As the rut approaches and testosterone levels rise, bucks focus on scrapes as an excellent hunting spot. They become key locations where hunters can locate an advantaged target.
Deer bucks leave scrapes to communicate with other deer and inform rivals of their territory, but how often do they actually check them? Here are a few factors you should keep in mind before hanging a stand over any scrape.
Time of Day
Under intense hunting pressure, mature bucks become nocturnal and only visit scrapes during nocturnal hours, but in areas with light to moderate hunting pressure they often make appearances during daylight hours. According to research done with trail cameras, deer often come back to revisit certain scrapes until one or more doe are in estrus; it would therefore be wise to search out scrapes near doe bedding areas, travel corridors and food sources in search of signs that a buck has visited the same scrape several times over.
A deer scrape serves as the local deer bulletin board, providing communication channels between bucks and does from various herds of deer in an area. By rubbing their foreheads or nasal glands on scrapes, bucks create scent trails to alert other deer of their presence, leaving scent trails which alert does to their presence in an area. In addition, they may rub dung or lick branches nearby in order to create aromas which attract does.
By visiting and inspecting his scrape repeatedly, a buck is trying to secure his territory and establish himself for when breeding season comes around. Doing this allows them to be at an advantage when competing with other bucks for access to does receptive to reproduction.
Bucks tend to build and visit scrapes at night, but during the pre-rut period starting late October they may visit them during the day as well. Look out for scrapes located close to heavy forms of daytime security cover during this two week window prior to starting the main rut season.
Another key consideration when hunting over scrapes is how fresh they are. Look out for chewed leaves and licked branches; the more recent a scrape is, the higher its likelihood that buck will use it.
Bucks often make frequent scrapes between their bedding area and feeding area or travel corridor. A buck may make several scrapes in succession when moving toward or from his feeding site – these are known as scrape lines – making these ideal targets during both the pre-rut and rut itself when most activity over scrapes occurs.
Hunting Over Scrape Lines
Scrapes are deer’s method of communicating through scent. When a buck creates or touches a scrape, he rubs his forehead, nose and preorbital glands against an overhanging branch or vine to leave behind glandular scent that others can detect; in addition, he may lick and chew it, as well as possibly urinate in it to indicate his dominance and potential mate-finding with dominant doe(s).
Bucks may hunt over scrapes throughout the year, but as November draws nearer they become even more crucial as hunting tools for hunting during rut season. In particular, typically around November 1 and 2 marks peak usage of scrape lines by bucks; prior to that he may use them less frequently due to spending more time looking for doe mates who might respond.
Scrape lines can often be found in transition areas, bedding areas, travel routes, food sources and water sources – making them difficult to detect as easily as tree rubs or rub trails are. But locating one is essential if hunters hope to increase their odds of finding and hunting mature bucks.
Many hunters believe that only dominant bucks use scrapes. However, researchers have documented that both dominant and non-dominant males of all ages – even smaller males who think there may be receptive does nearby – visit scrapes regularly.
Bucks make and inspect scrapes as a way of marking territory, tracking rivals and signaling they are ready for mating. A recent study conducted at the University of North Georgia involved videotaping multiple males of all age classes and dominance levels interacting with scrapes; researchers were surprised to discover more males visited scrapes than females did!
As you search for potential deer stand locations, pay particular attention to scrapes. Look out for freshly licking branches near each scrape and be sure to position yourself downwind of them so as not to disturb a buck who scent-checks the area. By keeping yourself out of their path during scent checking sessions and scent testing periods, this will allow you to witness their behavior unfold and hopefully place yourself right in the center of all the action during peak rut.
As the rut approaches, buck testosterone levels begin to spike as his use of scrapes increases. You should see evidence of this on your trail cameras starting in early October across much of the country; they may capture shots showing him visiting any time of day; typically these visits occur near his feeding and bedding sites but also include visits to any scrape in his territory.
Repetitively visited scrapes will tend to expand with more dirt added, more paw prints appearing and saliva deposited onto nearby tree limbs; these signs show other deer are visiting and scent marking the scrape, providing excellent hunting locations. Biologists call these community scrapes.
As the rut approaches, bucks will visit these areas more and more often during daylight hours to visit their scrapes and rub their antlers over the edges of scrapes to mark their territory. He may even attempt to breed with doe that are in estrus at this time.
When inspecting a scrape, a buck will inspect it carefully for signs of doe urine or cat urine before licking and rubbing his paws against a nearby tree to leave his scent behind in what’s known as “rubbing-down.”
An abandoned scrape will likely be smaller, since paw prints will cover most of its area. Bear in mind that a buck only rubs down individual branches, not entire trees.
An effective approach for hunting scrapes is to position yourself downwind of them at 30 to 40 yards away, as bucks often scent-check them from a distance before approaching closer. Of course, this does not always guarantee success depending on terrain, cover and trail systems; hence why it is vitally important to have an extensive scouting plan in place before heading out hunting.
Scrapes are deer signposts used by bucks to mark their territory, keep tabs on rivals, announce their readiness to mate and show off their size and status. Whitetail bucks may use scrapes on ridge tops, pinch points and trail routes between bedding areas and food sources; they’re also often located where deer can approach them to smell them.
Scrape activity increases during the pre-rut and reaches its highest point approximately two weeks before the rut begins. Bucks may begin visiting their scrapes during daylight in the last few days before it starts as breeding urges build, or being provoked into visiting by an intruder such as another buck or hunter.
After the rut ends in November, bucks’ testosterone levels remain high and they continue to seek out receptive does. They rarely work or check their scrapes during this time and tend to leave them covered in debris; however, should a dominant buck sense an intruder, he’ll risk checking his scrape as part of their defense mechanism against potential intruders.
Bucks use scrapes to detect doe pheromones and scent-check other deer that have been in the area, leaving behind fresh urine smell at each scrape and perhaps licking or urinating nearby branches and bushes for an added scent signature.
If you want to catch a post-rut buck using one of his preferred scrapes, first locate the main scrape, which should be larger than others in its area, before scouting around for the best spot to set up in its vicinity. An animal who frequently frequents one particular scrape may spend more time near it and more likely respond to grunt calls or mock scrapes.
Hunting scrapes requires setting your stand 30 to 40 yards downwind of their location. According to Knight, deer will often approach scrapes from downwind and scent-check them first before approaching closer.