes in like clockwork at the same time every single season, and if you have a mature buck hanging around, you will notice rubs and scrapes popping up with precision. In fact as I type this in early October, one of the lands that I hunt has already exploded with scraping activity due to a couple of nice 4 and 5 year olds that have been hanging around. While cold fronts will definitely increase the amount of rut sign and let you know exactly when to hunt during the Pre Rut. However, making sure that you have a core buck on your land or not, will ultimately reveal the timing of the Pre Rut on your land.