The best way to describe the whitetail\u2019s world from August 15 to October 1 can be summed up in two words, what\u2019s next?\u00a0 Their life during this time can move at a snail\u2019s pace or be quite frenetic because of how fast things change as the rut approaches.\u00a0 It\u2019s a fascinating time to be both hunter and observer of whitetails.A group of bachelor bucks feed in the same food plot.As mid-August inches toward September both bucks and does are still in their summer patterns with does confined to their family groups and bucks hanging with bucks that make up their bachelor groups. \u00a0During this time a buck\u2019s home range can easily be less than 1,000 acres and does less than 400.\u00a0 The size of their home range depends on the proximity of their prime bedding and feeding area and the amount of human pressure that\u2019s present. \u00a0As summer winds down and transitions to autumn it\u2019s not uncommon for bucks to put on 20-25% of their pre-rut body weight because food drives them.\u00a0 About the only thing bucks and does have in common during this time is their tie to the best food sources.Velvet PeelSoon after velvet peel bucks will begin to spar and determine dominance.In most northern reaches of the whitetail\u2019s range velvet peel occurs from late August through the first two weeks of September, with mature bucks usually being the first to shed their velvet.\u00a0 During the peeling process, a buck expends a tremendous amount of energy attempting to rid velvet from his antlers.\u00a0 I\u2019ve photographed many buck fights over the years and few appeared to burn as much energy as the velvet-peeling process does.\u00a0 If a mature buck peels his velvet within 2 hours, he will be physically exhausted by the time he is finished.\u00a0 With antler peel complete and testosterone levels on the rise, rutting behaviors begin to emerge in the form of sparring, scraping and rubbing.Determining Pecking OrderDominance among white-tailed deer is progressive and ever-changing.\u00a0 Early September in the North marks the beginning of a host of behaviors that determine which buck in a bachelor group wins the right to rule their summer range come November.\u00a0 With his testosterone valve opening more each day a buck\u2019s quest for dominance is shown by rubbing, scraping, and sparring.Two bucks spar in September as they begin to sort out dominance.One of the amazing things I learned from 25 years of raising whitetails for behavioral study was their ability to know every whitetail in their core home range through scent.\u00a0 By leaving their own distinct scent on rubs and scrapes bucks are able to telegraph their presence and dominance to all deer in their area. \u00a0Another way bucks determine dominance is by the attitude they exhibit through aggressive vocalization and physical posturing (like threat walking) when they encounter other bucks.This buck scent checks a sign post rub to see who’s been in the areaThough rubbing, scraping and aggressive posturing play a huge role in determining dominance, it\u2019s a buck\u2019s ability to show his attitude through sparring which can turn into ugly fights.\u00a0 More often than not it is aggressive sparring that determines who will be the bull of the woods. To the winner go the spoils, with the losers dispersing to find a location where they can become the dominant buck.In some cases the less dominant bucks may travel several miles before finding an area where they can be king.\u00a0 However, in most cases the dispersal will be less than a mile and a half, with frequent visits back to their summer range as the rut approaches and becomes full-blown.Doe BehaviorUnlike bucks does and her fawn(s) will not disperse come fall.\u00a0 The matriarch doe will spend the year in their core home range, unless forced to migrate due to severe winter conditions, extreme environmental conditions, or changing food sources.\u00a0 Throughout late August and September, bucks, does, and fawns can be seen feeding together in food sources, with little interaction between the sexes.\u00a0 Most bucks have little interest in does prior to October.Hunting Early Season WhitetailsThough it may still feel like summer, setting up an ambush near prime food sources (think food plots) offers the best opportunity to kill an early season buck.A buck\u2019s relatively low testosterone level and warm temperatures make hunting them from late August (yes, some states allow late August hunting) to the first of October difficult. \u00a0The best time of day to hunt this period will be the last hour of daylight and on rare occasions the first hour of the morning if the temperature is cool.\u00a0 The beauty of the last hour of daylight is that all deer have been bedded throughout the day and are anxious to get to food sources before nightfall.\u00a0 This, coupled with the fact bucks may still be in their bachelor groups, offers a great opportunity to harvest the buck because their behavior is more predictable than at any other time of the season.