Rut Reporter Scott Bestul is a Field & Stream’s Whitetails columnist and writes for the website’s Whitetail365 blog. The Minnesotan has taken 13 Pope & Young-class whitetails and has hunted, guided for, and studied deer in the north-central region all his life. States covered: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, WI.
Family obligations kept me out of the woods for the better part of the past three days. When I returned to the timber yesterday to scout, hang stands, and even sneak in an evening hunt, I loved what I saw–fresh scrapes popping up everywhere! Every fall it amazes me how quickly the onset of serious scraping begins. For weeks it seems that bucks scrape in a lackadaisical fashion, pawing at the dirt only when the mood strikes. These early scrapes are a tremendous tip-off that a big buck is in the area, but it can take work to find them.
Suddenly, it seems like someone opens a mysterious gate and releases scraping bucks into the world. Bucks that made a scrape or two only a week ago are suddenly laying down sign all over the place. On a scouting walk this morning, I visited an area that is traditionally a favorite scraping spot for bucks; a low area of grass, sumac and box elder trees that serves as a staging area for bucks visiting nearby crop fields. I counted six scrapes in a 25-yard stretch, and it seemed the buck (or bucks) pawed the dirt beneath every low-hanging branch in the area. I’m placing a trail camera in this hot-zone today, and expect to get multiple photos over the next week.
Hunters across the region seem to be experiencing similar results. Bowhunter Raymond Voss shot the gorgeous 10-pointer in the above photo in west-central Illinois this week, proving that bucks are getting more active, especially near prime food sources visited by does. This is an excellent time to get serious about finding and hunting buck sign, as even the most active bucks will remain faithful to core areas. In the weeks to come, however, bucks will be on their feet more, but become less predictable. Now is the time to scout hard for buck sign and hunt it immediately!