The big-buck hunting is just about to get good, really good. To confirm that a shooter buck you’ve been seeing is still in your woods, or to learn that a “new” buck has rolled in and is searching for does, look for 3 things:
Tracks: Ordinary-looking tracks 2 to 2 ½” long tell you little (could be a buck or an adult doe). But a deep, splayed print 2½ to 3 1/2” long screams buck, although the size of his rack is anybody’s guess. Lots of big, fresh tracks in the mud in a small area indicate good buck activity in that area—move in and hunt that spot.
Rubs: The buck that blazed the first big rubs you found back in mid-September might still be around—or he might be 2 miles away. But find a flurry of freshly thrashed trees as thick as your forearm or even your calf now, and you know a big buck is working that ridge or bottom now. Set a stand on that ridge or bottom, along a trail or in a funnel with fresh tracks, and you might see him.
Scrapes: With the rut comes a sudden surge of new rubs and scrapes. Find a ridge or bottom littered with musky, red-hot scrapes, hang a stand and sit in it for a week. You’ll see bucks. Simple old-school advice, but still the best advice.