"Knee high by the fourth of July" is a phrase that farmers use to evaluate the progress of a given year's corn crop. With the heavy rains we've had across the commonwealth this summer, most stalks are certainly pushing well beyond that mark.
But it's not just ears of corn that are sprouting. Velvet headgear is taking shape between whitetail ears as well. Many hunters are beginning to capture trail cam photos of bucks they will potentially target this fall, and evening drives or on-the-ground scouting efforts will reveal growing antlers approaching the mid to late stages of development.
It's this time of year that social media sites begin to swell with photos of red-bodied, knobby-tipped bachelor groups palling around among a lush green backdrop. Many hunters wouldn't even consider revealing the bucks they are getting on camera, while others can't resist sharing their excitement with friends.
If cameras haven't been hung yet, they probably should be soon, but interference in core areas should be kept to a minimum. Of course, it's better to prepare treestands, cut shooting lanes, etc. now more than later, but keep in mind that each time you enter whitetail habitat, you run the risk of bumping them out.
Instead of bedding areas, hang trail cameras in low impact, easy-to-access locations, such as field edges or travel areas that bucks will visit or pass through but not spend the majority of the days there.
Check cameras every few weeks, or even monthly, and take precaution not to leave much human scent behind. An even better, less invasive approach when possible, is to scout from a distance.
Evening drives just before dark, or even after dark with a spotlight, can reveal a lot of information about bachelor groups, such as where deer are entering the field, which foods are preferred, which bucks are present and which bucks appear to be the most dominant as the season approaches.
Field observations using a quality pair of binoculars can give hunters a good look at the bucks they hope to shoot or pass. Knowing the bucks in the area may also help reduce surprises at the time of the shot, giving hunters one less thing to worry about and greater confidence.
By identifying the buck prospects in your local area right now, you will be well on your way to preparing for a more successful hunting season come fall.