Should You Hunt Over A Scrape?
There is no other buck sign in the woods that gives up so much information about local deer, bucks in particular, than scrapes and licking branches. Humans can equate this to the equivalent of what the internet and smart phones can do for them.
When I first started deer hunting a number of years back the old timers used to tell me, “A rub is where a buck was, a scrape is where a buck is going to be.” Back then I took that advice with a grain of salt because I was just a deer hunter who was quite willing to shoot any deer that presented itself. As time went by I became a much more serious and selective deer hunter. Now I was looking for any weakness in a buck that I could exploit. The eyes and ears of a deer were easy to fool, but the nose was their first line of defense, they virtually live and died by their sense of smell.
With that knowledge in hand I came to believe that a buck’s nose was exploitable if I could present a scent that would create curiosity in him. Not only did I invent and produce several patentable deer attractant scents but I discovered certain synthetic chemicals could trigger, or heighten a deer’s sense of curiosity many times above normal, something absolutely no natural scents or deer urine could do.
I also learned that I could communicate with a buck right down to asking him questions and getting answers from him. Of course the questions and answers were never verbal but through scent related actions and the buck’s counter-actions. The secret was in mock scrapes and licking branches, all bucks have the ability to scrape year round. It’s just another form of communication for them but to me it was an open invitation to speak directly with them.
Many of you readers of Woods-N-Water News have read my many articles or sat in on some of my seminars over the years and had picked up bits and pieces of information about some of my tactics. Initially we developed a technique of using mock scrapes as a quick and efficient scouting tool starting as early as April on some of our newer leases. Any hoof print larger than 3 1/2″ would gain our attention. Now we found that we could get a pretty good grasp of buck status and movement on all of our farms by starting our mock scrapes in August.
Topographical Maps And Aerial Photographs
These are extremely important tools whenever we consider a new lease. Aerial photographs can almost pin- point probable bedding areas along with the water sources and oak ridges, but most importantly, it will show funnels.
Topo maps show elevation changes. Smart bucks will always use any elevation changes to cover its travels, and a smart hunter would be able to set his stands at key interception points. Stands hung to adjust for wind changes.
Mock Scrapes/Food Plots/Speaking To Bucks
The ideal mock scrape location is usually map chosen and is always near heavy cover that connects trails leading to one or more of our food plots. We use Whitetail Institute products (800-688-3030 www.whitetailinstitute.com) exclusively. Each of our farms has on average four food plots, with each having a different planting. Our favorites are Alfa-Rack, Chicory Plus, Imperial Whitetail Clover and Imperial Whitetail Extreme. Deer are just like people in that they all have different personalities and they all have different food preferences, if given a choice. By giving the deer such a great variety it not only keeps the deer on your farm but creates a rotation where the deer travel the cycle of food plots every single day.
When working mock scrape we always wear rubber boots and latex gloves to simply minimize our presence, deer are more willing to tolerate your intrusion if your scent is weak and non-threatening. A mock scrape and even a real scrape without a licking branch is a waste of time. Each mock scrape must have an over-hanging licking branch, create one by gently breaking the branch with a portion hanging down and pour a little scent on it.
We start out by raking open as many as ten small (about 10″ in circumference) mock scrapes which leads to our first question. We are virtually asking a buck, “Are you comfortable with this spot or area that we have chosen for you?”
It may take a week for his response but if the scrape is expanded his actions have answered our question. If any mock scrape goes untouched for a week that area is abandoned and recorded, the deer have spoken by their inaction. Since there are no messages in deer urine yet, deer urine is ineffective. We actually had to invent an attractant that would work that early in the year geared toward arousing a deer’s sense of curiosity, and we were very cost conscious because of the large volume that we would use over the following months. Although this top secret powerful attractant will never be marketed by us the attendees at our seminars at this year’s Woods-N-Waters Weekend will be shown the formulation along with other long held secret tactics The best part is the ingredients needed for the formulation can be bought at your local store for pennies.
Separating Buck Tracks From Doe Tracks
Eventually by late August trails will appear from different directions with all leading to the mock scrape. Now we are speaking specifically to a buck asking him another question, “Exactly which trail are you using to visit the scrape?”
Picture a wagon wheel with the hub being the scrape and the converging trails being the spokes. Now is the time to separate the bucks from the does. Backtracking down the trails away from the scrape we rake a four foot section of the deer run clear to the bare earth on each and every run leading to the scrape, and re-freshen the scrape before leaving. Upon returning about a week later we measure each track for size, usually we can isolate a run that bucks use, his 3 ½ inch or bigger tracks have answered our question and are duly recorded.
Backtracking even further away from the scrape at a point where other runs converge we again rake the earth to make sure that we stay on the right track. We have no doubt that if we wanted to press the issue we could probably track a buck right back to his bedding area, but of course we never want to tip our hand that we pretty well know his secret hiding place, that would be counter- productive.
Setting Out Cameras, Stands, Changing Scents
Assuming we have found big tracks and know for certain the exact run a buck is using our game cameras are then set out to see what type of head gear the buck has to offer. Once it is determined that the buck is a shooter we set out several stands at key interception points but far enough away from the scrape to a point where the buck will never make the connection that there is danger involved with the scrape if something were to go awry. Even if there were a misstep on our part the buck will continue visiting the scrape but will come in from a different angle, and we would simply adjust our stands accordingly.
Once a buck’s antlers harden and the velvet is removed Mother Nature plays a cruel trick on all rut age bucks implying that they could mate right now by automatically raising their testosterone level and amazingly the buck is now actually capable of mating, but of course mother nature will never allow fawns to be born in the dead of winter, so a buck turns to aggression instead.
Unfortunately for the bucks and fortunately for deer hunters A-Way Hunting Products had developed two of the world’s most powerful deer attractants that cater to a buck’s weaknesses at this critical time frame. “She Heat” implies that, yes indeed there is a doe willing to mate, filling the confused buck with false hope and forcing him to come back to the scrape time and time again searching for a mirage. “Testosterone Fever” answers the challenge of a Territorial aggressive buck, but in a non-aggressive way. The mere presence or scent of a strange buck in any given area will never go unnoticed by the local buck population, never.
Many times while filming an episode for A-Way Outdoors all of our pro staff, Greg and I included, had at different times focused and started to aim at a big buck when the cameraman sitting at a higher elevation would question which buck were we aiming at? Almost all bucks, especially big bucks will closely monitor the travels of other bucks in their territory and usually the buck doing the monitoring is the bigger of the two. Tunnel vision can cost you.
Mock Scrapes Transforms Into Real Scrapes
By the time mid-October rolls around the scent in the air changes for bucks and does alike. Now both begin to seriously pay attention to the scrape with each leaving chemical messages in the form of urine and gland secretions in the scrape and on the licking branches. The messages are giving a hint as to who is who, and what is soon to take place at this location, a location chosen months back by us to set such a trap. Deer without their knowledge have been conditioned to do exactly what we have asked them to do. Our only role now was to add scent every now and then to remind the deer of a presence of another that they will never be able to identify or physically confront.
Should Hunters Hunt Over A Scrape?
Bowhunters or crossbow hunters should always hunt near a scrape, but not exclusively, especially when food plots are involved. The best possible stand site would be an area where the hunter could cover the scrape, multiple deer runs leading to a food plot or over a food plot, all within bow range. Things are a little different when gun hunting. Our ideal stand site would cover ridge tops, multiple deer runs, food plots and two or more scrapes from a distance, even during the heat of the rut if it happens to fall during the gun season.
Many deer hunters question the logic of hunting over a scrape when bucks are actively chasing does? We beg to differ. I always question hunters when they tell me about a big buck that they were lucky enough to harvest. My first question after congratulating them always inquires if the hunter knew of the buck? Ninety-nine percent of the deer hunters questioned never knew the buck even existed. Big bucks get big by not showing themselves. But it isn’t unusual that a big nocturnal buck could have lived right under the hunter’s nose without the hunter knowing about him. Trail cameras have proven that.
Another reason a hunter is unaware of a big buck’s presence is because in most cases a strange rut driven buck could travel several miles from else where in a single night in search of estrus does and end up on his buck pole.
In our experiences whenever any strange rutting bucks entered into one of our farms they inevitably ended up at one of our scrapes seeking information about the local herd. Two years ago my son Greg and I were filming a gun hunting segment for television in Southern Michigan, we were keeping an eye on a scrape that Greg had re-freshened the day before with “She Heat” when all of a sudden we spotted several deer running towards us. As I zoomed in with the camera I locked on to a big 10 point buck with four does in tow. The buck made a bee line directly to the scrape where Greg was offered a perfect shot. This was a prime example of the power of a scrape, we never knew of the buck, nor had any of our cameras ever captured him, and to this day we are baffled as to why a buck with four does would seek more?
Fred and Greg Abbas will be presenting their must see seminars at the 25th Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend September 9-11 held at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds in Imlay City. This is a must see seminar by Michigan’s top trophy hunter. In addition to a highly informative seminar Fred will offer a drawing of great prizes donated by A-Way Hunting Products. Visit their booth in the center of the blue building. For more information on the Outdoor Weekend got to
www.outdoorweekend.net or call 810-724-0254.