Whitetail Hunting photo

by Jeff Murray

Bucks commonly reopen scrapes during the post-rut. Problem is, they typically do so after dark. But according to Michigan whitetail expert and author John Eberhart (deer-john.net, one type of scrape is an exception to the nocturnal-visit norm. It’s what Eberhart calls a “communal scrape,” and when you find one you’ve struck post-rut gold. Here’s what you need to know:

#1 – This Scrape is Unique
For starters, it’s huge–typically the size of a car’s hood–and used by numerous bucks and does. When you find one, it’s hard to mistake it for anything else. Leaves and debris have been kicked everywhere, and the dirt is often peppered with tracks. You’ll catch a whiff of public restroom. “Also, communal scrapes are almost always found within small openings of dense security cover,” says Eberhart. “Bucks feel comfortable checking them during daylight.”

#2 – Communal Scrapes Are Scarce, But You Can Find Them
The key is knowing where to look. “In a given habitat, you’ll find them under the same types of trees,” says Eberhart. “Here in Michigan, they pop up under white oaks and secluded apple trees.” Cottonwoods and willows are used in Midwest farm country; balsam firs and black spruce in the northern big woods; and mature cedars and willows lining western riverbottoms. In each case, snoop along swamp edges and the bases of slopes, where thick cover and moist soils attract secretive scraping bucks.

#3 – Hunt Them at Midday
“The best action occurs between 9:30 a.m. and p.m.,” Eberhart explains. “Rarely will you catch a buck checking out a communal scrape at first or last light. That’s why I usually bowhunt somewhere else early, then still- hunt to my scrape stand at about 9 a.m. I’ll sit through the early afternoon.”

#4 – Get in the Thicket
There’s a strong temptation to set up right in the clearing where the mega scrape was made. The better plan, says Eberhart, is to back off a little. When possible, gun hunters should get in position at least 50 yards into the cover in a tree that affords a good view of the clearing. For bowhunters, he recommends a stand overlooking any trail downwind of the scrape and just inside the thicket’s edge. “You’ll still have good visibility into the opening,” Eberhart concludes, “but you’ll also have a chance at a buck that comes in only to scent-check the scrape from the trail. Most important, sticking to the thick stuff will break up your outline and allow you to steal into the area inconspicuously to tag a late-scraping buck.”