The Minnesota DNR told me I had to put my bow away on December 31, which of course I did. But they never said I couldn’t start thinking about, and planning for, next year. So the day after I stashed my bow, I got busy on next September.

Nothing serious. I just started noting which treestands need to come down for maintenance. Some spots that need scouting. Shooting lanes that need tweaking or expanding—a loose to-do list that I’ve learned I need to start chipping away at before turkeys start gobbling and trout start rising. Still, mostly back-burner stuff.

Then a couple of days ago, just as I was thinking about dinner, I looked out my back window and saw the buck above. He’d wandered into a small soybean plot not twenty yards from my deck, with three other bucks in tow. I grabbed a camera and ran to the bedroom—as the windows there offer the best view of the plot—and I took a few quick pics while the bucks fed. Deer don’t feed very long in my backyard food plots during daylight, probably because they know there’s an overeager golden retriever living in the house that takes great joy in barking at them. True to form, the bucks fed for a few minutes, got nervous for no apparent reason, and took off.

Okay, the buck is no world-beater, but—assuming he doesn’t get whacked by a car or chomped by a coyote—he should be a dandy next fall. And suddenly, all those back-burner chores have moved to the front of the stove. This poor deer hasn’t even shed last fall’s rack, and I’m already trying to wriggle into his head like a brainworm. Where does he sleep? What are the food sources in his home range? Where does he fit in the pecking order, and how might that affect how I should hunt him?

It didn’t always used to be like this, you know. I used to give deer hunting a good rest for a couple months, but somewhere along the way—for me and lots of other deer hunters—that’s all changed. I can’t pick up a bow until mid-September, but the hunt for “The Bedroom Buck” has already begun.