Watch for Scrapes, but Hunt Near Does

Virtually all deer hunters consider scrapes to be very important deer signs. You may see different kinds of scrapes and wonder what and why. As is so often done, we could make this seem to be more complicated than it really is, or worse, we might pretend, so much that we convince ourselves, that we know some secret rut code. We might try to describe what the size of a scrape means. Some hunters are under the impression that all scrapes are made by bucks.

That is a good place to start an examination of what we actually know about scrapes. Does absolutely use scrapes. This fall I was fortunate enough to get my best series of trail camera photos ever. It showed at least a couple does urinating in, scraping and sniffing overhanging limbs. On a few occasions when I was in a tree stand, I have watched does making scrapes. They did it by scraping with their hind feet, with their hind legs at awkward-looking angles, which is making the urine run over glands.

A typical visit to a scrape by a buck is shown in this series of photos taken at about 5:30 a.m. The first thing the 5-point did upon arrival was to sniff the overhanging limbs. Next it sniffed the scrape before urinating in it himself. It scraped with its right front hook, but other photos show it scraping with the left front hoof. Trail cam photos of other deer at scrapes show them scraping with rear hoofs. In short order the buck sniffed the limbs of a different tree, then went back to the limb which overhangs the scrape and either sniffed, or rubbed its pre-orbital glands on the small limbs. before leaving. All that took place in just about 3 minutes.

At about the time does are coming into heat, older bucks will sometimes increase the size of scrapes. Judging from the sign, it appears the bucks go berserk, tearing saplings out by the roots and digging up the ground.

One unwelcome fact I learned about these scrapes is that according to my trail cameras, nearly all scrape activity takes place during darkness, and the few exceptions were so late or so early that I would have to check sunrise and sunset times to determine if any took place during legal hunting hours.

Something very pleasing that I have noticed at that scrape I have been watching is that the number of different bucks to visit seems to increase every time I check the trail cam. I think that hunters who do not do much scouting, and who do not use trail cameras, would be very surprised by how many bucks are in their area. Of course there are areas with very few deer, but unless it is in the north woods where deer density is typically low, a hunter should be able to find better places unless posting is a very bad problem. Lack of good access is the biggest threat to deer hunting today.

Until I see a reason to change, I will continue to place my stands in areas where I have been seeing a lot of buck sign, or particularly nice bucks, but precise placement will be based on where I have noticed good doe activity.