Cluster SCRAPES and SCENT confusion
Out of all of our deer hunting tactics nothing has performed so consistently as mock scrapes, they have proven to be our single most productive tactic year in and year out. Consider this; mock scrapes are absolutely the only means a hunter has in which to communicate directly with a buck. How else can you personally ask a buck a question, and get an answer?
crapes and licking branches are simply a form of communication between deer and they are capable of using them the year round and they do. Once a mock scrape has been opened and expanded every single visiting buck will tell you exactly which trail he is using to get to the scrape, he will tell you how big he is by the size of the tracks he leaves behind, he will also tell you how heavy he is by how deep he sinks into the earth, and he will even tell you exactly where his secret bedding area is. (My seminars at the Woods-N-Waters News Outdoor Weekend, Sept 5-7 will cover this thoroughly). Who better to ask a question than to one posed directly to a buck himself, and get an unbiased truthful answer, and you will get an answer.
All of our mock scrapes on each of our farms start out small, about 10″ around and we apply as many as 10 on each farm starting as early as September 1. Even sooner on new leases. By starting our scrapes so early it offers us the opportunity to learn many things about a buck, and at the same time we are actually conditioning him into a habit that may cost him later on. Since there are very few useful deer attractants to choose from during this early time frame we had to actually invent our own knowing that deer urines are totally meaningless in late summer and early fall. Recently we changed our original formulation when we discovered one that seemed to be more appealing to deer, (and yes, I will divulge this new formulation at my seminars as well).
Once you begin a scrape and the deer expands it you should continue applying scent (usually about once per week) until either the hunt ends or the season ends. That may require gallons of scent and is one of the main reasons why we had to invent our own. The different ingredients for this formulation can be purchased at grocery stores for about $10 and you will be able to make many gallons of scent at home. Within one week you will know if a particular scrape is worthy of your time. Notice how a buck can communicate with you, if a scrape receives no activity the buck has spoken, he said (through my interpretation), “I don’t like the area you chose and I won’t be back.”
If the scrape expands the buck is talking to you again and telling you that he likes this spot and WILL return. Eventually every single scrape that continues to expand will become a full blown scrape where the messages between deer begin to flow via urine’s, gland secretions, and saliva onto the licking branches and into the scrapes, especially during the pre-rut/rut time frame. Once the process of local buck participation escalates bucks from the surrounding farms will be drawn to these scrapes to add their opinions as well. A very busy and exciting time for all; bucks and hunters alike.
Despite the bucks answering all of our questions over time they are unable to tell us about their true antler size. Now is the time to find out who is who by setting out our trail cameras before we place our stands. Up to this point the only thing that we really had no control over was when a buck would visit a scrape, if he’s coming at night, which is usually the case, it does a hunter very little good. Witness the many trail camera pictures posted by hunters, the vast majority are taken at night. If ever there was a problem needing a solution, it was this one, and we intended to do something about it. We needed to find a way to neutralize and then exploit this type of situation; it was a big problem for all deer hunters who use deer attractant scents. As inventors we firmly believe that there is a solution to every problem. In our search seeking a solution the first thing we looked into was a deer’s life cycle, which revolves around food, water, safety, and reproduction for answers, and found nothing there that could offer us a solution for that particular problem.
We then looked into every hunting tactic that we had used to exploit one weakness or another of a buck’s that worked for us over the years. Finally one old tactic virtually jumped right out at us, curiosity! We knew immediately that we were on to something that may draw a nocturnal buck into a scrape during day light. In the past we had used curiosity successfully many times in other situations, and we even considered it to be a buck’s weakness that was exploitable. We knew that we needed to invent something extraordinary, and after much trial and error we did, when we developed and patented the world’s strongest deer attractant scents, “She Heat” and “She-Duction.” Along with them being so powerful that they are able to last several days on site through rain or snow without the hunter having to return to refresh the scrape.
We even removed the often fatal hunter self-contamination factor by removing the need to handle cotton balls and other scent hanging devices. The theory behind the theory was that by creating such powerful scents a nocturnal buck, or any buck for that matter, would more than likely keep visiting the scrape which in turn could lead him into making a mistake by lingering too long on site and getting caught in day light. Truthfully speaking, no matter how skillful the hunter, he will never shoot a trophy size buck unless the buck himself makes a mistake.
It seemed like a sound idea and it did have strong merit, but we felt that the usual scent application on a single scrape probably wouldn’t be enough to arouse a nocturnal buck’s sense of curiosity high enough to do what we wanted him to do. We needed to find a way to draw a much higher level of curiosity out of a buck and basically confuse him enough as to keep him in the area longer. The idea of cluster scrapes was born, and now we just needed to find the right buck to test it on.
As the bow season progressed we were seeing a lot of different bucks, some really nice bucks too, all coming into the scrape areas. Just before the rut I rotated on to one of our newer leases in Jackson County. We knew that there were a couple of dandy bucks on this farm we even captured a few night pictures of them working our scrapes. The first scrape I visited astounded me by the buck’s sheer aggressive nature, he delivered a strong message to all by destroying big branches on a bush and a tree, pawing dirt everywhere, followed by him working my scrape and then him making a new scrape mere feet away from my scrape, a rather strong territorial message. We had pulled our cameras prior to this time but knew that this buck had to be a big one by the damaging signs that he left behind. His strong message plainly stated that he was the dominant boss buck around here and that he would hang around for any challengers, and I totally believed him.
Since the rut was right around the corner my fear was that he would be drawn out of the area by some hot doe. Now would be the time to try our “cluster of scrapes” theory in an attempt to keep him occupied long enough for him to make the mistake I needed. My answer to him came in the form of multiple mock scrapes surrounding his scrape. I used different scents in each of the scrapes to confuse him and to heighten his sense of curiosity much beyond normal. I then back tracked his tracks showing the trail that the buck used to get to the scrape and the same trail he used to return. I set my stand at an interception point down the trail about 75 yards away from the scrapes.
The very next morning just at day break I could see a huge buck working the scrapes and grunting softly, he spent considerable time at each scrape, going from one scrape to the other, never once did he lift his head to look around. It was most gratifying to witness the intensity of his concentration while he attempted to decipher the messages in each scrape, especially since he had just put his seal of approval on an untested new tactic. This buck was doing exactly what I had hoped he would do…he was following a script that I had written. He had a big wide and high rack, but what really grabbed my attention was his perfectly matching brow tines, they must have been at least a foot long. I was having trouble controlling my breathing and my heart wasn’t doing much better. In an effort to gain control I looked away from the buck, when I looked back he was gone? I couldn’t believe what had just happened, then when reality set in I was crestfallen, this buck had just made a huge mistake and I was unable to capitalize on it simply because I had chosen the wrong stand site.
My mistake had just neutralized his mistake. A few days went by without seeing the big buck, and deep down I imagined that he probably was several miles away chasing does somewhere else. Here it was about 3:15 on a beautiful warm afternoon and other bucks were consoling me by keeping me occupied, just a few minutes ago a nice 8 pointer passed under my stand heading toward the scrapes and a few minutes later a much larger 9 pointer passed through and gave chase to the smaller buck. It was amusing to watch as both bucks ended up in the thickets stomping their hooves and threatening each other with their ears laid back and posturing.
Then a miracle happened, both bucks cocked their ears forward like bird dogs pointing at a pheasant, I followed their gaze through my binoculars. It was the big buck and he was coming right down the trail with little caution! I was so confident that I would get a chip shot that I took out my camera and took a picture of him. At about the 40 yard marker the big buck suddenly spotted the other two bucks and immediately gave chase, cutting the corner away from me. There went my dream buck, forever I thought.
I spent another few days on this stand with little confidence of ever seeing that buck again. I guess you could safely say that I was just going through the motions. Greg and my granddaughter Alyssa, who would be the hunter, were coming down for the evening hunt, so I decided to give Alyssa my stand location where there still was a lot of buck activity, and move my stand near a food plot planted with Imperial Whitetail Clover and Whitetail Oats Plus, an absolutely deadly combination that was being hammered by countless does and small bucks. You know the old saying, “where there’s does, the bucks will soon follow”, (or something like that).
Well, I was counting on that to happen and it didn’t take long. Several does were feeding toward me when all of a sudden they all looked back toward the woods, following their gaze I was absolutely shocked to see the monster buck trailing them. Things were happening so fast that I didn’t have time to get nervous, my hunting instincts took over. I ranged the buck at 37 yards, he was now standing broadside to me, I slowly drew my Mathews bow aiming right behind the shoulder and released. I clearly saw the arrow slice through the big buck with a double lung shot. As fate would have it, a few minutes earlier the big buck had staged right in front of Alyssa’s stand at 80 yards away for quite some time before following some does into the food plot.
Soon after, the hunt turned into a family affair once word got out via radio. Both granddaughters, Alyssa and Kaitlyn took up the blood trail while my son Greg, my brother Allie, and I followed the girls to the fallen buck. It was a great ending to a thrilling hunt of a majestic animal that would leave our family with a lifetime of cherished memories, what more could one ask for.
Fred and Greg turned a love of hunting into a successful business with their inventive minds forming A-Way Hunting Products and A-Way Outdoors television. In an effort to give something back to the hunting community they have created a new business, “A-Way Outdoors Invention Consulting” where they are able to help struggling inventors reach their dreams without falling into the usual money pitfalls along with avoiding the high costs of doing business with mold makers
and manufacturers in a very competitive
industry. This highly knowledgeable duo will
thoroughly walk you through the whole
process from A to Z.
If you’re a new or a diehard deer hunter looking for fresh ideas and tactics, you don’t want to miss Fred’s highly informative seminar at this year’s Outdoor Weekend, Sept. 5-7 at the fairgrounds in Imlay City. For a complete list of seminars and times check out www.outdoorweekend.net or call 810-724-0254.
For more information on A-Way Hunting Products,989-435-3879 or
www.awayhunting.com. For Whitetail institute, 800-688-3030 or email email@example.com and Mathews, mathewsinc.com.