Where should you place your stand to increase your chances? It’s never too early to start locating and maximizing your next big buck hotspot.

1. Hunting new territory next fall? Use a topographical map to locate natural funnels and ambush points. Ravines, gentle slopes, spurs, plateaus, high peaks, and steep ridges should jump out at you when studying the map. Then use good old-fashioned shoe leather to confirm your suspicions.

2. Agricultural crops are obvious early-season food sources, but to increase your chances at a racked buck, locate foods off the beaten path. Use your binoculars during the summer months, and keep tabs on the local acorn crop. The first good storm should shake quite a few loose. Abandoned apple orchards are another favorite. Study topo maps for old homesteads. There is usually a tree or two around “out back.”

3. Scrape lines are pre-rut buck magnets. Read the surrounding sign to determine when the buck is likely to return. For example, scrape lines found with leaves and twigs kicked toward a nearby alfalfa lot were probably made in the early morning soon after the buck exited the field. Likewise, a scrape line found with forest duff kicked toward a nearby overgrown woodlot were probably made soon after the buck exited his bedding area in the evening.

4. During the rut, set up along corridors that connect doe and fawn bedding areas. Bucks will be moving all day long now in their search for an estrous doe. A rutting buck might show up at any time from almost any angle. Prepare by using a quality rangefinder to determine proper shooting distances to every possible open area.

5. When taking the shot, how you position your treestand matters. For example, if cover is scarce, use the tree’s trunk as a shield and shoot standing up from behind the tree 12 to 20 feet off the ground. If covering a brushy runway, position the stand near the top of the brush line to minimize being silhouetted, and at a quartering-away angle. Shoot sitting down after the deer passes.

6. Erect a treestand overlooking the inside edge of a cornfield. Cornfields offer food and cover. Though unharvested cornlots all look about the same, mature bucks often congregate in one cornfield over another. Why? The answer often lies in the weather conditions during the previous year’s firearms season. A wet fall might stop the annual harvest because tractors and harvesters simply cannot get in and out without getting stuck. The crop will then not be harvested until after the ground dries or freezes. These uncut cornlots soon become havens for local bucks, allowing them to live through another gun season.

7. Sometimes the better bucks hole up in swamps and other backwater areas. A canoe, however, coupled with a lightweight portable may be all you need to get on the downwind side without alerting the bucks. Creek crossings and abandoned beaver meadows are always good places to start your search. A canoe is a big help for getting your trophy out of the swamp.