Our rut-reporting team knows things are getting serious each fall when we start getting bombarded with pictures of successful hunters, and this week proved that the Big Show is gaining steam. Great field photos of dandy bucks showed up from every region, and the stories behind these pics, as well as our reporters’ field observations, reveal what tactics are working now.

This past week, Mid-south reporter Will Brantley discussed his success using urine-based scents during this time frame, and a number of my sources have reported the same, especially with scent-soaked drag rags. I have been using scents to doctor scrapes and have been hanging wicks to disperse scent to cruising bucks. If you plan to bust out the scents this week, keep in mind that high-humidity days are the best. Whitetails are just like bird dogs in that dry conditions inhibit their ability to pick up scent.

Decoying is another great technique now, and East reporter Mike Bleech noted that his hunting partner used a doe decoy to lure in a nice buck recently. I’ve found decoys to be deadly effective, especially during the seeking-and-chasing phase, when bucks are looking hard for any companionship. Fakes are particularly good when used in conjunction with rattling and calling, as a deke can serve as the ultimate closer for a buck that hangs up in response to tending grunts or horn-bashing. Most of the time I prefer a buck decoy (because they’re less likely to suck in a wary doe), but any deer out there is better than none right now, and a breeding pair should be a good option in the coming days.

South-Central reporter Brandon Ray noted how pressure on adjacent properties can affect deer behavior, even during the rut. I kept close track of this for a time, and my journals reveal that nearly 80 percent of my buck sightings occurred from Sunday evening through Thursday, even on private ground. The woods are simply busier on weekends, and the deer definitely pick up on it, even when the rut is rocking. If you can pull off some mid-week hunts, this would be a great time to do it.

Finally, we’re at a critical juncture in the rut right now. The buck sign we’ve been monitoring all fall is still important–bucks will revisit scrapes and walk rub lines all season–but astute scouters will recognize that many scrapes are beginning to being abandoned. That’s because when bucks get serious about finding does, they devote more time to searching than to laying down sign. If you don’t know where your area’s doe family groups are feeding and bedding, find out as soon as possible. The bucks won’t be far away.