You are out scouting for that perfect spot to hang your stand. You stumble upon a scrape. Yes, this is it; this is where the bucks are! You found the perfect spot. Right? Don’t get too excited yet. Just because you found a scrape, it doesn’t mean it’s the perfect spot to hunt.
So, how much do you really know about deer scrapes? Do you know why deer make them? What purpose they serve? Do you know if that scrape was made by a big buck, or was it just a young buck? And, most important, should you hunt that scrape? These are all very important questions! Here is what some of the hunting industry’s leading experts say:
- According to Hunting Network, there are 3 basic types of scrapes.
- First, there is the primary scrape; Hunting Network says this is the type of scrape that will receive the most attention from deer, and this type of scrape will be in the same spot every year (usually the end of a trail). This scrape can also be as big as 8’ in diameter.
- Next is the secondary scrape. Secondary deer scrapes are the most commonly seen, and normally appear along trails. According to Hunting Network, secondary scrapes are also known as scrape lines, as they are often in line form. Hunting Network goes on to say that these scrapes indicate that a mature buck may be in the area.
- Last is the boundary scrape, and there are varying opinions as to whether or not these types of scrapes are worth hunting. According to Hunting Network, these scrapes do not deserve your attention as they are most often visited at night, if revisited at all. Bobby Worthington, North American Whitetail, however, believes these scrapes can be great spots to place your stand, but only if they are fresh and being revisited often.
- Many bucks will use the same scrape (community scrape). According to QDMA’s Karen Alexy, Buck Use of Scrapes-What the Latest Research Reveals (https://www.qdma.com/corporate/buck-use-of-scrapes-what-the-latest-research-reveals), one study showed as many as 13 different bucks using the same scrape.
- Hunt fresh. According to Bob Humphrey, Buckmasters , the fresher, the better. This is one point that all experts can seem to agree on. If the scrape is old and dried up, it is not being visited, and it is not worth your time.
- Size matters. Worthington (North American Whitetail) points out that the most mature bucks have great muscle mass and will make scrapes as large as 8’ in diameter. These are typically your primary, or breeding scrapes. Though, it is important to know that these extremely large scrapes can also be “community” scrapes. However, if fresh, any large scrapes are worth your time. There could be a great buck living in that community!
- Pre rut is the ideal time for hunting scrapes. Midwest Whitetail’s Bill Winke says most hunters make the mistake of not paying attention to scrapes until it is too late. He says the best time to hunt scrapes is about a one week period prior to the chasing period. Once does have come into heat, bucks are no longer checking scrapes; they are chasing does.
- Licking branch. Jim Collyer of trophybuckhunting.blogspot, a torn up licking branch hanging above a scrape can be an important indicator of frequent buck activity in a spot. Many mature bucks will work the licking branch in order to leave their scent markers and not even touch the scrape. This theory was seen in the QDMA’s research, as Karen Alexy points out. Alexy states that of all the bucks recorded leaving their scent on licking branches, less than 50% of them worked the scrape.
- Use scent, but know when to use which ones. Doug Howlett , American Hunter, points out that doe urine is a good, safe scent to use all season. Pre rut, try using buck urine; bucks will not be happy about an intruder in the area and may stay close by or visit often hoping to chase off this intruder. During the rut, use doe estrous or tarsal gland, or a combination of the two.
So, now you have a general idea of what scrapes are and how to hunt them. But, know this is not a complete list. There is so much more to know. While researching for this article, I found a wide variety of information and opinions. Perhaps we will never know everything about whitetail deer scrapes, but there were a couple of key points that all of the experts were able to agree on, such as fresh scrapes are best and pre rut is the best time to hunt scrapes. Another important tip experts agree on is when hunting scrapes, always set your stand or blind downwind of the scrape.
As for me, I have never killed a buck over a scrape. But, I have personally watched a buck create a scrape, and I have seen bucks work scrapes; they just weren’t bucks that I was interested in shooting. Even more frequently though, I have seen bucks working a licking branch. I will continue to look for scrapes, paying even more attention to detail, as I now feel more educated on whitetail deer scrapes. I would love to hear your experiences. Have you ever killed a buck over a scrape? Or, what are your opinions when it comes to scrapes? Please share!
A Closer Look at Whitetail Scrapes, by Bobby Worthington
Buck Use of Scrapes – What the Latest Research Reveals, by Karen Alexy