I just returned from a hunt in Wisconsin’s north woods. Though I didn’t come home with a buck, I always learn a lot from hunting that region. My hunting partner there is Tom VanDoorn, a logger who knows our hunting area intimately.

Tom and I took a couple of long scouting treks through the big woods, and my friend invariably keys into whitetail movement. As always, finding a good stand site means locating two things; the best food sources and the hottest buck sign. In the big woods, you may have to chew up lots of landscape to find this magic combo, but when you locate them, the hunting can be great!

One scouting find had us really excited. In the photo above, Tom is kneeling by what we’ve nicknamed a “power scrape.” This huge, pawed-up area is, I believe, the beginning of a huge community scrape that indicates the presence of several bucks that are using a small area. While finding a huge scrape during the rut is always a rush, stumbling into a scrape this size during the early season is truly awesome. In fact, I’ve only found two early season power scrapes in close to 40 seasons of whitetail hunting. I hung a stand near this sign and hunted it for one evening. Though I didn’t see any of the bucks that made this scrape, I’m confident I would have with a little more effort. Tom was set up nearby–closer to the food source–and had good action.

Elsewhere, the bowhunting opener in at least three states–Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin–occurred last weekend, and already I’m getting reports of some dandy bucks being tagged. I’ll chase down these stories and see if I can post pictures soon. Warm weather was widespread throughout the region over the past weekend, but reports indicate it didn’t affect deer movement significantly. By Monday a sharp cold front hit the Great Lakes states, dropping temperatures by 20 or 30 degrees overnight. The cooler temps should result in greater deer movement, and feeding activity. Lots of fresh rubs are appearing near active food sources, and though the acorn crop is spotty, deer are feeding heavily on this hard mast whenever they can find it.