SO HERE WE WERE, two years later, in his truck at dawn glassing from a network of back roads threading the landscape. Swaths of open prairie, huge rectangles of agriculture, and deep breaks shagged in juniper and oak sprawled away from us in roughly equal parts. Along the roads, at different points, were state Walk-In Area signs—free admission to thousands of acres of whitetail habitat. The only question was where to begin, and Peterson, who had planned the trip months in advance, had our exact starting points pegged on a smartphone app. It was late September, and warm. Amid all the surrounding food and cover, water was the one thing in short supply. By noon we'd hung three stands, all roughly a mile's hike from the road and overlooking ponds he'd found ahead of time on Google Earth.