Welcome back to all who have been following this blog, and to new readers.

I began scouting the area surrounding my home as soon as deer season ended last winter. I try to do something related to deer every day. This is not so difficult since deer often are in my yard. I can walk into the Allegheny National forest in a half-hour and drive there in about two minutes.

Nothing regarding the rut is happening yet, but we can look at things you might do to prepare for the rut. Antlers are still in the velvet throughout our Northeast Region. Bucks will not be moving much, nor will they be seen much near roads until their antlers harden. Except for one young 6-point buck my friend Mike Stimmell and I saw during our first Rut Reporters weekly drive, all I have seen over the past couple of weeks are does and fawns.

But once things start happening, they tend to happen quickly. Someone in the region reports possibly seeing a buck that has shed velvet. Once the first few appear, the number of bucks shedding each day increases until at some point nearly all bucks have shed their velvet. Hard antlers announce that bucks are ready to get the rutting process going. Bucks normally are ready well before the does are ready.

Since bucks will start moving more than they have in a while, you should set your trail cameras, or at least you should be looking for places to set them. Before taking those cams into the forest, brush, and windrows, make certain that all of them have fresh batteries, a memory card, that the date and time functions are set correctly, and that other settings such as sensitivity, movie/single photo, or time between photos are correct.

Set cams in favorite, proven places first, so you have some working as soon as possible.

My own first priority is finding large tracks, large deer droppings and anything else that is a clue that a trail may be used by older deer, hopefully including at least one nice buck.

Funnels, which constrict deer movements, are excellent places to set a trail cam. One great example is a steep hillside close to water, be it swamp, lake, or river. Other types of funnels are brushy gullies in otherwise open areas, benches along steel hillsides, narrow ridge tops, connecting basins that cause dips in ridge lines, or well worn trails that run diagonally along steep hillsides. Even human activity can constrict deer movement.

I look forward to the season more and more every year. I did not expect to feel this way–one of life’s many good surprises. Let’s have fun.