Killer Pre-Rut Strategy with Sam Bilhorn

Show Notes

In this episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast, Josh and Pierce talk with Sam Bilhorn of Whitetail Partners about his strategy for getting on pre-rut bucks. 

Sam is the founder of Whitetail Partners, a whitetail habitat and property design company. Since it's inception a few years ago, Whitetail Partners now has five regional design experts who cover the entire eastern half of the United States. As a guy that knows deer, the pre-rut is Sam's favorite time to target specific mature bucks on his property. In this episode, Sam shares his thoughts on pre-rut strategy including his favorite kinds of setups for public and private land, how weather impacts buck movement during the pre-rut, and how he sets up whitetail hunting parcels to capitalize on pre-rut activity. 

This is one you won't want to miss!

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Show Transcript

Josh Raley: [00:00:00] What is going on, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman podcast, which is brought to you by Tacticam. This is your home for all things outdoors in the Badger state. I'm your host, Josh Raley. I've got our co host, Mr. Pierce Nellis on the line. Pierce, what's up, buddy?

Pierce Nelles: Not much, man. I'm sitting on pins and needles here as the cell cam blows up. Trying to plan my attack.

Josh Raley: Oh, dude, it's been a, it's been a rough week for us. Honestly, if we're just talking about the deer that we're seeing, that we're biding our time, we're, you're sitting on go, man. You're like every day has been like a should I or shouldn't I hit the woods kind of thing.

I've got to wait. All I can do is sit here and watch my cell cams from Georgia while you've got them hung up there in Wisconsin. Man, we've got a good episode for folks, though. [00:01:00] I want to touch on the episode before we get into what's going on with me and you. We have Mr. Sam Billhorn on from Whitetail Partners.

Sam obviously is a habitat consultant there in Wisconsin. Does a great job, gets people on deer, helps you design your property. This is his favorite time of the year to hunt though. The pre rut timeframe. And a lot of that actually goes into his designs and how he sets up at least his property and he'll take it into account, if you're a gun hunter or whatever, and that's your primary thing, then he's going to take that into account when he designs your property.

But for his hunting and the hunting of a lot of other people, he's designing these properties with the pre rut timeframe in mind. Because that's, honestly, that's your, probably your best time to get in on a specific buck specific mature buck. And so we talk about a bunch of different things.

Pierce I'm curious to hear maybe your one big takeaway. What's the thing that, that we discussed that you're just like, oh man, this is going to get put into practice this fall. I think

Pierce Nelles: you just alluded to it [00:02:00] right there by saying, if you've got one specific buck in mind, the pre rut's kind of your time to do it.

And, we were chatting a bunch about a certain target buck of mine showing up in daylight, like last, what was last week while we were recording this episode was saying And, or just after we recorded it and, Sam really made a lot of great points about how right now bucks are laying down sign, they're checking their scrapes, they're, making some rubs and they're just getting keyed up and they are making their kind of running the circuit.

Almost like a racetrack to an extent of checking all the different bedding areas, waiting for that first dough to pop. So they're keyed up and Sam did a really awesome job of kind of explaining. I don't want to take words out of his mouth here, but explaining why the pre rut is the best time of year to be killing specific big deer while they're in their routine, before the rut cracks the lid off of things and, we've got deer running every which direction here and things get chaotic for lack of a better term.

I know that's something that just about everybody loves [00:03:00] and something that, you know, tough not to get excited by, but from a specific buck standpoint his points on the consistency and patternability of specific bucks and figuring them out this time of year, that, that really struck a chord with me.

And honestly, it made me want to think about doing more and more early season hunting next year.

Josh Raley: And that's, another big thing that we talked about obviously is some of the design elements that go into a property when you are setting it up for the pre rut. But that spilled over right into a conversation about public land hunting as well, like the kinds of things you're trying to create on a private parcel are the things you're just going to find on a public piece.

You're not creating them, you're just going to scout them out and locate these things. So we talk about what are some of the big things that he's looking for, how he approaches scrape hunting, which is a huge part of his pre rut timeframe we taught one, one awesome point that I'm glad I brought up and Sam doubled down on.

You always hear it all the time. It's scrapes aren't really any [00:04:00] good because 80 percent of scrape activities at night. It's yeah, but 90 percent of deer movement periods at night. Are we really going to, are we really going to hold that against them? Like if 90 percent of deer movements at night, but 80 percent of scrape activities at night, it sounds like that's a high odd spot.

It sounds like we're probably going to run into them there. Lots of good stuff. So we talk about that. Like you said, we talk about pattern ability of bucks during this period. We also talk about weather and the impact that has on deer. And I think there may not well, yeah, I think weather has a huge impact early season.

Weather has a huge impact. Late season two, but I think we see in the pre rut, it just flips the trigger on, there are just those days, man, you have a cold front come through and it's like the next day, you're like, wow, the sign making just took a huge leap, over and it's I remember last year walking into a spot and I'm like, okay, that scrape wasn't here yesterday.

And that rub wasn't here yesterday. And that scrape wasn't here the other day. And all of a sudden it's like sign just exploded. It happened to coincide with a nice day of weather that followed up on a nasty [00:05:00] rainy time period. Yeah, so we get into all that good stuff with Pierce, man.

We've. We've got some stuff of our own that we're getting pretty pumped about. First of all, you've got a giant on camera. What day are you going to kill them?

Pierce Nelles: I'm hoping within a couple of days of this episode airing here, I'm hoping to have them on the ground. That was, that's I almost blanked on that, but you hit it right on the head there talking about how. Different weather patterns change buck behavior and affect buck behavior.

We alluded to it last week and or alluded to it last week when we were recording with Sam and the forecast has changed a little bit since then for this week, but this week when we recorded was projected to be like. Sam calls a groundhog's day where it was, pretty much in the high fifties or hovering right around 60 every single day.

And I think it was supposed to rain, all week. And I think we've still got some of that in the forecast this week. But one of the things that we touched on, cause even last week we were in that same [00:06:00] consistent stagnant weather pattern. And we keyed in on, even if the temperature is not fluctuating, if the wind flips.

That's enough to light things on fire. Lo and behold that afternoon, we happened to have a flipped wind as compared to the previous three or four days. That buck of mine showed up on camera. I thought, okay, I don't want to get too. Crazy here. I'm going to wait until I've got another South wind and I'm going to see if he does it again.

Guess what folks he showed up again this morning and I wasn't in the stand. I'm eating my words there and, but I've got confirmation in the next couple of days here, I've got a South wind, so I'm hoping to make a move on him. Then that's where I'm at with things on that buck.

We were discussing strategizing for if. We end up getting, more of a Northwest wind, which is projected at the end of the week how I might be able to still make a move on him if he stays in the same area and just, it's the beauty of saddle hunting is being able to pop, from tree to [00:07:00] tree, even if it's just from one side of the trail to the other.

So I'm looking forward to that. I am absolutely jacked up for Saturday when we've got this massive cold front rolling through, we've got flurries in the forecast for Sunday. I'm pumped, man. I think a lot of deer are going to die this

Josh Raley: weekend. Yeah, it dude, it's like the perfect storm. Yeah for the guy who's a weekend hunter, the timing doesn't get a lot better.

Honestly, all year long, the cold fronts have been hitting just right for the weekend, like all year long. And I think we've seen that on social media guys, just killing stuff left and right. It's like everybody just happens to be in the woods. On those cold front days, but man I think you've got a good beat on this deer.

I think you've got it figured out as far as what he likes. I think he's showed you that already. I think he's tipped your hand and I think you've got a good plan. Like you said because of that, where it really doesn't matter what wind is thrown at you at this point, unless you get like a, I probably would not mess with a South, like a West Southwest.[00:08:00]

Yeah, you'd probably be pretty screwed on that, but like very, I think a South wind man, I think you get a North wind. I think you're good Southie, anything Easterly. I think you're good. And if he's moving like we think he's moving like you had talked about earlier, if he's moving, like we think he's moving, I think you got a good shot.

I think there's, I think he's probably going to, I think he's probably going to die, but especially

Pierce Nelles: given the scrape that he himself has

Josh Raley: Opened up directly in front of your camera, I'm like, I'm feeling good. Like he just decided Oh, there's a camera. I think I'll make a scrape right in front of it.

That'd be cool. Huh? I think I'll do that. Man, also in the past week, you've put out a camera for me, two cameras for me. Cell cams reveals up there in Wisconsin. Pretty pumped about the location of these. I think I think you realize that these spots don't necessarily look like they'd be great spots, but...

I think they are going to turn out to be pretty good. They're habitat, terrain dependent [00:09:00] and pressure dependent. I think the best is yet to come. The very first buck that showed up on one of these cameras was a stud. Yeah. I think he's a good deer. And he was a tang. I think he's a good deer. The interesting part that I wanted to discuss and get your opinion on just real quick, live.

You remember the one year old from last year? Yeah. That I sent you and I'm like, dude, this one year old is a giant. Yeah. Like he's either a he's either a tiny two year old or he's a giant one year old, but I think looking at his body I think he's a one year old last year and to put it in perspective I think he was I can't remember exactly but I think he may have been a ten point as a one year old With the little kickers coming off of his G.

Yeah, dude. He had so much junk Yeah, as for a buck with that small of

Pierce Nelles: a cage to have You know, those, like you said, those kickers coming off the G2s on both sides.

Josh Raley: So yeah, sick deer. Yeah. So last year as a one year old, he would have been a one, two, three, four, [00:10:00] five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10.

Yeah. He would have been a 10 point last year as a one year old. And he had that one time that kind of swooped out more than the others. And this first deer that showed up this year is a stud and I think he might be a two year old because I think it might be the same freaking deer. What are your thoughts?

Pierce Nelles: Dude, he's already a wide two year old and he is tall. He's... He's gotta be creeping on. I don't I'm terrible at scoring deer on the hoof, but he's gotta be creeping on one 30,

Josh Raley: doesn't he? He might be creeping on one 40. Dude. He's, he might be creeping on one. He's a big deer. He's a big deer.

But do you think he's the one year old from last year? Is the question based on the structure of his G twos

Pierce Nelles: And that's really all I'm looking at comparing the two deer there. I think he's got.

There's a high likelihood that he's the

Josh Raley: same deer.[00:11:00] I think if he walks by me, I'm sending an arrow at him. Oh, yeah, I do not care how old he is. So I'm gonna send one his direction. I would be very curious, I almost would want to do that just to see how old he is, just to see if it is him, cuz I mean if you kill a hundred and thirty five inch two year old, it's like dang that is...

That's insane. But he, he's got the G2s going on. He's got that he looks like he may have that one tine that kind of swoops out a little further than the other. Like he did last year, if this is him. And then he's got a little extra junk on the very tip, a little baby drop tine there on the very tip of his antler.

This could be fun, man. I think it's

Pierce Nelles: going to be fun, man. This.

Josh Raley: Oh, did you notice too the one year old from last year, his left brow tine dips in and this one, his left brow tine dips in just like the buck last year. So anyway, there's a good chance. Same, same [00:12:00] region or

Pierce Nelles: not same region, same area of the, of that property

Josh Raley: too.

The camera is 75 yards from where it was last year. Yeah. If that far 50 or 75 yards showed up on, if I'm just looking at this, so last year he showed up. On 10, 24, and we got that picture on 10, 20, so showed up in the same spot within four days of the deer last year. I think there's a good chance.

I think so too. I think there's a good chance, but that just goes to show man, like those promising one year olds. Could potentially just be giants as they get older,


Pierce Nelles: if you have the kind of thing where it's imagine that buck on private land, if you can give him another year on top of it, he's going to be an absolute freak at three, if not four, mixed or four somehow.

Josh Raley: Yeah. You're talking. Holy smokes. You're talking world class. Yeah. He's got the

Pierce Nelles: frame and the genes to do it. Yeah, [00:13:00] for

Josh Raley: sure. Absolutely. For sure.

Pierce Nelles: Yeah. It's got me fired up, man. We, yeah. Yeah. We've talked about it a couple of times, the blind optimism we've got here

Josh Raley: going into the season. It's my blind optimism has faded just a little bit because these cameras have been pretty quiet since we put them out a few days ago.

Yeah, but that's, I've seen that across

Pierce Nelles: the board though. I think they're going in waves and I am maintaining my blind optimism and I am constantly reminding myself that trail cams are only a fraction of the story. And the fact that he's, he might be taking the trail 10 yards up the hill or down the hill from where our camera's at.

He might just be skirting it. Who knows what's going on, but he's still in there every single day, regardless of wind, but okay. He walks in front of the camera on

Josh Raley: this wind. Honestly, the two things I wanted to know. Are the deer using these areas like they did last year, meaning the [00:14:00] same flow of movement?

And the answer is confirmed. Yes. That big buck had wet feet. So I know what he just did. Also the other place, the deer use that terrain feature, just like they did last year. Got pictures of them doing just the same thing. And There's a good one in there. That's it. That's all I need. Like they're in there, there's a good one in there and they're using it like they did last year.

As we get further into the rut, I think that movement is just going to pick up all the more in this area. As those bucks start to try to cover a lot of ground, I think they're going to be really hitting it. Yeah, that's all I needed, man.

Pierce Nelles: Yeah, I'm right there with you. I got a question for you.

Public land related. I guess it's not public land related basically. So after I ran out and hung those cameras for you and stuff, got an idea and this was a Immediately after we talked with Sam so I had a bunch of, his thoughts and stuff on the pre rut and what deer are doing and just things to look for on private ground that, they're trying to manage there and [00:15:00] then taking those lessons from private to public and vice versa.

When I hung your cameras and then I was looking for kind of the same stuff that Sam had mentioned as far as, what are the, like, where are they traveling? What does it look like at the main? Where does it look like the main bedding areas are and how are they using the landscape around these, more or less, I want to say pinch points, but not really more or less just like areas that the deer are converging in, right?

For better or for worse because it's, and I guess you would call them a pinch point,

Josh Raley: if they're pinchy. Yeah.

Pierce Nelles: Yeah. I went out after that and got boots on the ground in a totally new piece of public. It is a wetland that has some islands. It is very close to the Wisconsin River.

And as this year has been super dry, and so there's a lot of areas in these islands where [00:16:00] rather than being flooded and full of water, there's nothing there. It's just dry land, marshy, it's wet dirt, but it's pretty for the most part, it's dry. I found deer using it like crazy, these little gaps and channels in between the islands because they can this year.

And I found what I believe to be some pretty solid buck sign a whole mess of rubs. a scrape on either end of the bedding area that I found and one very large track right dead center in the middle of one of those scrapes from what I'm assuming is going to be that day because it was super, super fresh.

A lot of the buck sign that I saw was, I saw some of the scrapes. But then the rub line that I found, it was on a lot of thin trunked willows and stuff like that, right? A couple of [00:17:00] branches, like a couple of the one of 'em, like one of the trunks was like straight up snapped.

It kinda had a fork in one fork of the trunk of that willow was snapped off. How much are you looking into the size of a rub when you're trying to gauge

Josh Raley: how big a deer is? Man it depends on what's around but I'll be honest with you, I don't, big rubs get me excited, but when it comes to the rest of the rubs, if I found a big track in a scrape, I'm just going to assume that those smaller rubs are made by a big deer and a lot of it is terrain dependent, so The spot where you went out the other day to hang cameras for me, there are just not a lot of big places where the, or places where there are big trees for deer to rub, there's aren't a ton of them, right?

And I have a feeling where you were, there's probably just not a lot of big trees that a deer would necessarily like to rub. You probably don't have a ton of cedars out there. Yeah. I don't know if you do or not, but I bet [00:18:00] you don't. The spot where I'm at, if you find a good cedar. It's rubbed up pretty hard, but for the most part, I'm, they're just rubbing on brush and junky little stuff because that's all that's really, that's all that's really there.

So I'm keying in way more on those tracks and the tracks don't lie. That's a big deer with a big foot, with the exception of the place where I hunt, the deer do tend to have smaller than average feet. So you have to adjust for that just a little bit but every deer I've ever killed out there has small feet and my buddy killed a one 60 plus out there.

And it had tiny little feet, so it's just a weird. This one I shot last year, he didn't have a three finger track. He's a freaking 140 inch deer, four and a half. It just is what it is but yeah, a lot more stock in those tracks than I put in the rubs. I like it.

So anyways Pierce, ma'am, this was a good episode. Folks are going to enjoy it. I think if they want to hear our thoughts on it, they can go back and listen to last Thursday's how to hunt deer podcast, where [00:19:00] we dream in. And we were dreaming and daydreaming and scheming and all the things when it comes to pre rut, I think we're probably even more fired up right now than we were last week.

So we're getting there, man. I'm going to be up hunting here in about. Seven or eight nine days. I'll be there in nine days. So November

Pierce Nelles: 1st is

Josh Raley: Like you said, nine days away. It's creeping up, man. It's creeping up crazy. Yeah. And for the rest of you who were there before that go get out in the woods this weekend.

It's perfect. Literally the weather's perfect. The time of year is perfect. You could not ask for a more perfectly placed cold front. Saturday the 28th is going to be cold and great. Go get in the woods. That's all there is going to be

Pierce Nelles: blurry, sleety, nasty. I think

Josh Raley: it may be equally great. Maybe equally great.

Monday. I hear in my listeners, a cough, I hear a cough developing in my listeners. You guys are [00:20:00] probably sick. You should call into work, tell your boss, you can't make it. You're too sick on Monday, maybe even Tuesday, you might be sick Tuesday too. So who really knows, but I do know that you guys need to take those days off.

You're not looking so great. Go rest up. You know what I mean? Between those lines. Take care of yourselves. That's right. It's a long season, folks. Take care of yourselves. That's right. You don't want to be sick right before the rut. That's right. That's right. Go a couple days. Go heal up.

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com. Now let's get into this week's show. All right. For this week's episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast, we've got Mr. Pierce Nellis, my co host, and we've got Mr. Sam Billhorn from Whitetail Partners, Wisconsin. Guys, welcome to the show.

Sam Bilhorn: Good to be here.

Josh Raley: Likewise. See, Sam knows what's up. Sam knows that when I say, How you doing?

or Welcome to the show, Sam just jumps right in there. He already understands that he can't wait around. When it, there's a whole new dynamic when you've got multiple people on the show. Cause I always start off with something like a, How you doing? or Welcome to the show, and then it's just [00:23:00] crickets cause everybody's Oh, who goes first?

Yeah, which one of us is gonna? Sam gets right, right into it. But how we doing today, guys? Good. Good.

Sam Bilhorn: It's getting to be that time, Josh. We're all getting a little chippy and ready to go. Yeah,

Josh Raley: man. It's I'm feeling pretty antsy. Pierce, you and I are going to do an episode here in just a little bit for how to hunt deer.

But we've got, we both got news of a giant on our properties yesterday, which is really good confirmation for both of us. But Sam, how's it looking for you on your end? I know. We talked around this time last year. I think that it was, and we did an episode called October hunting strategy on the how to hunt deer podcast.

And you were a little light on the older age class bucks. You guys had a couple of good seasons leading into last season. Some things were different last year where you were like, ah, we're a little bit light this year. What are things looking like for you now?

Sam Bilhorn: I will say our youth funds continue to be hard on the younger deer.

So that's one thing that we've struggled with. I'd say, and I shouldn't even say that it's been [00:24:00] wonderful. To see those kids and see what's going on. I'm really excited to have them enjoy it and get out there. So that's been good. But at the same time, we've seen some really good two and three year olds go down and on our small little area, so it's, it does have an impact, but.

Definitely seeing some mature deer out there. I've got a number of them starting to see some more activity closer to daylight and in daylight too. I definitely have some daylight pics. A couple cameras that are in marginal signal areas, so I only get a little bit of information from there but excited to see what's out

Josh Raley: there.

Yeah, man, that's really exciting. It's as Pierce and I were talking about, pre rut, who do we have on to talk to about this timeframe? I was immediately like, we got to get Sam on and he was already wanting to get you on for, talk to talk about other things as well. But I was like, that's Sam's favorite time of the year.

So we've got to get, yeah, for you know what I have. I've had success in the pre rut. I've seen a lot of big deer in the pre rut. I really like the rut though for the [00:25:00] frenzy and the chaos that it is. You know what I mean? So I'm just I'm torn. Pre rut for me is like early season.

I'll have a lot of encounters, but I don't necessarily get it done. So that's I don't know, it hasn't risen to the level of man, I'm not going to miss October 20th through the 30th or 31st or whatever. But anyway, so we want to talk about pre rut hunting strategy, but for those who may be aren't familiar with you.

Don't know what you've got going on. Tell us a little bit about where you hunt and how maybe broadly speaking, how you've set this property up, because that goes that really plays into your strategy here at the end of October. Sure.

Sam Bilhorn: My property is in Sauk County, Wisconsin. Southwestern Wisconsin.

And we are blessed to have a bigger family farm around us. The area that we work heavily is about 60 to 80 acres as far as management and Development and all that. And we have another 300 [00:26:00] surrounding us that is, nice that we have access to hunt those things, but not nearly the development work on that.

So we hunt the fringes around our property, but we really are careful coming into this time of year to be laying off and letting those patterns establish. The pre rut and why it's my favorite time of year is getting into all of those. Running activities of laying down sign, those pre rut activities laying down sign.

And if you have a well managed property with deer corridors and and all these travel patterns established, that's really your opportunity to have, in my opinion, the most predictable movement. You talk about the rut's awesome for movement, but it's a lot more random than chasing the just.

breeding driven activities that are going on, you will see bucks, but they might be running at full tilt at 60 yards because they're on a dough and you're never going to get them in. And I think that's the difference of, why I key in on those last 10 days of October, first couple of days in November.

Why I like those that[00:27:00] that much,

Josh Raley: When it comes to this timeframe where we're at right now. So we're recording this Wednesday, October 18th. I've got to ask. I know a lot of guys that for them the 14 through the 18th. Is go time. I had a couple of buddies who've killed over the last couple of days, some really good deer.

It seems like this is when trail cameras all of a sudden start to show a little bit of daytime movement. And then it's almost like it shuts off again for about a week. It's you've got this little flurry right there in the middle of October. Pierce and I were talking about it at the other day and just saying I don't understand what the bucks are doing right now, but it's like you start to see them out.

In daylight, Pierce got a good one yesterday at what? 8 20 in the morning cruising through. I had a buddy yesterday who said, Hey, I was out pheasant hunting. Saw a really good one. Just out and about in an area where you wouldn't otherwise suspect him to be. What's your, what are your thoughts on what they're doing this time of year before we get into, like you're saying a lot of that really good, consistent activity, but it's just boom, for three days, he was on a camera in daylight, [00:28:00] October 15, What's going on there.

Sam Bilhorn: Certainly, I think a lot of that's weather driven. We had that cold front come through a little while back, and I saw a lot of, heard a lot of activity of bucks being seen and going down, too. So that's certainly going to be in response to that. That mid October, if we want to generalize year to year, mid October cold front, whenever that first, call it, bigger front is.

We were wearing t shirts and still getting sunburns a few weeks ago. And now that's, that's changed. And I think now that we're into more of a seasonal pattern of moderate temperatures, the deer are a lot more comfortable. If they're more comfortable, they're going to move around a little bit.

Also. I think that browse is changing also that they're going to start to move around a little bit more, especially on the edges of daylight. And that's why we're seeing those pictures, running activity or, laying down sign and all those things that lead into the rut. That's always been on the increase.

I don't think that is a point in [00:29:00] time where all of a sudden the bucks say, okay, now I need to do this. They've been doing it all summer. They lead into that. They they build up towards the fall. And I think we see that every single day. And I also value what I'm seeing at night.

On scrapes in particular, if they're hitting those scrapes, it's going to become more and more consistent throughout the day, 24 hour day. But then also you're going to see that transition more and more into the daylight, and that's when maybe you take that opportunity to go in and get them.

Josh Raley: I hear a lot and I, we're going to get more into this because I know your strategy.

For hunting the pre rut involves a lot of mock scrapes and that kind of thing. I've heard, and I just saw it the other day, the NDA posted something, they were like, Hey, 80 percent of scraping activity happens at night. And it's almost thrown out there of so therefore scrapes don't really matter.

And I'm like. But 80 percent of deer activity period happens at night. So like you took the words out of my mouth, who cares? So anyway, what are your thoughts on that?

Sam Bilhorn: [00:30:00] Absolutely. And you look at what the deer are doing. If they're up all night and that's, they're, they have 20 percent of their activity during the day.

I'd be surprised. I'm talking mature bucks. Now, 20, 20 percent of their movement. Is not during the day. Okay. They're getting 90, 95 percent of their movement at night and you're just catching them on the fringes. Now, getting into rut that changes. They're running all day long.

They're ragged, they're exhausted. It looks like they're running a marathon. That's different. And you have that a little bit of the pre rut when they're covering ground. You pics from years and years of bucks covering thousands of yards linearly across. Corridors in an evening just to freshen all the scrapes that, that they're watching that might be covering 100 acres.

That's, that is a big area to move in the daylight in

Josh Raley: late October. When it comes to, gosh, there's so many different directions. I want to go, I'm getting so fired [00:31:00] up about the pre rut, but when it comes to checking those scrape areas. Do you see when they start to make these big moves, do you see any events that trigger that?

Oh, a rain came through, therefore he's going to go through and freshen them all up. Do you see that kind of activity or is it just a little bit more random than that?

Sam Bilhorn: I think there's a few things that come to mind. I think weather's part of it. You get a big blow down of leaves and of rain that knocks things down.

I think that they want to go freshen up that spot. I think that I've seen that after a rain where they're definitely working the ground a lot more. I saw that recently on the last rain we had. So that's part of it. It is the ever increasing amount, just in general. So maybe those two things we see hand in hand.

And then also as those get into the more of the pre ru true pre rut time, they're just starting to cover ground. They are wanting to cover more and more area and demonstrate where they are and where they're available. And but [00:32:00] that is their turf.

Josh Raley: All right. Sorry. I just, that, that question came to mind.

I'm going to get back on the, I guess the track of questioning that, that I was going to to go down Pierce, feel free to jump in if you've got a followup, but let's define the pre rut first. There are a lot of ways of considering the rut here. When, and there are a lot of folks who will say, look, as soon as those bucks shed velvet, like that's pre rut.

And I get what they're saying. They're capable of breeding at that time. Okay, whatever. But what we're talking about when we say pre rut, we're talking about a specific kind of behavior, a noticeable difference away from this slower loafing lackadaisical attitude of the early season and a shift in demeanor and behavior as we get into.

Bordering up on what we would consider peak breeding. Tell me a little bit about your ideas of pre rut, when it begins, and when you really start to see that dramatic difference, let's say, between early season behavior into more seeking behavior.[00:33:00]

Sam Bilhorn: That's really good. I think that too often you might see these, clickbait things of seven major phases of the rut and, all these, phase seven, 6A and 4B and it's I like to simplify it a little bit better than that and say, pre rut, ru post rut.

Okay. You have three basic things going on now. It is not a three steps, we're all here, we're all there, and then we're all into the third. No it's a transition. It's a bell curve, if you will, of activity. And I think that's the way I think of it. Yes. Once they, once those bucks shed their vet.

They're absolutely going to be a different habitat. They're going to be in thicker areas, in summer with the heat and their velvet and all that. I think they lay up in some pretty shady open areas, but Once they get the velvet off and they start to think about being a little more aggressive and territorial and [00:34:00] all those things, they're gonna be, seen more in, in brushier areas and thicker areas of cover, and I, what I see with activity, And it could be all things.

This could be sparring and fighting, and it could be chasing eventually as the does start to come into heat and you might have some does come into heat very early. You might have some third week of October that you're going to see a come into heat and there could be a chase on, but. The rest of them are two weeks later, and that's just the way it goes.

That's every animal's a little bit different that way. To answer your question, the pre rut as I see it is, yes, it's these activities that they're doing, and I think it's, I emphasize Buck's laying sign. So that's scrapes, rubs and we say scrapes, it's both the ground scraping up on the ground, urinating, leaving scent.

Scent from their glands. Also on our licking branches or natural branches, if it's a natural scrape, they're [00:35:00] raking their antlers, they're leaving scent from the glands in their face, all of those things. So that is them saying it's the, the neighborhood stop sign or neighborhood fire hydrant.

They are. Marking it saying I'm here and the last guy who was here is no longer and I think that's the activity that I'm emphasizing in the pre rut is we're focusing on those bucks trying to do that. I know there have been many times where I've seen a mature buck on a camera and I don't do a lot with cell cameras.

I'm getting more and more into it, but I still want to keep keep a balance on that with SD cameras. And I've seen many times where a buck went and hit a scrape in the last, or the first hour of daylight, and then they did it again in the last hour of daylight, the buck I killed in 2022, the one over my right shoulder here on our video, that one hit a mock scrape in the evening that I shot him on and I pulled the chip from that.

Camera. It wasn't a cell cam, pulled a chip from that camera. [00:36:00] And that morning he was on that scrape. In fact the vine that I have there on the mount, that one is. That broke that morning. He broke it off. He broke the mock branch that I had there. And it was on the ground. So that happened that morning and I shot him that evening.

They hit those same places, especially on developed ground time and time again. And that's the activity I'm talking about with the pre rut.

Josh Raley: Yeah, man. First of all, we've done a ton of video calls together and I've always wondered what in the heck is up in that deer's antlers. And now I know it's... I was just thinking the same thing.

Yes, that was the... As soon as

Sam Bilhorn: we got

Josh Raley: on. Oh man, I don't know how many video calls we've done and I've just sat here and wondered what is that? I don't understand. It's too big to be an arrow. Yeah, I was like, what do you do, throw a javelin at that thing? I don't understand. Just want to take a quick minute to let you know that the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast is brought to you by Tacticam.

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com and share your hunt with Tacticam. Okay, you mentioned there something that I think is huge. Especially on developed ground. Now I know that [00:38:00] property design goes really hand in hand and you're designing a property for a pre rut timeframe in a lot of ways specifically for the way that you hunt.

Like it's set up in a very specific way, but I think we see the same kind of activity. on public ground. Maybe it's just a little bit less often. So for me, one thing that I've noticed, I run a ton of cameras on scrapes. More and more every year. Last year, the only cameras I put out except for I think, except for one, we're all on scrapes.

And what I was getting on those scrapes is bucks who would come through to a specific scrape every 23 days. And he would, but he would be consistent. He would hit that scrape. He would come back to it. Talk to me a little bit about the development that goes into setting a property up for the pre rut timeframe.

What does that look like? Cause there are so many things to consider, beyond hunter access, you've got your, you've got your doe bedding that you're putting in strategic locations. You've got travel [00:39:00] corridors that are in strategic locations, and I know you're a big fan of mock scrapes. I'm just going to throw all of those pieces at you and let's see what sticks to the wall as you start going here.

Sam Bilhorn: And this is relevant to to the public land hunter, all these things in, I'd say that, universally of Anything we're talking about when we say develop ground and habitat planning and all these different things that we do to manipulate the landscape, those can be discovered by scouting and by the deer's natural patterns that they have.

And so they do translate, but to address the question on develop ground, what I specifically am doing for the pre rut timeframe. are well developed corridors. I want deer travel to be very predictable throughout a property on my property. I have four doors that are over a thousand yards long, developed, and these are deer trails.

I say corridors, like deer trails that are [00:40:00] used. And so how do we go about doing that? First of all, it's. Understanding the pattern that is naturally there. We aren't trying to tell the deer to go up and over the hill and circle it three times. No, it's following and connecting existing patterns that are already there.

So back to the public land hunter, you're finding that corridor. You're saying, why would this be a buck corridor versus that? When we get those established, or we know where they are, and have them laid out, then we're just simply going to maintain, or enhance them, and then maintain them. Trees fall all the time, change patterns different growth develops over time.

And what we want to do is make sure that quarter is the one they want to use. We do that by cutting trees. You could fell a tree or hinge a tree perpendicular to that direction. And part of the objective with that is to constrict movement. Maybe give a pinch point around a topography feature or a body of water or something like that where you've already If you already have a [00:41:00] natural pinch point on a larger scale, getting down there in the specific setup, you're saying, I'm going to pick this tree.

I want this quarter. I'm going to enhance is about a 20 to 30 yards. Don't want to be too close. I think a common mistake is having to be really close to the setup and then make that the only way they're getting through. So if you have in hill country, for example, a steep drainage that steep drainage is going to constrict travel.

You often see crossing at the top or bottom of that drainage and you're going to look and maybe find a secondary trail and block it off. You want to make sure that you put a tree in there. It makes it really inconvenient. And continue to develop that pattern. Other littler things, something I've been doing more of is actually on a hillside, so picture a deer running along a side hill.

They're maintaining the same elevation around a hill, but that hillside still has a slope to it. It's actually cutting into the bank and pulling dirt out a [00:42:00] little bit to almost make a little shelf. You can take a picture of just a little, even less than a foot wide walking trail along that. side slope that is much more comfortable for them to travel on.

So I could go into details more and more with that. But that's that is the corridor itself. Once you have that, you need to combine it with safe access. So you don't want to create a bedding area adjacent to where you're walking in. You're, you wanna walk in perpendicular to that travel pattern, get in your tree without ever touching that corridor.

You want. The first time you see it is when you're climbing your. stand and then you see that corridor. So elevation can be used a lot of times. I have trees I climb into where I come up from below, get into the tree and I'm almost parallel on elevation at the same elevation of that corridor.

So I'm looking straight on at it because of the elevation change. And I like that because it [00:43:00] is, I'm not impacting that whatsoever. Enhancements. So just one more thing on that is we talk about water holes, mock scrapes, as we spent some time on before. All of those things are the dots along that corridor.

The corridor is connecting the dots. So I don't want to go any less than a couple hundred yards, maybe 300 at most without having a feature. The feature could be a small kill plot. A water hole, a box scrape if it, a mineral, if it where that's allowable. And some of those things that are going to continue that pattern, and also, as I started off with, these are interconnected throughout a big property or even a small property, 30, 40 acres, you can have a 700 yard corridor wrapping around three, three sides of it.

And I think that, if you have that kind of distance and that kind of quality of all of these things combined. It is what's becomes a, more of a [00:44:00] pattern and a racetrack for that buck to go run during this pre rut timeframe.

Josh Raley: Man. There's a, there's so much going on there.

We've talked about mock scrapes before. I don't remember what episode it was, but we went way down the rabbit hole of how you make your mock scrapes. Something that you do though, that I was telling Pierce about the other day that I'd like you maybe to go into just a little bit more and who knows how applicable the applicable this could be.

Yeah. And depending on how you read your regulations, you may be able to do this on some public land that you're hunting. But you will go in and if you've got competing scrapes in an area that are competing either with a mock scrape or even a natural scrape that you're wanting to hunt, you've eliminated those.

So tell me about your reasoning behind that and how you go about doing it and the effects that you've seen it have.

Sam Bilhorn: Sure. I want deer to use my scrapes. Period. It really is that simple because I look at, you walk the landscape and you [00:45:00] might have perennial scrapes. Maybe that's a good place for a camera, especially early on inventory using a natural scrape.

But if you can't hunt it that you want to be careful how many of those you have on your property. You do not want to have 400 scrapes on a 40 acre property. It's makes it very difficult to hunt, but if you have a dozen. While you're in much better shape to know where that deer might want to go.

A lot of my sets, I will dedicate solely my only lane. My only shot is six feet, either side of that mock scrape. That is it. And I am all committed to that. The same buck that told a story about here just a minute ago, I saw that deer coming in at 30, 40 yards and it was on the quarter and I just sat, I waited and waited.

I had a couple of little lanes that maybe I could have shot at, but I'm like, he is going to hit that scrape. And I have a picture from that camera. of him just looking up as the arrow was coming down. That was at that moment. And that's what I said, you're [00:46:00] dedicated to that spot, but that's okay because And they don't touch it every time, sometimes they'll work the ground, sometimes they'll work the scrape, sometimes they'll do both, sometimes they'll just take a sniff and keep on walking, but I guarantee there will be a moment there for a shot, and sometimes there's five minutes, they might ask, do you have a water hole and a mock scrape in one location, I got times where My phone's pinging me on a deer that's doing either one for

Josh Raley: five minutes.

Man, I was talking to a guy recently who made a mock scrape and he's down here in the South. He's in the Carolinas and he had a doe show up to the scrape and was just obsessed with it. Started working the scrape and everything that doe bedded down in the scrape and he burned up a whole set of batteries with this doe in the scrape.

He was like, I'm going to have to, he was talking to me. He's I'm going to have to go in there and run her out. Cause she's going to starve to death. Like she won't leave. Obviously she's not actually going to do that, but I think he said she was [00:47:00] there, like in that area of the scrape for two or three days and he just got thousands and thousands of pictures right

Sam Bilhorn: there on the scrape.

And I see that all the time. We're a dear old bed for three hours on a scrape. When you're both there, jump in there and change the settings on your camera because you want it to cool off. But a side note on that solar panels are the only way to go. Buying

Josh Raley: batteries. Yeah, for sure.

For sure. Solar panels. And then, pairing those up with the big 12 volt batteries too. And I think that's a good move. Pierce. You had some experience with a mock scrape the other day. I want to hear a little bit about that, because is this your first one to put up there on the property?

Or maybe your first time. This is the second one that

Pierce Nelles: I've got up. It's the I've got a 50 percent success rate at the moment. The other one's not exact. It's on a field edge. It's not really consolidating anything. We had a food plot and that was the main entrance to that food plot.

But basically everything to the north, west and south of that food plot [00:48:00] was pretty much wide open as long as they jumped the creek. And so it just wasn't that, that effective. However, the other one that I've got over on a ridgetop, yeah, that thing, it's taken like a year and a half. For them to really figure it out and hit it on a consistent basis.

But this year it is freaking money. And so I'm pretty pumped about that. The dough that I shot last weekend ended up working that for, maybe 30 seconds or so really just licked it and bumped it with her head and then walked on by. But I think at least three of the four does that were in that group did the same exact thing.

So that was really encouraging to see. And we were texting yesterday that the buck that I got on camera The direction he was coming from looks like he was coming from where that mock scrape was. He's hitting a secondary trail that's right on the edge of our property and then there's another main one that is really good for dome movement but not so great for Buck movement that I've found.

So we're definitely gonna have to do some hinge cutting here. But one of the questions that I had, Sam[00:49:00] as I look at the big piece of vine sitting in that deer's rack behind you, if you've got a buck that comes in and he rips down a scrape, because I had that happen last year as well, and I didn't want to touch it.

If it's, it's October 18th. We're recording this right now. Is it too late to go in there and try and put something fresh? Is it worth trying to repair or how do you go about dealing with stuff like that?

Sam Bilhorn: I would absolutely go fix it. If you can hunt a set there or nearby depends on how long it's been down too.

Obviously the cell cams are a huge advantage. Just to speak to that, I had this exact thing happened. I had a scrape go down on one of my kill plots with a cell cam from a big oak branch that fell down and some winds. And I was in there two days later, fixing that thing up because I didn't want to lose that pattern.

I went in there and at an evening set, gave me, got, I got in an hour earlier than I might've otherwise with a handsaw and some paracord and [00:50:00] I got that thing. Back up and cleaned up and I had deer on it that evening and I would say you absolutely want to go do that, but part of that too is, where it's at your access to it and all those things how long it's been down, if it's been down for a month, it's probably lost a lot of that pattern ability.

But if it's a years old scrape you've had it's never too late to put that back up.

Pierce Nelles: Gotcha. And so with that as well, you haven't noticed any difference in deer activities more so they, they key in on the location of that scrape rather than, Hey, this is a fresh vine in here. It doesn't smell like the other one did what's going on there.

Like you haven't had any issues

Josh Raley: there.

Sam Bilhorn: I don't know the detail of which the bucks think of that. I guess part of it I would think is, especially this time of year. Other times of year, it's going to probably take a little bit of time to adapt and they'll be a little more suspicious smelling it and all those things.

I would certainly have [00:51:00] really good practice on scent control when you're going to do this and taking in a vine that's, you've never touched and or rope, whatever you're using and never touched and all those things and be very careful on your scent control. But I think this time of year, they'd be a lot more forgiving because.

it is the testosterone is taking over and they're on a mission to do these activities. And I think that they're letting their guard down, which is what we're taking advantage of.

Pierce Nelles: Absolutely. Another thing that josh told me on the note of you cutting down other scrapes in the areas that they're hitting your specific scrape.

He gave me a little hot tip that I don't know if it's industry secret or anything like that, but sometimes you will even cut a natural scrape and take that branch and hang it over another

Josh Raley: scrape.

Sam Bilhorn: That's the type of material is, [00:52:00] I have a personal preference on vines, which aren't. It's a very unique situation that's a natural scrape.

I like them because of the, it's very fibrous and a lot of tech texture, absorbency, all those things. Yeah. And obviously that is a pretty well known thing within this space to use vine for it. Also I am experimenting with some other other types natural and unnatural as far as what can be used.

So I'm. Prototyping a few things, which we might see in the years to come here to test out what I think could be the ultimate solution. And this deer is a testament to it. They break, they, and branches, a lot of EC people they'll hang like a small branch with leaves and such they get tore up very quickly.

And that's the downer to all that situation. I want to make something that's a little bit more resilient and bulletproof. But I also am very suspect and don't really like the, just the ropes of all types, no [00:53:00] brand specifically that the rope type, I think there isn't enough mass. And you'll obviously, these guys are getting pictures of them touching it, but I think it would be used more if they had some mass to them and resistance to help build up that ability to rub against it and have that be in some ways more natural.


Josh Raley: Yeah, for sure. For sure. I I recently hung. scrape with a, with an oak branch and a bear ripped it down already. So I'm pretty bummed about that. A bear came by, a bear cub came by and thought it was neat and decided to rip it down. But yeah, so that, I don't know. I see, I tend to see a lot of other critters as well.

around mock scrapes that I create coyotes and foxes and bobcats and raccoons and all kinds of stuff coming in and I guess checking those things out. But so the other day, like you mentioned, Sam, it's [00:54:00] not very normal to be walking through the woods and see of, vine of some sort hanging there with a natural scrape underneath it.

The other day I was on a hike with the family and I saw from a distance a wild grapevine hanging down. To about belly button level. And I was like, Oh man, like the this could be it. So I walk

Sam Bilhorn: over there, there are lights shining around it.

Josh Raley: First, my first thought was, this has got to be like somebody hiked in here and created a mock scrape just to see what they could get.

So I'm like looking around for a camera. I go over there to it. I see that the vines up in the tree, like a branch had fallen. And that's why it was dangling the way that it was. There was no scrape underneath it. I was pretty bummed about that. But it wasn't on, it wasn't on a deer trail or anything like that.

So what do you do? But I know another thing for you, Sam, is the way you position those vines or branches or whatever it is, you're putting them where the deer are basically going to hit their head on it anyway.

Sam Bilhorn: Yeah, so we talked about those corridors before and a point of with we want those as you're [00:55:00] cutting out.

Maybe it's a log or something like that. Just a foot and a half, two feet. We don't need to make these ATV trails. In fact, Bucks won't use them if you make them like roads. So you want to keep them narrow and a little have some wind to them and all that. You never really want to have more than 10, 20 yards.

That's straight. But to your back to your question of the or point of the scrapes. I look and I want to make sure that this is right in the middle of that path such that they have to walk around it if they don't want to touch it. And as I talked about before, in that moment to give that shot opportunity.

They're gonna at least knows it and it's uncommon that they just walk around it and also to on the ground. I want to make sure I have about a four by four area that's flat as I can make it. I've seen plenty of times where it wasn't flat and I've been talking a modest slope, that's maybe over the course of [00:56:00] four feet.

It's six or eight inches difference from one side to the other. And they just don't care for that slope. They like to see a flatter piece of ground for both working it and urinating on it and all of that, they that's going to generate more hits if it's flaccid. Simply take a shovel, do a little bit of landscaping, move the dirt around, try and keep the topsoil on top and make it flat underneath the box scraped in two.

The bottom of it being belly button, as you describe belt height varies by individual, but anyway,

Josh Raley: a little lower than others,

Sam Bilhorn: I wasn't calling out names, but having it about that height. And the reason for that is if you'll see on our pictures, the buck might be a foot or even 18 inches.

It's up on that scrape, but that's okay. It's four or five feet long and they've got plenty to work with in mass. But all of those does small fawns and bucks are able to get their nose on it. Even though a fawn from that year is able to get their nose on it. And that's [00:57:00] leaving scent and the more deer that are using it, the more productive it will be for your

Josh Raley: bucks.

And Pierce, to your point, mentioning those does coming through and all nosing your mock scrape, like. Man, that's, that just feels like good news. You know what I mean? Like the buck that did come through, I don't know if he worked it or not. Cause your camera's not angled there. But you better believe he knows those does worked it, or that does have been working at, he's picking up on the fact that is a deer communication hub.

And now he knows it. So hopefully he'll be back through because of that. Sam, let's talk a little bit about when your pre rut doesn't go, how you want it to go. Let's say we're on Sam Billhorn's ground and the oldest buck that you have on camera right now. Is a year and a half old spike.

Maybe he's a three point. We'll call him a three point because it give him a little something extra. That's all you got. You gotta go somewhere else. You're not gonna, you're not gonna sit there and wait and hope for the entire pre rut. You've got to strike out [00:58:00] on on your own now. Away from your home ground, go find find a spot.

I'm getting really uncomfortable

Sam Bilhorn: Josh. What's that? I'm getting really uncomfortable.

Josh Raley: Yeah. Yeah. Keep going. And I'm actually, as I'm posing this question, I'm like, I'm afraid what Sam's going to say, he's going to be like, he's going to show up exactly where I'm hunting. Cause I'm not far from you.

But anyway so you got to strike out on your own, what are you going to be doing? Especially if it's this late in the season, it's October 18th, things just aren't starting to fire off at your property. Where are you going?

Sam Bilhorn: One of the nice things about that with the amount of public ground or other access properties is goal.

You're going somewhere else like you pose and I look at it and say, I have absolutely nothing to lose. If I'm going to public ground or this, that I'm just going to tromp around until I find the sign that I'm looking for. If I'm going to be going to sit, I'm going to be managing scent and, moving differently than I would if I was taking the kids for a walk in the woods, but I'm going to go look around and find what I want, [00:59:00] find what I'm looking for, these things that I, we've spent this time describing, they all exist naturally.

I would probably sit down first and look at some existing food, adjacent food sources, naturally, how might those patterns be scouting on paper to say where are these big picture pinch points, what are ways I can access that, all these things that we take into consideration in a property design.

and hunting plan for a client that we're doing on a client property. I'm going to do that on ground that I have permission to hunt or public land and take a set, go hang it and love being out in the woods because I'm going to find that scrape. And hunt over it. I wouldn't, I would hunt a corridor, but I'd be really hesitant to not be hunting where I couldn't have a shot at a scrape.

So that's, I'm going to key in on that, especially pre rut I would maybe give some preference to [01:00:00] more of timber sets in the evening and adjacent, just coming off of food in the morning. And the reason for that is I think that, yeah. just my cameras. What I've seen over the course of time is my little kill plots and things like that is the boxes.

They go back to bed. I think they're a little more comfortable from having run around all night. And as they come back to bed, They'll take one last bite that first hour of daylight in the small plots, which is why I'm, I'll be hunting small plots on my property in the mornings versus those timber sets more in the afternoons, evenings.


Josh Raley: it. Got it. When it comes to looking for these scrapes that, you're saying the sign you want to see. I'll tee it up like this last year. I decided that almost all of my cameras were going to go on perennial scrapes. Scrapes that I had a couple years of experience with on public ground.

It was really a great experiment because [01:01:00] I put those cameras up, they were there when there was no scrape on the ground. And I got to watch them be opened up for the first time. A couple of things surprised me about this area. Number one, the scrapes opened up way later than I would have anticipated.

In fact, one scrape, That was just the size of a car hood by the end of it. And it was when I found it that scrape didn't open up until November 4th. And the very first buck that I saw that came through and opened it up, Pierce was Mr. Mondo. I don't know what we're calling him, but that thing is gigantic.

He was the first one to come through there and open it up. But a lot of those perennial scrapes had nighttime activity. And so there are things that. We're prioritizing to figure out, okay, is this the daylight movement scrape or not? Because you can find, walking through a field edge or an edge in the timber, let's say a cover edge.

Tons of scrapes. So which one is going to be the one that gets your attention where you're like, Hey, I think this is the one where I'm going to see that, whatever, 20 percent of [01:02:00] daytime movement.

Sam Bilhorn: I'm going to be thinking first in terms of deer travel, as that relates to the daytime, I'm going to be focused more on.

And I default to hill country because I hump that a lot, but more on the near the tops of ridges and near the bottoms of drainages. And those are natural places. You combine that with field edges that have pinch points, create pinch points like where a field corner and a drainage come together. I'm going to be focused in the timber.

On those types of travel areas and because of how I've just teed that up, access is going to be from one way or the other to try and come at it in a perpendicular fashion and be as stealthy as I can to approach that area. Now, if I got to find that travel route, find a scrape and find a tree, it's going to take a little bit more effort to do that.

And obviously, if you're going in [01:03:00] there blind, it's probably more an evening hunt because you want to get there. midday, see what you can see, get your set, and let things settle down for the evening. And then also consider, maybe you can't scout it if you're coming in blind, but consider where those bucks might be.

Wind directions relevant, benches, ridges, different habitat types, all those things could come into play and into my mindset of Okay. Here's a good pinch point, but yeah just, a couple of hundred yards this way is some adjacent areas where there could be bedding bucks or does either is important at this time of year and see how those come together to make a spot that I'm going to pick out and sit.

Josh Raley: Sam, I've got one thing that I want to run by you real quick. And thinking through, we were chatting yesterday over text message about some content we're producing for the Whitetail partners. Podcast, which if you haven't heard about that yet, we've got a new podcast, the design build hunt podcast.

It's [01:04:00] me and you and a bunch of other Habitat consultants with Whitetail partners, where we're talking about. All things, habitat, property management, deer management, all that good stuff. One thing that I found a couple of years ago and it stayed consistent and where it's at, you actually know what road it's off of because we met there last year.

Every year around the pre rut timeframe, a large bed pops up just off of the big food source. That's right there. There's a large ag field and it's where a bunch of trails come up out of this. I won't say that. Come up out of this area where deer bed the trails all converge and right there where they converge about 100 yards off the ag Is a large bed that pops up every year and it's got rubs all the way around it.

It's not their early season. It's not used late season. My working theory has been that there is a buck that goes in beds there and sits there and spends a lot [01:05:00] of time there as those does come out of bedding and into the ag field for the afternoon. Not necessarily cruising or seeking or anything like that.

He's just sitting in one spot and waiting for them to run through. Have you seen that kind of activity and hunted that kind of pattern before? And if not, what do you think could be going on there? I'm, I might just have to wait till my rutcations over and have you come look at it with me this year.

Cause I'm confident it'll be there again. I was going to say

Sam Bilhorn: you're being really specific without trying to disclose. I know. I know.

Josh Raley: I want you to visualize where it's

Sam Bilhorn: at. Press stop and try and give you some more detailed advice here, but we'll generalize staging areas. So if a buck is going to hang up somewhere and he might move to this place too.

So just what you described, but he'll move there perhaps. An hour or two before dark because he knows the bucks, or excuse me, the doles are going to be coming through. Yeah, I can absolutely see that. We had a stand as you're describing it. It reminds me of a set that we used to [01:06:00] have. We actually took it down because.

It was so hard to get out of there. We, it was too close to the food and we could not get out of that tree unless we waited until it was dark, and deer were gone to get out of there. And but it was exactly that we had a scrape on a spot that was. Five yards, 10 yards into the timber from the main entry that we have to our food plot.

And it got hit all the time. That was a really active scrape. We still use a scrape, but we really struggled to hunt it. Now we got a blind now on the food plot. That's where as soon as the deer step out, they're dead. That spot right there, we couldn't be in a tree for it because we just couldn't get out of there.

So anyway, to your point, staging areas are excellent on that might be a buck. It's actually hanging out there for a while, like you described, maybe even bedding or it could be just, they are hanging up there before they go [01:07:00] off to to do the things

Josh Raley: they do at night. And it's a spot.

If you've ever seen like when bears get into corn, what they do to it, where they just math the whole area down, that's what it looks like, but there's not a tree within 75 yards. There is no, if you hunt it, you're on the ground in the grass with It'll be a, it would be a tough set.

Sam Bilhorn: Without going in too much into that too, I would say consider the habitats, what you're describing with grass and no trees. A lot of times in these, call it flat or whether it's low land or it's just more of a Prairie, the flatter ground. Yeah. The deer are going to use it differently than the hill country.

I'm often describing when I'm talking about all these setups. And so whether it's a wind direction, I'd be really. Interested to know when he's there, if you're setting up on that, it has to be a certain wind direction that brings him there specifically. I don't think it's every day in and day out.

Yeah, those are some things that key on that might make that different. The conditions I think is a huge [01:08:00] part of that, especially in a flatter

Josh Raley: piece of ground. Yeah, that's so I need to throw some observation sets at it this year. That's actually what I was going to do last year. When I ran into a hunter in the parking lot and he said he was going there to that general area.

So I was like, I'll go the opposite direction. I ended up shooting the buck I shot for the first time last year. Didn't kill him that time, just wounded him. But so my plan was to observe and then I found another buck. So I'm like, I'm off to something else. But yeah, that'd be a good one.

I need to get in there and just watch that bed and just see what happens. But Pierce, anything else on pre rut strategy that we need to talk with Sam about? I've got a, I've got another question that I want to pin him down on here in just a second, but anything else that you're wondering, I'm hoping

Pierce Nelles: your question doesn't revolve around weather.

Cause that's, what's been on my mind

Josh Raley: pretty much since the start of this conversation here, go for it. And so folks, if you need another reason to

Pierce Nelles: Check out white tail partners. Sam's weekly rut forecasts are awesome. Go check them out on Instagram. One of the big things I've been noticing this [01:09:00] week is it's been really consistent and looking into next week. It's looking really consistent. There's not a lot of temperature fluctuation. However, there is some wind direction change.

Is that sort of the differentiating factor that you're going to be keying in on to Look for an increase in deer movement. I know we've got some rain by the time this comes out. It looks, it'll be Tuesday the 24th, so if you're not in a tree that week, we've got bigger problems going on, I think, but it looks like we got some rain towards the end of the week here.

But then that Friday, it looks like there's a pretty big temp drop on the 27th. Until then, or as we get further into the, through the pre rut and into the rut, what exactly are you looking for? If we're not seeing those big temp drops, is it precipitation? Is it wind direction change? How do you plan your sits and your strategy in accordance to that?

Sam Bilhorn: Sure. Weather is extremely important. We probably haven't talked enough about that in the context of this conversation of pre rut. [01:10:00] And I always tell people. When it gets, when the 10 day forecast hits October 20th, I'm watching it like a hawk. The reason I started putting out all those hunt forecasts on my social media was because this is exactly what I'm doing, what I'm thinking.

And I might as well explain that to my followers on that. I look at it and say, once it hits the 20th, it's, we're going to see those pre run activities. That's going to happen regardless of weather. But. A big drop is going to amplify that effect and have a positive increase on activity.

Now, as you said, and as I commented in my post at the beginning of the week for the week of what is this October 16th, that the week I'm speaking of. Is it's groundhog day. There may see the movie groundhog day. It is the same thing over and over. And we have that for 10 days, but the end of next week, it is going to change drastically from what all the models are showing is that we're going to have a big drop in temperature.

It's going to be 15 or 20 degrees lower than seasonal average. [01:11:00] And that's going to correspond right around. The 26th, 27th, 28th. So yeah, if guys are picking this up here on, on a Tuesday of that week, that's when it's going to happen. It's probably right in our windshield at that point in time. And I think that's something I get a key on is say, when is that big drop?

Because as that coincides in the later, the better. So I would say this is actually a really good setup for us. This year is this humdrum seasonal, sunny fall days, day after day. And then that drop hits right in time with the pre rut amping up. So I'm going to be hunting a lot starting next week, Thursday.

We started, I think, off air here to say, when are you going after it? Thursday, next week. Now where I'm at,

Pierce Nelles: I'm looking at quite a bit of rain in the latter half of the week next week there. Is that affecting anything in the strategy or are you still recommending folks tough it out and just get wet?

Deer are still going to

Josh Raley: be on their feet.[01:12:00]

Sam Bilhorn: Yes. And I want to go back to, because one of the things you asked about is how to address this humdrum weather. I didn't address that was when direction I have a buck, a mature buck on a ridge where he is going to bed in a bed that I'm aware of when there is a north northwest wind, that's fairly light, not a heavy wind.

We got that on Friday. I might be there on Friday to try and take advantage of that if I can and we'll see how that goes. And, that's the type of thing I want to key on is specific beds, box areas could be seasonal to, or year after year, you could have this because another buck might take that place because obviously that, that, that setup, that situation, so Might be repeated by another animal, not just individual to a personality of one buck getting back to your weather and the next week if you got rain and we a lot of times cold fronts come with rain.

I think this is something that's universal throughout the season and something to [01:13:00] be aware of is, I'll sometimes the radar is going to have a whole day just be a washout and that's tough. That happens from time to time, but that's not typical. Usually. rain comes and goes. It's throughout a day.

There's it's not raining nonstop, all the time, all day during hunting hours. And what I would say is be flexible and be watching the radar. One of the best things you can do is go in when it's raining, get in your tree with all the deer pinned down, and especially if this corresponds to an afternoon and evening hunt, is to be in that tree and try and time it one hour before The rain ends in the rain.

You get in your tree rain and start drying off and then the activity will happen. Deer have been bedded. You amplify that with the pre rut activity, wanting to go freshen, scrapes, lay down sign, all these things we've spent the hour talking about. That's what's going to happen and [01:14:00] to time that out and be there, especially if it's October 29th, be all over that and be timing it.

But you may not want to go sit for all day. If you're going to be the soldier that goes out there saying, I'm going to do it all day October 29th and, it's going to rain all morning long. I would say you're a lot tougher than I am and willing to gut it all because I'm not going to be there until that rain's about to let up.

Josh Raley: Absolutely. Man. I, when we talk about rain, I kick myself last year. The buck that we've been talking about Pierce, the really big one. He came through I left an hour and a half before he came through and it was because lightning chased me out. I had sat in the rain, all morning winds picked up, it started the lightning.

I left the woods. I was like, this is too much for me. Soon as it stopped, there he is on camera and I'm like, you gotta be kidding me. This is, just painful kind of kind of thing going on there. But

Sam Bilhorn: was that immediately after you had [01:15:00] swept through your clothes for four days straight.

Josh Raley: Yeah, man, it was an awful trip. The weather last year was just awful for the right. I'll be honest with you. I was sweating through my clothes and then it was just then it was hanging in a tree in a saddle in 30 plus 40 mile an hour winds, which was a wild ride. The only thing that kept me from getting down was the fact that I was afraid I would fall.

Trying to get back down my sticks. Like literally I'm like, I think the safest place I can be right now is tied to this tree. Because if I try to get down, who knows what could happen because it's moving so much, then the lightning and it was lightning and hail. So I was like, I've got to get out of here.

Who knows what's coming? Let's hope it doesn't look like that this time. Pierce, I like

Sam Bilhorn: to mock Josh every now and then and I'll send him one of his posts from when he looked like he was a prisoner on an island somewhere from last year's rut, cause he earned his buck last year.

Josh Raley: I felt like I was a, I felt like I was a prisoner on an island last year.

And then I felt like

Pierce Nelles: you were just like the perfect test model for all of hunt worth's [01:16:00] clothing because you got

Josh Raley: to run the whole line it improved itself. I had on their early season stuff, I had on their late season stuff, I had on the rain gear. I did it all, man. So yeah, it was it was the, definitely the best way to, to test it all out.

I'm gonna say I've got a question on rain here. Yeah please go for it. I was gonna say we're on the topic there. I'm really hoping for Sam's sake. That the weather does what it's supposed to do. And you get that drop around the 27th for my sake, I'm hoping to run around November 1st. Maybe this front holds off for a couple of days.

Cause I'll be there. I'll be there November 1st. I'm doing just fine. Josh, you'll be okay with that. You'll be maybe the second. So you're not too tired. That's right. That's

Pierce Nelles: right. We want you going in fresh. Yeah. So it's on the topic of rain there. Are you willing to be more aggressive and maybe push into a, a more prime spot when you're doing those rain sits if you're trying to sneak in there an hour before and then catch them right when it ends.

Are you willing to do that with the idea in mind that it's going to rain tonight again and wash all that [01:17:00] scent away? So are you less concerned with that?

Sam Bilhorn: Absolutely. Yeah. And I've made posts and mentioned of this before to grab a whole bunch of SD. Cards on cameras is not only will I go to that set, but I will grab half a dozen cameras along the way that I may have otherwise not gotten because one just maneuvering about the woods at that time, you can be quiet, you can be really quiet, wet leaves are fantastic for moving about the ground obviously still aware of scent control, but trying to be careful on that.

Yeah. And, but if there's more rain coming, that's the best there can be is you get this rain event, you can get in there quiet, get some cameras, get in a stand, hunt this great area, and then get back out quiet and have rain come through again and wash it out. So yeah, that those multiple waves of rain, you got a four hour gap that corresponds with the morning or evening.

That's [01:18:00] awesome.

Josh Raley: This is getting me fired up. I know I'm, I I pretty much can't stand it right now. I've got a family camping trip this weekend and a whole bunch of work that has to happen before I can go. But I am wishing away these next couple of weeks so that I can hurry up and get up there and get after it.

Sam, I want to put you on the hot seat here, right at the very end. You've got to pick one day, Sam. You've got one day to get it done. You can pick any day that you want to. What day is that going to be?

Sam Bilhorn: We're in the theme of pre rut. We are looking at a pretty nice weather pattern here. It's next several days.

So it's, as I've said before, it's not going to be early October twenties, which if there was a cold front passing through might've been I'm always I point to this one and say October 25th, cause that was the date that one was for the pre rut. But I would. I would look at the weather right now and say next week, Thursday, maybe Friday with [01:19:00] the weather, but then the game time decision will be, where is that rain?

What Pierce just asked, what I just described, where exactly is that rain hitting? What you got to be watching the radar and current conditions to do. We don't know that this far out. And Pierce, I just pulled up here looking at weather and the next week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. 50 to 75 percent rain, all three of those days, when that subsides, when that ends the next day to be after it is the day right now, that looks like Friday, maybe it's Thursday, maybe it's Saturday.

Yeah. But when podcasts or when listeners are listening to this podcast. The upcoming weekend, wherever that hits and maybe it's slid a day, but then that's the day

Josh Raley: when I'm

Pierce Nelles: looking at my weather right now as well. And we're got a big drop between Thursday and Friday from 60 down to 46 with an overnight low on Friday going into Saturday of 31.

So I am pumped for that.

Sam Bilhorn: Yeah. Yeah. And that And I'm [01:20:00] not a big pressure guy, because I think that correlates to all the other things that are going on, but you've that pressure goes it's like straight line up to high pressure Friday night currently is what that looks like. So Saturday mornings, likely my first morning hunt, although it might be Friday morning given the weather, if there's a break, we'll see, it's a lot of, it's going to be corresponding to what that, rain is doing at the time. So

Josh Raley: Sam last thing. And then we're going to let you, then I'm going to let you go. When we have these fronts, we'll just keep

rocking. When we've got the front comes through, right? There's a lot of guys who say, Hey, front comes through that first morning. As soon as it's gone, that's when I want to be in the woods. Some guys are like, Hey, let's give it a day for the sun to come back out. Like once the sun's back out, wind dies down.

That's when I want to be in the woods. Where are you at on that? Are you like, Hey, as soon as that front comes through I'm back in there. Or are you giving it a day or two before you really expect the best movement? [01:21:00]

Sam Bilhorn: In the pre rut, it is the next, it is right away when that, when it's done. I'm going to jump in there again, the freshening of scrapes and the sign and all that.

I'm going to be in there right away. Given it two weeks ago, a couple weeks ago, people had a pretty good run of it. I think hunters were very successful that first cold front that came through here second week of October. I would have said this the second day, let it cool off or not cool off, but let it settle down.

And be a little bit more stable conditions because as it's more, a little more blustery, let's say with the wind and precipitation and all that, it may be a little bit more of a lag getting into it. But as far as it's relevant to now and when this podcast is going out, it is get after it as soon as that rain pushes through.

Josh Raley: Awesome. Awesome. Sam, where can folks find more from you and the rest of the team from Whitetail Partners?

Sam Bilhorn: Yeah, just punch in Whitetail Partners anywhere social media. Whitetailpartners. com. And also for Wisconsin listeners want to [01:22:00] let some, let you guys know about something new for me. I am now adding real estate to the various services that I do through Whitetail Partners.

I'm a licensed agent in the state of Wisconsin, and you can find me both at Whitetail Partners, Wisconsin, which is my. handle there as it's associated with whitetail harness, but also on Wisconsin lifestyle properties, which is my handle there for social media on all things, recreational properties, land, lake homes, and things like that.

So excited to add that. It's something I've been doing for a long time, helping people find the right whitetail property. And it just is full full circle here to go and serve people in all facets of

Josh Raley: their property. Man I meant to lead off the conversation with that. I thought about that last night.

I was like, I'm going to tee it up with that and be like, Sam, you've got new stuff going on and give you the perfect opportunity. But. But I missed it. That's all right. It's only been an hour. You guys got a whole

Pierce Nelles: crew over there at Whitetail [01:23:00] Partners. Like you guys are

Josh Raley: killing it.

Sam Bilhorn: Thank you, Pierce.

And to that, I would say go check out all of our partners. We have five across the eastern United States. We've got, we can go by state names from our home states, but we really cover anywhere the Whitetails roam in the eastern United States here is to have I'm in Wisconsin. Josh is Georgia.

We also have Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan, and checkerboard the country that way, but serve everybody in our various regions. Whatever state you're in, find, go find all of us. The Whitetail content is relevant across all of our social media platforms for you. It may be a little bit time of the, different time of the year.

Josh and I always chuckle about that. We got food plots still going in down south and will be for a while yet, but Anyway, check us all out and we appreciate the follows and support that you give us in that way. Absolutely.

Josh Raley: Yeah. So I just a quick note on that October 28th, a few days before I drive up to Wisconsin, I'll be [01:24:00] down in our South Alabama property, planting food plots preparing for our February rut.

A grand old time down there. So Sam, thanks for coming on the show today. Pierce, thank you for joining me as well. Mr. Co host. For everybody who's listening, go check out whitetailpartners. com. You can find them all things, social media, whitetailpartners and the design, build, hunt podcast available wherever you get your podcasts.

That's all for this week's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in. If you dig this show, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, wherever it is that you get your podcasts. While you're at it, if you could leave me a five star review, I would very much appreciate that. You can also follow along with my outdoor adventures on Instagram at the Wisconsin Sportsman or at How to Hunt Deer.

That's also the best way to get ahold of me, suggest topics, guests, or questions that you'd like me to explore on the show. Big thanks to our partners, Tacticam, Huntworth, and OnX. Please go support the brands that support this show. And if you're looking for more great outdoor content, check out thesportsmansempire.

com where you'll find my other podcast, the How to Hunt Deer As well as a ton of other [01:25:00] awesome outdoor podcasts. And until next time, make sure you make the time to get outside and enjoy the incredible natural resources that are ours as Wisconsin sportsmen.