Hunters can pattern whitetail bucks twice a year, and both occur outside of hunting season.

The first is late in winter when they drop their antlers and new headgear begins to grow. The other, perhaps more important to hunters, is finding bachelor-buck groups late in summer.

Observing bachelor buck groups, when their racks are covered by velvet, is a key to early season success. The first task is to find where bachelor groups show themselves. It’s similar to fishing; who would launch a boat at a lake that didn’t have fish?

Next, get permission to scout for later hunting. Talk to the landowner, especially if you’re on a road and see deer in an adjoining field. If you hunt public lands, find food plots or fields. Many landowners plant crops on land leased by states for public hunting. Soybeans are the No. 1 summer crop that draws deer. Corn fields are attractive after the cobs harden.

Next, get a good pair of binoculars. Never tromp around the edges of an agricultural field or surrounding woods unless you want to push deer to another area. Scout from long distance; a 300mm lens on a digital camera is good for studying deer if you don’t have binoculars.

If you get permission to hunt, make a trip to hang game cameras aimed at trails leading to and from agricultural fields. Enter the woods at least 100 yards from a field’s edge. 

For your first hunting opportunity, pick areas for tree stands back from trails that deer use doing to and from fields, 10 to 30 yards for archery, 80 to 100 yards for rifle.

Prevailing winds will push hunters to hang stands on certain sides of fields to remain downwind of the approaching whitetail.