The waiting game is not easy. I am one who stays out of my area until the rut is here. Halloween is go time. Reading the stories and seeing the pics of successful hunters makes it very tempting to get in my tree but I have to wait. How many others wait for the magic to begin?
I stay out of my primary areas also and It used to drive me crazy so what I do is hunt areas I haven't scouted that I wouldn't have time to hunt in the rut anyway and hunt/scout them. Not the highest success ratio but It gets me into the woods while I wait to hunt my primary spots plus I have actually found spots as good as mine in the process.
I hunt a little bit in the early season. If I would have a buck patterned, I suppose I would pursue him. Truthfully, it seems like I'm never ready to start hunting when hunting season starts. (Was still checking stands 2 nights ago). Now come Halloween, it's on and I'll be in the woods every chance I get.
For me the magic time is now during early season, with very few acorns around it has been tough going but I have passed on two bucks in the 125 inch range and a guy I know killed a 175 inch buck last Friday. Plenty of nice bucks killed early and usually plenty of good weather, if October doesn't work out you always have the cold windy unpredictable rut to get it done.
I really don't have a preferred time. Some years it's early some years it's late. I hunt when the cameras start showing target bucks on their feet during shooting hours. It usually turns on overnight and then I immediately try to slip in and capitalize on it.
I don't really wait I have as much success/sightings throughout the whole season unless the weather is warm. My dad pulled a trail cam yesterday and we had some good daytime action including a really nice 10 over the last week.
I hunt every opportunity I get, from when the season opens to when it closes. I don't have "pre-rut" or "rut-only" stands. I rotate areas enough to make sure that I'm not burning spots, but I'm certainly not going to stay out of the woods until the rut hits. JMO.