Scrapes are extremely important communication centers for whitetails. Most biologists agree that deer use scrapes to send and receive messages to and from other deer, express social hierarchy, and more. Here is your guide to scrape hunting, with eight proven strategies that get the job done.
The Scrape Hunting Window. Before we dive into tactics, it’s important to understand the relationship between scrape hunting and timing. Whitetails can tend scrapes year-round. It’s not uncommon to see deer using scrapes even in spring and summer. This activity is generally limited to large community scrapes, though. As summer gives way to fall, the number of scrapes on the landscape increases. No longer are deer just hitting large community scrapes. Smaller ones dot the landscape, too. Once the rut nears, it’s likely you could find these most everywhere, including near field edges, food sources, water sources, staging areas, etc.
Scrape use gradually increases up until the peak rut, which is when bucks are actively tending does. Therefore, scrape activity typically goes cold for a week or two. Then, after peak rut, it starts to pick back up again.That said, general scrape timelines can vary widely based on location. Rut timing is an in-depth article all its own, but for those hunting north of the 35th latitude, most scraping activity gradually increases from summer, into the early season, and peaks in early November. It typically goes cold from around November 10-20, and then starts to increase again (albeit minimally) throughout the remainder of deer season.
For those hunting south of the 35th latitude, rut dates and scrape use timelines are very complex. For example, Louisiana alone sees rutting activity in different areas ranging from September to February. Florida is even crazier, with ruts ranging from July to early March. Other southern states, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi, have varying ruts based on region as well. Contact your local wildlife agency or DNR to get exact rut (and scrape use) dates for the areas you hunt. And remember, scraping peaks most everywhere, just prior to when bucks start tending does.Locating Scrapes & Scrape Lines. Once you understand when scrape activity is highest, it’s important to know favored scrape locations. Knowing how to find scrapes and scrape lines is a crucial part of the puzzle. You can’t use them to your advantage if you can’t find them.
Generally, scrapes are located within bedding areas, on the fringes of bedding areas, in staging areas (between bed and food or water), transition areas, travel routes, field edges, food sources, water sources, and more. So, basically everywhere, right? Yes, scrapes can appear just about anywhere. But location matters, especially regarding what you plan to use a scrape for.
For example, if merely taking inventory, field edge scrapes are the best. Most photos—especially of mature bucks—will be after dark, but that’s OK if all you want is to see what deer are in the area. Plus, you’re less likely to pressure these deer by being further away from their bedding areas.
If you want daytime photos, to help determine which scrapes are being used during legal shooting hours, it’s better to focus on scrapes well within cover, such as staging areas and travel routes, or on the fringes of bedding areas. These are high-impact areas where it’s easy to spook deer, though. Perhaps hang cellular trail cameras (where legal) with external battery sources, so you don’t have to be there to check them.Those who plan to include scrape and mock-scrape hunting into their plans should know HuntStand’s role in this process. For starters, drop pins anywhere you find real scrapes. In conjunction with bedding areas, food sources, water sources, and travel routes, this information helps paint a picture of how deer use a given property. HuntStand is also great for finding locations for mock scrapes.
Then, once you understand the importance of timing and location, start using these pee-stained circles to your advantage.Strategy No. 1: Juice Existing Scrapes. Existing scrapes are almost always better than mock scrapes. Because these are established, deer know where these are located, and are already using these. You don’t have to encourage use. That’s a big benefit. Not every mock scrape you make will stick, but most will.
That said, you can enhance existing scrapes. One of the best things you can do is juice it up with some deer scent. Doing this can greatly increase deer traffic and might even spur that big buck using the scrape into a frenzy. In my experience, it might increase the number of times that buck visits the scrape, in hopes of crossing paths with the “intruder buck” it doesn’t recognize. That’s all due to the scent you’ve been putting out.Strategy No. 2: Make A Fake Scrape. Can’t find existing scrapes? Are the ones you find not in ideal spots for cameras or treestand locations? While it’s better to stick close to where you find existing scrapes—that’s where the deer activity and movement is, after all—you can also create mock scrapes wherever you like. That said, it’s best to stay relatively close to the real deer sign you find.
When making a mock scrape, start by finding a low-hanging branch about waist to chest high. (A mock scrape is useless without an accompanying licking branch.) Then, clear the leaves, sticks, and other debris from under the branch, and center the scrape under it. Apply scents if regulations allow. Synthetic options work, too.
Your own urine works as well. (Believe me, I’ve been doing it for years.) Human urine has a similar but slightly different chemical makeup as deer, and it can serve as an acceptable replacement for jumpstarting mock scrapes.
If you still can’t get deer to frequent your mock scrape, consider moving to a new location, or use a drag line to lead deer to the mock scrape. Strategy No. 3: Handle With Care. Whether handling real or mock scrapes, it’s important that you don’t touch the scrape with your hands. While human urine is believed to not spook deer, the oil on your hands and body is exactly what deer smell and spook from. Wear gloves and rubber boots around these. Spray anything you accidentally touch, and anything you leave behind, such as scent drippers, with scent killer. Strategy No. 4: Time Your Scents. Hunters who wish to use scents in real and mock scrapes should first check regulations to make sure it’s permitted. Where it is, matching scents to the specific time of year is a wise practice. Understanding what types of scents work, and when they’re most effective, is an important piece to the scrape-hunting puzzle.
For example, during the early season and pre-rut, it’s best to use a scrape starter or straight buck urine. During the rut, it’s better to use estrus scent. All the above can work during the late season.Strategy No. 5: Use A Dripper. Those who don’t want to return regularly to freshen up a scrape or mock scrape should consider using a scent dripper. Generally, due to gradual scent usage, a scent-filled dripper can last a week or two. Hanging one of these ingenious devices above an active or mock scrape can encourage deer to use it more often.
After filling a dripper with your preferred scent, and hanging it over the scrape, spray the exterior down with scent killer to reduce any human odor left behind. This will decrease the odds of deer smelling where you’ve been, and translating that to hunting pressure.Strategy No. 6: Plant A Scrape Tree. Don’t have an overhanging limb where you really want a scrape? No worries. Simply plant a scrape tree. This can be done one of several ways.
First, purchase a small tree or dig up an existing one. Then, dig a hole in the desired location and replant it. Using fertilizer and good soil can increase the odds of its survival.
Secondly, cut down a sapling and do the same. Of course, when using the latter option, know that it will decay. You’ll need to replace it each season.
A third option is to bury a 6-foot cedar post in the right location. Then, drill a limb-sized hole through it at the top. Insert a limb to serve as a licking branch, and put a screw through it to hold it in place.
Regardless of the route you take, create a scrape underneath the overhanging licking branch. Make sure these are approximately belly to chest high. And increase the odds of deer using these even more by placing scrape trees slightly away from other trees. Make them stand out and obvious to deer. This will draw their attention better than placing them right in line with other surrounding trees and vegetation.Strategy No. 7: Hang A Cam. You’ve gone to the effort to find real scrapes or make mock ones. Why not hang a camera over these to see what’s happening there? This is a great way to take inventory of local bucks, and even pattern preferred daylight deer movement.
Hang cameras approximately 6 to 7 feet off the ground, and angle them slightly downward toward the scrape. Or, if that isn’t possible, back the cams a few yards off the scrape so the cams aren’t right in the face of scrape-tending deer. Spray cameras down after hanging.
It’s also good to modify your trail camera settings for scrapes. I prefer 15- to 30-second intervals. While it shortens battery life, this increases the number of photos you get, and since it’s a scrape (or mock scrape), you won’t have an incredibly high number of photos anyway. Strategy No. 8: Hang A Stand. In areas where you think deer will use the scrape or mock scrape during daylight, go ahead and hang a stand over it. Sure, most scraping takes place at night. But those that are located closest to bedding cover will see some daylight usage, even outside of the rut. Bonus: Sprucing It Up. It never hurts to do everything possible to improve trail camera or treestand locations. This holds true for scrapes and mock scrapes, too. One way to do this is by hanging a horizontal rubbing post next to the scrape. Although it’s a learned behavior, once deer figure it out, they seem to gravitate to these.
All things considered, scrape hunting strategies are effective, if used properly. Give it a try this season; you just might be pleased with the results.