The rapid recall of influenza virus-specific CD8(+) T cell effector function is protective, although our understanding of T cell memory remains incomplete. Recent debate has focused particularly on the CD62L lymph node homing receptor. The present analysis shows that although functional memory can be established from both CD62L(hi) and CD62L(lo) CD8(+) T cell subsets soon after initial encounter between naïve precursors and antigen, the optimal precursors are CD8(+)CD44(hi)CD25(lo) immune lymphocytes isolated from draining lymph nodes on day 3.5 after influenza virus infection. Analysis of primed T cells at different times after challenge indicates that the capacity to transfer memory is diminished at the peak of the primary cytotoxic T lymphocyte response, challenging speculations that the transition to memory first requires full differentiation to effector status. It seems that location rather than CD62Lhi/lo phenotype may be the more profitable focus for further dissection of the early establishment of T cell memory.