October 21, 2013
Scouting Tip: Work Outside-In to Find the Hottest Scrapes
By Scott Bestul
If you're a businessman trying to win a free lunch at your favorite diner, do you tuck your business card in a dusty corner and hope that management spots it? Of course not. You stick it in the fish bowl on the counter with the others—right where it's got the best shot at being noticed.
Scrapes work much the same for whitetails. I don't know anyone who claims to know all the functions of a scrape, but this much seems certain: They serve as a kind of social interaction site where deer come to toss down some ID. They are especially important in the weeks leading up to the rut. I'm heading out for a scouting/stand-hanging mission this afternoon, and finding scrapes is at the top of my to-do list.
As I was prepping my gear last night, it occurred to me we are always touting the virtues of speed-scouting to keep up with deer sign—but often without ever getting specific about exactly how to find as much sign as quickly as possible. So here's the best description of my scrape-finding system: I work from the outside (food sources) and work in (toward, but rarely into, bedding areas), paying special attention to the following.
Field Edge: Bucks can't resist a branch hanging over a field or plot edge. (Just check out this guy in the photos, from a local friend's property). I live in farm country, so corn, soybean, and alfalfa fields are all good spots to check—and food plots are the absolute best for finding scrapes. I can walk the perimeter of each quickly.
Staging Areas: Finding these is usually a snap. After locating a field-edge scrape or run, I look for the nearest entry trail and walk it back into the timber, searching for a spot where two or more trails intersect. This is the spot where bucks "stage up" before committing to the field, and there should be scrapes and rubs right there. Staging areas are excellent stand sites for an afternoon hunt.
Open-Cover Corridors: Logging roads are my absolute favorite. They provide easy, but secluded, travel for deer. Plus the dirt is usually soft in at least some spots, which makes scraping easy for bucks. They can rarely resist laying down some sign here.
All three of these spots share common traits. They are highly visible. They are in areas featuring soft dirt and overhanging branches. And they are in high-traffic areas. I can look at an aerial map of a property and identify likely spots before I even arrive. But even when that's not possible, the process is pretty simple; start at the food source and work back in the timber, looking for those open places where a buck would leave his "business" card.