I see–and experience–it every year: hunters are ready for the rut long before the deer. We note rubs and hover over scrapes like they’re tarot cards, hoping these all-important signs will reveal just when the peak action is going to begin. It may sound like hocus-pocus, but here’s the truth: If you’re not obsessing over this stuff right now, you’ll be three steps behind when things actually get good.

Great Plains reporter Dave Draper pointed this out in his weekly summaries. More rubs and bigger scrapes are popping up across his region, and savvy hunters are staying on top of this buck sign, noting where it’s popping up with the most frequency. Draper also points out a critical skill every whitetail hunter must learn: paying attention to wind and weather conditions and learning how they affect deer movement.

His region has seen significant wind lately, and even prairie whitetails–animals with a better tolerance for wind than their cousins in other climes–have an aversion to moving on very windy days. It’s been my experience that windy days are ideal for scouting, as whitetails simply aren’t moving much and the high winds camouflage our sound and movement. Then, when the front pushes through and deer are ready to move again, knowing where to set up is often a no-brainer.

South reporter Eric Bruce and Northeast reporter Mike Bleech each discussed the use of trail cameras to monitor scrapes. There’s no better time to do this than right now. Buck usage of scrapes is on the rise and will build steadily in the next two weeks…then drop sharply as the first does enter estrus and the bucks abandon normal routines to chase them. Many hunters moan when the only buck pics their trail cameras snap are at night. I’m not one of them. Remember, trail cameras represent only a tiny slice of a buck’s life; just because you snap his pic at 2 a.m. one place doesn’t mean he’s not on his feet during daylight hours somewhere else in his home range. And if you’ve done your scouting (see preceding paragraph again) you’ll have some clues where to start looking for him.

Finally, Mid-South reporter Will Brantley provided another fine video interview that details a successful hunt that resulted in a doe harvest. Focusing on does provides excellent clues about where bucks will wind up when the rut kicks in. It was notable that Brantley had to wear hunter orange for his outing, thanks to the ongoing youth firearms season. This neon-like color to our eyes is usually little more than a drab splash to whitetails. If you live–like I do–where archery hunting is legal during firearms season, by all means wear the orange and keep the bow in your hand if that’s your desire. The safety garment isn’t going to hurt you a bit. In fact, one of the biggest bucks I ever shot at came through on the opening morning of the Minnesota gun season many years ago. I can say two things with certainty; the buck walked into easy bow range, and the orange isn’t what caused me to miss!