The accompanying trail cam photo shows a classic summer bachelor herd of velvet-clad bucks. The bucks are hitting a bait site–in broad daylight–in late August. The buck in the middle is a no-brainer come bow season. A symmetrical 10-point with a good spread. An even bigger buck is hitting the same spot!

I like to run trail cameras starting in August to capture these images. Bucks will stay in bachelor herds through September and some into early October. About mid-October, they seem to stop liking each other and disperse. That’s why hunting the first week of the season, even when it’s hot, can be so productive. You might have a whole herd of bucks walk by your stand, instead of just one.

Run trail cameras this month to take inventory of what caliber bucks are in your area. Just remember they might be there every day this month, then disappear come October. But at least you’ll have the early-season photos to let you know there’s a good one in the area.

Bucks in the south-central region are starting to shed their velvet. Friends checking trail cameras this week have reported a few bucks with velvet one day and none the next. By mid-September, expect all whitetails to be hard-horned. Mulies in the area typically hold their velvet a little longer. In past seasons, I’ve seen mature mulie bucks wearing full velvet into the first week in October.

The rut is a long ways off, but now is the time to make preparations for a successful season. Get your stands up, trim shooting lanes, scout early and late from a safe distance with big optics and let trail cameras watch the other spots. Opening day will be here in a blink!

Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer with a bow in Central Texas at the age of 15. The full-time freelance writer manages his family’s Texas Panhandle ranch, is a licensed New Mexico guide, and last year took a 184 gross P&Y non-typical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.