The best pre-rut buck activity is just around the corner, and this week’s rut reports prove that savvy hunters across the nation are making the final strategy adjustments to capitalize on the best action.

Scouting, long-range observation and, of course, hunting can all combine to put a hunter in close contact with a great buck in the weeks ahead. South Central reporter Brandon Ray made an excellent point this week about the importance of glassing for whitetails now.

Though trail cameras are great tools, they never come close to capturing all the action—or all the deer—in an area, which is why Ray pulled out a spotting scope and spent an evening observing. His efforts were rewarded with a possibly great deer that his cameras weren’t picking up. Great Plains reporter Steven Hill notes that Kansas bowhunter Derrick Law used a similar strategy to re-locate a buck that had been a no-show on camera for several weeks.

Once he found the buck, Law used smart but aggressive tactics to tag the brute.

Naturally, boots-on-the-ground scouting is a huge part of keeping current on the best deer action. Mid South reporter Will Brantley confirmed what I’m seeing in the North Central region this fall–an abundance of large, active scrapes, and fewer rubs.

I’m not sure why bucks are making—and paying more attention to—scrapes this fall, but I’ve adjusted my scouting efforts accordingly; I’m searching likely scraping areas and keeping my eyes trained not only on the ground but also at limbs about six feet off the ground. As Northeast reporter Mike Bleech notes, leaf-fall can cover up even an active scrape and camouflage the normally bare dirt we’re seeking.

But the overhanging limb that bucks use as a licking branch is always there, and just as important as the scrape beneath. Keep your eyes peeled for licking branches, and your search for scrapes will be much simpler.

Finally, monitoring the hottest food sources is a no-fail method for staying current with the best place to kill a giant buck in the weeks ahead. South reporter Eric Bruce noted the abundant acorn crop in some areas of his region. This situation can create some difficult hunting, but as Bruce notes, it’s possible to stay in action if you’re able to identify the particular trees deer prefer.

Often called “ice cream trees,” these oaks drop nuts that deer like better than others, and you can identify them in several ways. First, look for acorns without caps; the meat from these nuts are rarely wormy or spoiled. Second, search for trees with feeding and/or buck sign near them. Even if there are fewer acorns, deer are telling you that the nuts that fall under this tree are better than the abundant acorns under nearby oaks. This two-step method for scouting oaks has helped me take the guesswork out of those years when acorns seem to fall like rain.