Make no mistake; the late-season period can be one of the best times of the entire year to connect with older bucks that are packing around super-size racks. There are typically fewer hunters in the woods, and whitetails have far less food choices and feeding options. Plus, colder nighttime temperatures and the start of the secondary rut are two other key factors that will get the big boys up and moving.
This also is the perfect time to attack a veteran buck’s nose with hard-hitting tactics. With that being said, let’s take a look at some lethal scent and attractant application strategies that will help you coax a heavy-rack shooter into close range during the late season.
Understand Late-Season Rutting Activity
Approximately 28 days after the primary rut is when mature does that were not successfully bred will hit a second estrous cycle. In addition, this is also the period when yearling does will hit their very first estrous cycle. If you’re hunting an area with a large doe and yearling doe population, the secondary rutting period can be action-packed and intense. In some regions down south, the late-season is when the initial primary rut kicks into full swing. This is exactly why you need to be sticking to your treestand right now and using high-impact scent/attractant strategies to smoke a giant.
Construct Mock Scrapes
Strategically making mock scrapes inside key ambush points is a great way to pinpoint, pattern and attract mature bucks. After choosing a good location, simply wear latex gloves, rubber boots, and pre-washed scent-free clothing. Next, look for an overhanging branch that is just a little above head-high for a buck. Break and bend down one or two biting branches and apply tarsal scent directly to the dangling limbs. Rake away an oval-shaped scrape directly below the overhanging branch to reach fresh soil. Apply dominant buck urine and estrous doe scent to the exposed ground and let the attracting begin.
Monitor each mock scrape with a high quality game-camera to locate potential shooters and establish predictable patterns. Having this type of 24-hour surveillance in place will also tell you exactly what spots to hunt and when to hunt them. With time-release scent canisters, it’s even possible to condition dominant bucks to visit your mock scrapes during key hunting periods. These programmable units allow you to choose the times that scent is released and keeps mock scrapes active and fresh for extended periods.
Drag a Line
Another deadly late-season scent application tactic is to pull drag-lines to your treestand or ground blind. The trick is to make sure the scent-trail runs through cleared shooting lanes and across routes that will keep the wind in your favor. Use a drag rag soaked with hot estrous doe scent, especially if you’ve been seeing chasing and breeding activity. Dual drag lines that include both estrous doe attractant and intruder buck urine are extremely effective, and have the potential to strike a jealous nerve among any hard-headed brawlers in the area.
Provoke a Fight
If you really want to hit that proverbial jealous bone of a dominant buck, then utilize your scent and attractants to call him out and pick a fight. Working existing scrapes with a combination of estrous doe scent and intruder buck urine can absolutely make a wall-hanger lose his mind. Break off your own biting branches and apply tarsal scent, but wear latex gloves to avoid contaminating the site. You can even step off to the side of an existing scrape and construct a mock scrape to really send him a threatening message.
During the late-season this year, don’t leave your scents and attractants at home. Sometimes you just need to push the envelope and get inside of his head to create a last-chance shot opportunity. The best way to do that is to hunt aggressively and utilize scents to turn a buck’s keen sense of smell and biggest strength against him.
Good luck and good hunting!