The rut is weeks away–indeed, seasons aren’t even open in many states–but our national panel of reporters is already bringing some of the best scoop on deer behavior out there.

Mid-South Rut Reporter Will Brantley gave us all deja vu. Last year about this time, his lovely bride Michelle started off the season with a dandy Kentucky buck. Well, Michelle led us all straight out of the gate this year with a gorgeous velvet 8-point. Will reported that his better half struck while the iron was hot; bucks are shedding their velvet quickly across the region, and as they come into hard antler, are starting to open up some scrapes. And if there’s a silver lining in any hurricane, Isaac’s was the rain it brought inland to Brantley’s region.

Farther south, Rut Reporter Eric Bruce says whitetails in his region are still largely in their summer pattern, and the continued warm weather has restricted movement to the first and last slivers of light. Still, that hasn’t prevented hunters–like North Carolina’s Bo Settles–from finding and patterning bucks. Settles shot a fine velvet 12-point last week. Bruce notes that as more bucks lose velvet, scrape and rub activity should be increasing.

Great Plains Rut Reporter, David Draper reminded us of the continued drought in that region. The lack of rainfall has dried up many seasonal and temporary water sources across the country’s midsection. Though similar conditions existed last fall, hunters still enjoyed success; look for hot whitetail action near permanent water sources such as creeks and rivers this fall. Once again, EHD has been a significant presence across the area, with outbreaks reported in Nebraska and Kansas.

This fall we extend a warm Rut Reporters welcome to Jeff Holmes, who’ll cover the Western states for us this year. Jeff did a stellar state-by-state roundup of whitetail populations in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Though deer herds in this mountainous region took a severe hit during the harsh winter of 2008-09, they appear to be recovering nicely, thanks to their own capacity to rebound and aided by the nearly-non-winter last year. Western whitetails are often overlooked by “serious” deer hunters, a phenomenon which, Jeff correctly points out, is a big mistake.

Finally, many bowhunters in the Great Lakes region that I cover will be taking to their treestands in the days ahead. Those who will be the most successful are the hunters who are keeping track of the ever-changing food cycles of deer. I’m getting reports of bumper acorn crops in some areas; when that occurs, the best food plot or farm field will seem devoid of daylight deer for 7-10 days. Savvy whitetailers will take the time to make midday scouting trips to see where acorns are dropping, then adjust stand sites accordingly.