The buck in the video above is exhibiting classic seeking behavior, and I know this for the following reasons:
 I’ve had a camera on this very spot for the last three weeks. Just out of the picture, off the foreground’s lower left are a pair of mock scrapes I made when I first put this camera out. Real bucks of all age classes immediately blew these scrapes up. But this one, a 2-1/2 year old 8-point, totally ignores the sign, which was dirt-black only five days ago.
 In the back of this clover food plot (right where this buck is heading) is a well-established bedding area. The buck is clearly heading right for it, looking for does to check and/or harass.
 The video shows the wind blowing from right to left on the screen, and the buck is obviously quartering into this breeze, a classic ploy that allows him to catch a whiff of any upwind does.
Of course, videos and pics are famous for only telling part of the story, and this clip is no exception. It would be easy to watch this great young buck and say “we’re solidly in the middle of the seeking phase.” Actually, in my area, mature bucks—highly visible and active only a week ago—have suddenly gone underground. While warm weather is partly to blame, I’m also inclined to believe they’ve picked up on the first does to come into estrous and are in a mini-lockdown. Meanwhile the junior bucks, like this one, are just beginning to realize that the rut is officially on and that the big guys who’ve been intimidating them all fall are suddenly no-shows, so they kick it into high gear.
So, are we in the seeking, chasing, or breeding phase of the rut? The answer, of course, is “yes.” We talk about the phases of the rut like they come in a neat sequence, easy to read, assess, and adapt to. In fact, while the phases of the rut are certainly real, and often fairly distinct, they can also be true head-scratchers. Which makes deer hunting the fun and exciting challenge it should be.
Bottom line: It should be prime time, so get in the woods and see what happens—which is what I’m about to do.