Food is the key to locating racked bucks during the early season. The life of a buck is simple now and often quite predictable. They basically remain bedded up during the midday, feeding only in the late afternoon and early morning hours.
One option is to sneak along downwind or crosswind of a known feeding area at first light, blind calling for bucks as they exit the open feeding areas. I like to stop every 50 to 100 yards next to a fallen tree or other bit of cover and wait for things to quiet down. Moderately toned buck contact grunts, doe contact grunts, and fawn bleats can all tweak a buck’s curiosity now, causing a buck in some cases to come over to investigate.
Start each rendition out softly, however, in case there is a buck feeding nearby. If you call too loudly, a nearby buck will likely vamoose in a hurry. Of course, have an arrow knocked before you begin calling. It is surprising how quickly an undisturbed buck can materialize in front of you!
As the sun rises, I slowly work my way downwind of proven exit trails, hoping to catch any stragglers before they bed down for the day. Look for typographical features that promote deer travel such as creek beds and gentle slopes that lead uphill to preferred bedding areas.
Early-season bucks can be nocturnal if they are under undue pressure. Prowling along a bedding area just before dark, however, can be productive. A moderately toned buck contact grunt might convince a bedded buck an intruder has invaded his turf, forcing him to expose himself early to investigate. Light rattling, with no antler crashing or foot stomping, might also lure a buck into the open during legal shooting hours.
Next: Pre-Rut & Peak Rut Calling