by Blake Hagemeier - AC Pro Staff
Deer communicate through many different ways including vocalization, scents, and visually. Utilizing scent and a visual scrape can be a deadly combination.
A scrape is a visual sign post. Unlike rubs, which are seldom revisited once first created, some scrapes are reworked rather frequently. A buck makes a scrape to mark his territory. He leaves his scent behind for other deer to know that he is in the area and this is his ground. By making mock scrapes you’re showing him that there is another buck in the area that thinks the spot is his. Then it’s up to him, whether or not he’s up to the challenge.
To me, mock scrapes are a vastly underused tactic for trying to harvest a whitetail buck. I hunted many years without using them. Every season scrapes would pop up and I would hunt near them, but never with much luck. My first attempts at my own scrapes were rather fruitless as well. My lack of scent control was to blame for that. Once started being more careful about my clothes and what I touched I started to see some results. My first positive experience was five years ago. I entered the timber fully clothed in scent absorbing clothes including a face mask and gloves. I also wore scent free rubber boots. I had remembered a massive scrape that first popped up in the middle of October, about 40 yards outside of a thicket bedding area. This area is directly between that bedding area and a food plot I had planted the year before. It was an ideal staging area that deer will hold up in just before entering the field to feed at dark. I stated the scrape rather small, just larger than a dinner plate. I checked it again 8 days later and was amazed at the amount of use it had received. One of the overhead licking branches had been broke and was hanging limp above the scrape. The area I cleared on the ground had more than doubled in size. Unfortunately, this was before I had a trail camera so I had no idea of the size of the deer that was using the scrape.
I like to start my scrapes early. This way the deer have plenty of time to find and start using them. My target time period is the middle of September. Scrapes this time of year aren’t very numerous, but by making yours be the first ones of the season, your telling that deer that there is a buck in the area. The dominate buck in your hunting spot isn’t going to take well to this. He doesn’t want an intruder coming in and challenging him. At first, there may not be much activity in your scrapes, but the closer the rut gets, the more action you’re going to see. I’ve started scrapes just bigger than a paper plate, by the time November rolled around; they were the size of a small car hood. Nothing gets your blood going more than seeing a freshly worked scrape with some deep hoof gouges and a few broken branches hanging above the scrape.
The most important factor when making a mock scrape is scent control. The purpose of the scrape is to create an area where a buck will visit regularly in order to pattern him. No deer is going to work a scrape that is full of human scent. If you’re careless with scent control that might not even make it down the trail to the scrape. I use the same methods as I would if I were going hunting. Take a scent free shower, dress when I arrive at the site, and then give myself a heavy dose of scent killer on my clothes and boots. I also like to wear a pair of latex surgical gloves. The first thing to focus on is location. Think back where you have seen scrapes in past years. You want the mock scrape to be as natural as possible. Not directly on a trail, preferably not on an edge of a field, and it must have one or more licking branches 4-5 off the ground. I also like to use them on edges of small secluded food plots back in the woods. Once you’ve found the spot, clear out a 1 foot in diameter circle. Make sure no vegetation is left in the scrape. The next step is to use a pre-orbital gland scent on the licking branch. There are a few different manufacturers who have these types of scents. Next, use a generous amount of buck urine in all areas of scrape. Hopefully, a buck will pass by and smell the urine from an intruding buck. As long as he doesn’t smell that you’ve been there, he’s going to try to take over the scrape. I like to freshen my scrapes every 7-10 days. In doing so, you’re telling that buck that there is another buck is trying to take over his area. Each time you freshen it he’s going to come back and leave his scent behind.
The scrape I had mentioned earlier, was one of my most successful I’ve ever had. After hunting it a few times rather unsuccessfully I had almost given up. I decided to give it one final try just before the rut really kicked in and the bucks abandoned the scrapes. About 30 minutes before dark I heard a crack toward the bedding area, then out he stepped. A really nice deer, but need one more year to grow. I don’t know if he was the biggest deer using the scrape, but he was the biggest I had seen over it. He didn’t work it very long while I was watching, but he did walk over to it and thrash his antlers in the over hanging branches. The buck was a good 3.5 year old that would have gone mid 130’s, but knowing the area, I knew he had a good chance to make it through to next season. Unfortunately, I didn’t see him anymore that season, and haven’t seen him since.
Deer communicate in many different manners; in my opinion scrapes are one the best tactics a hunter can use to harvest a buck. It combines two of the ways they communicate. The key to using them to your advantage is to remain scent free and pick a spot that is likely to be used for scraping. Finding the right area and a dominant deer that is willing to protect his territory can lead to some awesome hunting action and possibly a good set of antlers on the wall.