It’s starting, folks. The whitetail rut, that is.

I spent 12-1/2 hours on stand in some of the best big-buck country in America- Illinois’ Brown County- and saw little bucks bird-dogging does, larger bucks intimidated by something I couldn’t see up the ridge, and does starting to get good and squirrelly.

I didn’t see anything I wanted to drop the hammer on. I’m hunting Richardson Farms, where a 140-or-better rule dictates what we’ll kill, but I didn’t see anything over that threshold. My stand today overlooked a rank CRP field and backed up against a cedar ridge. A perfect pinch point for cruising deer.

Half hour after I got settled, a good 2-1/2-year-old 8-point (back in Montana, I’d call it a 4-point, four on a side). He’ll be great next year, but I let him walk, and he put on a show, posing in the rising sun and then striding right below my stand.

Late in the day another 8-point cruised by. In between, I had consistent action from little guys. They are actively working rub lines, but the fact that they’re nervous and edgy means that the big boys are just off stage.

I’ll be back on stand in the morning, and will try to shoot of a report tomorrow night. Hopefully I’ll be typing with bloody fingers.