These Basic Suggestions Can Help Draw Bucks to Your Area
When fall rolls around, I think every Whitetail deer hunter has one thing on the brain: the rut.
I know that starting about September, that’s all I can think about here in Ohio. I check off all my “honey-do” list projects by then so that I can focus all my time from October through December on Whitetail deer.
The first week of October is when I make sure all my rut stands and spots are good to go for the upcoming rut. This is also the time I like to make my mock scrapes. I put them in specific spots, put a cellular trail camera on them, and let them do the magic. (Magic is definitely what it is, as you will be able to inventory the bucks in your area.) I don’t mess around with these again until I head into the woods to hunt. That’s when I swap out SD cards and batteries and freshen them up.
Let’s start with what a scrape is, and why deer use it. I look at a scrape as the cell phone for deer. It’s one of the primary ways they communicate during the rut.
There are two different kinds of scrapes: rut scrapes and community scrapes. Here, we’ll focus on rut scrapes that are made in the fall, whereas community scrapes get used year-round.
A mature buck will use a scrape to let other bucks know he’s around. This is one way a buck establishes dominance, along with rubs and sparring. All other bucks passing through a certain area will then make their own mark on the scrape. That lets each buck know who’s who, and where he stands in the pecking order.
I have seen does use the licking branch of a scrape, but I’ve never seen does paw the dirt or urinate in it. Bucks will nibble on the licking branch and thrash their antlers on it, leaving a preorbital scent. They will also paw at the dirt in the bottom and urinate in the scrape.
Look for It
The anatomy of a scrape is quite simple. You have the pawed dirt at the bottom and a licking branch hanging over it. The pawed dirt is the easiest part of a scrape to identify, as it will consist of bare dirt. As you walk a fence row or walk through the woods, look for bare spots of dirt. If you find them with a branch over the top, look for hoof marks; you’ve found a natural scrape.
I believe this is how bucks establish a pecking order of who is breeding does in that area and who needs to move on. Bucks will work rut scrapes in our area from October to December. You may find one scrape in an area, or there may be several. If you find several, this is referred to as a scrape line. This is a great place to set up nearby to hunt.
Much scrape activity occurs after dark, but it still provides valuable information on which bucks are in the area.
Bucks will clean out the scrape before urinating in it as one way they leave scent. They also work the licking branch above leaving preorbital scent.
Some hunters believe each buck makes his own scrape, which is why you get several in a row, but no one really knows this for sure. While some folks have shot bucks over scrapes, that’s not a common thing.
Research has shown that much of the scrape activity happens overnight. I concur with that obser- vation, because that’s what I observe via trail cameras I myself have set up to monitor buck activity. I believe that in the hundreds of trail camera videos and pic- tures I have collected in the last five years, there are only a handful showing large, dominant bucks work- ing on scrapes during shooting hours.
I don’t set up stands over scrapes, but rather put them between scrapes and doe bedding areas or food sources. I like to try to capitalize on a buck moving in a transition area while he is checking for hot does.
Mock Some Up
Making a mock scrape is a way of introducing a “new buck” into the area. This makes all the other bucks curious because they think they have not seen this new buck around. Nevertheless, “he” is scraping in their core areas.
Making mock scrapes may have the result of making more bucks in your area visible during shooting hours. That’s because they also look for the new buck to challenge him for dominance. This is especially true as buck testosterone builds and they look for the first does to come into estrus. Last year, after making a few mock scrapes in key areas, I saw several different target bucks. In addition, on one of my mock scrapes, I observed over 13 different bucks visiting between October 10 and November 22 last year. That’s 13 different bucks having enough key features that I could pick them out to identify them. I’ve also captured several rounds of sparring in front of scrapes on my cameras. Last year, I even found two tines that had broken off near a scrape!
The items you need to create a mock scrape are pretty simple. There are several special tools available on the market, but I never bought into using a lot of them. I use a metal rake, trail camera, a pair of gloves (so as not to leave any human scent), a scent-free spray (like Code Blue scent-free spray), and a few different deer scents.
First, I find the perfect tree in an area. Some people will cut down a branch and use something to tie it to another branch. I don’t do this because I think it leaves more scent and just isn’t natural. Another way is to use a product like Code Blue Rope-a- Dope. It’s a newer product that I can’t wait to try out this year.
After finding the right tree, I clear the area underneath for about a 4-foot by 4-foot area. I take it down to bare dirt. Then, I use Apparition Scents in the Undertaker and Nightmare scents. This product consists of scrape dirt and a preorbital scent. I have tried several products, but these are the ones I prefer. For the next step, I sprinkle in some Undertaker scrape starter, which is natural scrape dirt infused with scent. Then I cover the licking branch with Undertaker preorbital scent.
Use Two Cameras
I like to hang two cameras. One has SD cards while the other is a cellular camera. They’re placed in each direction facing the scrape. I put one on picture mode and the other one on video. I do this to try to figure out which way a buck is moving to get a better idea if I need to move stands. I love the video mode, especially on my Moultrie Delta cell cameras, because you can hear the buck trash a tree or even spar with another buck!
Site for Doe Traffic
I like to make my scrapes in areas that are high traffic doe areas. I do this because I think I have a better chance of stopping a buck as he is scent- checking for does, and probably stopping there in daylight hours. This consideration might be different for areas that don’t see as much hunter pressure as mine does. We have about five bow hunters per square mile in my area of Ohio, and just getting permission to hunt can be tough.
There are several other products available for scrapes, from urine to scrape drip kits. A quick Google search will show you several options. Just make sure these items are legal to use in your area.
There are also synthetic scents to use in high CWD areas. I have also made them with no scent and have had just as much success. In doing that, I use the same method mentioned above, then use natural urine in the scrape. I try to keep my scrapes simple and having low impact. Then all I have to do is freshen them up periodically.
I hope this helps some of you who have never made a mock scrape. I have found it is the easiest thing to draw bucks in without scaring them off. Plus, it makes for some great trail camera footage! Good luck this season and most of all enjoy it!