We talk a lot in this space about “transition time,” which is that state of flux in the whitetail world where food, cover, hunting pressure, and other factors are in frequent-change mode. For the next month or so we’re going to be in the thick of transition time, and one of our jobs here is to help you navigate that period and still enjoy good hunting.

One of the biggest changes in the life of any deer living in farm country is the annual harvest of agricultural crops, especially corn. Reporters Brantley (Mid South) and Hill (Great Plains) noted this huge transition in this week’s reports. Corn obviously provides a huge source of food for deer, but also—and often little-mentioned—is the cover deer find in a standing field of corn. Once this crop is harvested, whitetails make an immediate shift in their bedding/security cover needs, and savvy hunters recognize the need to identify possible substitute habitats for deer that have spent the better part of the summer relying on a cornfield as primary habitat. Scouting adjacent (or nearby) covers after the corn harvest is a critical step in keeping up with the changing habits of whitetails during transition time.

Experienced early season hunters also recognize the importance of weather systems as catalysts for deer movement. South reporter Bruce related as much when he told the story of his first Georgia archery deer of the season (a prime doe), as well the harvest of a great buck by bowhunter Don Peppers. Both animals were on the move after a cool front kick-started daylight deer movement. Hunters who are fluid (and attentive) enough to monitor these weather changes will be consistently successful.

Another common theme during transition time is the importance of trail cams, and monitoring what they reveal (and don’t reveal) to hunters about opportunity. Two great reports—one from Brandon Ray (South Central) and another from Mike Bleech (Northeast)—point out that trail cams are telling us a lot…even when it seems they’re not saying much at all. Ray’s observation that not seeing great bucks on trail cam immediately should not be a cause for concern, and his comment that “deer season is a marathon, not a sprint” is so important to keep in mind. Sure, it’s exciting to get pics of a monster buck right away, and then pull together plans for tagging him…but if that doesn’t happen, it’s no reason to be discouraged. After all, we’ve got months to do this, right?

Bleech pointed this out in a different—though no less important— way in his report from last week. Though one of his cams only captured only a doe, my experience has been that these pics—though not as exciting as a giant buck—are every bit as important. I’m convinced that mature does are just as tuned in to scrapes as mature bucks, and finding such an animal can be a huge part of creating an opportunity with a big buck later in the season. The takeaway? Just because you’re not capturing Mr. Big’s cameo at an early season scrape doesn’t mean that you won’t have an encounter with a giant in that very neighborhood later.