Gather around the campfire boys, it's time for some soapbox preaching. It's the heat of the deer hunting season. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot and the whitetail buck testosterone is running wild.

It's December, and that can only mean two things: Santa Claus is watching your every move, and big bucks are beginning to dull their senses in preparation for a full-assault rut.

This is the phase of the deer hunting season we have been waiting for all year long. Bucks are letting down their guards, does are running everywhere leaving breeding enticement scents all over the place and hunters are biting at the bit to cash in on all the big-buck activity.

So, what's your first move?

Time on task

Only two factors contribute to deer-hunting success: luck and dedication. You can have the first without the second, but when it comes to deer hunting sweat equity, it never hurts to have Lady Luck smile every so often. Even then, most successful deer hunters make their own luck.

Making one's own luck begins with being in the woods still-hunting at a snail's pace or sitting hour upon hour in a tree stand, ground blind or shooting house.

"You can't kill a buck napping in a recliner," said Chris Clifton of Madison. "More than anything else, it takes time in the woods. For all the hours of sitting seeing little or nothing it's that one minute of a one-to-one encounter with a buck that can turn the tide of luck in your favor."

Indeed, of all the factors that ultimately contribute to deer hunting success, time and again it simply boils down to being out there in the elements as much as possible. So, when the rut is on, get with the program. Schedule vacation time ahead, and if you missed it this go around, mark it down now for next year. Maximize your hours in the woods right now.

Clean up your act

"There are fanatics and there are fanatics, but my phobia is all about scent control," Clifton said. "I won't even let some hunters into my special sanctuary areas because they refuse to adhere by simple scent-management guidelines.

"Of course, I go overboard with scent-containment garments, but just a few common-sense practices go a long way toward reducing the contamination of prime hunting areas with human scent."

Practical deer hunting research has shown that it is virtually impossible to extinguish 100 percent of human scent, because there are too many avenues for it to escape at any point skin pores are exposed to the air. You'd have to hunt in a bubble to get perfect scent-containment.

So, no clothing strategy can be completely relied upon to contain all natural or unnatural human scent. The trick is to make the extra effort to at least minimize it.

The smartest strategy then is to double up on the efforts. Sure, wear your scent-control garments, but keep them sealed in scent-free containers. Once on the edge of the woods, douse on plenty of scent-killer spray, liberally applied everywhere, especially boots, hats and gloves.

Walk gingerly to the stand without touching anything along the way. Always play the prevailing wind, and if it is wrong that day for a particular hunting stand, hunt somewhere else so the wind is right. Remember that human contamination of the hunting area is the No.1 factor contributing to spooking big bucks totally out of the area.

Hunt food, hunt does and stay late

When the rut is in full swing, most of the time having a hunting stand in a high-traffic location is enough. The does will attract the bucks via estrous scenting, and the chase will commence.

Sometimes this hyper-chase phase lasts for a week or more; sometimes it is just a couple of super hot-action days. Sometimes it trickles on and on over a month. Other times it happens at night, and hunters never get to see anything happening.

Regardless of the conditions or the timing, the rut happens whether we witness it or not.

Weather can be a huge factor impacting the rut, too. If it is hot for this time of year, then hunt very early and very late. Forget mid-day hunts unless you are hoping for the occasional random buck searching for lady love. That does happen, so never say "don't go hunting." Always go whenever you can. In this case, try hunting near water sources or shade cover.

The other exception here is when the rut is operating near or at its peak, then breeding behaviors can in theory be seen any time of day or any kind of weather condition.

A hard freeze may temporally dampen rutting behavior, but it will resume soon enough. Cold rain storms may cool things off for a day, but the rut will quickly heat up again. Hunters have to be ready to hunt the rut under any and all circumstances.

When you do hunt the rut now, focus on food and where the doe population is dining out. The adage of "where the does are, so shall be the bucks" is not entirely a bad piece of deer-hunting wisdom.

Be sure to scout, by observation from a distance via binoculars, the far ends of food plots, known doe-congregating areas, trail crossings, funnels between varied habitats, fruit orchards, pecan groves and oak flats where acorns might still be falling. Again, food is the common denominator now.

It's December. Santa is on his way, and time is a wasting. So get out there now, and give yourself a great present for Christmas - like the head mount of a trophy buck for the game room.