We are fast approaching what many outdoorsmen refer to as that "magical time of year" when the deer woods experience the most dramatic changes of the year. If you haven't already noticed; cooler temperatures are in the air, leaves are changing color, and the "rut" is in the wind.
While early deer hunting season is exciting, with just the thought of the early mornings, the coolness in the dim light of morning or the easy coming of the evenings, nothing compares to the time period leading up to peak breeding season for our deer herds. This is the time of the year when deer scents and attractants can pay big dividends to the aggressive and skilled hunter. Here is what I've learned about scents and attractants during my many years of hunting;
1. Don't rush the use of attractant scents. Does come into estrous as early as September based on my experience, but primarily peak estrous for the majority of the herd will occur in early to mid November. Biologists have determined many different time periods for peak estrous based on biological studies performed in various regions of each state where whitetail deer herds exist. I rather trust a very knowledgeable hunter I knew who always told me "deer activity tied to the rut will peak around the 2nd week in November". It always seemed to me that he was correct as I would notice a definite increase in deer movement, especially with bucks moving. (One of my daughter's worked for an insurance agency in South Georgia several years ago and I asked her to check and see when deer/auto collisions peaked in her coverage area. It occurred from early to mid-November according to her records.) With this said, don't rush the use of doe estrus type scents until you begin to see the increased activity in the herd where you hunt. You might actually decrease your chances of the scents being effective by using them before deer begin searching for does coming into estrous.
2. Don't "juice" up scrapes you find. I used to always have handy a bottle of deer scent of an estrous doe and would "doctor" up scrapes I would find. I don't know whether or not it had any effect on deer cruising the area, but I know I surely spent a lot of money doctoring scrapes without any wall hangers to support that this was effective. Now, I would change my tactic if I was hunting over a scrape that was recently visited. I would look for fresh dirt and signs of moisture in the scrape that would indicate a deer had visited it recently. It was possible, at least in my mind, that the deer was relatively close by or might make a pass by the scrape to see if anything has visited it to "refresh" it. I have actually seen young bucks track through a scrape line, stopping to sniff each one. In those I have placed scent into they would often react, some with interest and some with fear. The fear came when I doctored the scrape with dominant buck urine that was obviously foreign to the visitor.
3. Don't forget the most important scent, or more importantly scent elimination. When estrous season peaks and we are likely to use scents more frequently, don't forget to take steps to eliminate your human odor. Nothing can kill the excitement of a good "rut hunt" than being smelled out with deer "blowing" out of the area. Take extra steps to ensure your odor does not follow you in the woods.
While the peak of the rut will only occur for a limited period (usually no more than two weeks), scents can be effective for this short period. Don't forget that usually within 4 weeks of when the lull following the rut occurs that it is likely a "secondary" rut will also occur and your scents can be effective at that time.
No matter what you believe or what your experience has been with scents in the past, they can be effective if used when appropriate and not overdone. A combination of controlled scent use and good calling has resulted in being able to harvest the best bucks of my hunting career.
Best wishes for a great, scent effective, rut season.