Using a buck’s scrapes as the focal-point of the hunt to get close enough for a shot can be a great tactic from late September all the way through December. However, without the use of a scouting camera or a heat-activated scent dripper, it might be difficult to determine when the scrape is being hit. A good number of scrapes are made and seldom freshened again, and a good majority of scrapes are made at night. If you want success, here are some suggestions.
Try to emphasize a specific area by creating mock scrapes. This gives bucks a specific reason to access the area more often and gives them motivation to hang around longer. If you do things right, even mature bucks can fall for this fake scrape approach.
Targeting the right area is important. You can’t just go out to any overhanging branch and expect to create a successful mock scrape. I tend to pay less attention to scrapes made on field perimeters and concentrate on ones closer to bedding and secure areas. You want to target an area a buck is claiming. Make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck moving in on his turf. Look for the areas with the largest scrapes, spots containing numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again.
Once I find an area, I search out the same type of tree with the same height overhanging branch (licking branch or interaction branch) the buck originally approved of. The interaction branch is usually about five to six feet off of the ground. Try to duplicate the variables the specific buck you’re after preferred.
You can actually use the buck’s existing scrapes. In the whitetail world, the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often then not, I’ll make my own, trying to copy the specifics found with the buck’s existing scrapes.
The actual mock scrape is best created with a sturdy stick found in the area. Try to make the scrape on flat ground, if possible, and make sure it is free from all debris.
My best luck comes from making a series of mock scrapes and using Ultimate Scrape Drippers over them - my own little fake "scrape-line" so to say. The Ultimate Scrape Drippers are heat activated so they drip during daylight hours. This conditions bucks into showing up during legal shooting light and staying in the area longer. This method has produced several P&Y qualifiers for me.
I may use numerous drippers and possibly vary the scent used in each. I believe with more than one "mock" you’re increasing your chances something’s going to be right with at least one of them to draw a response. I’ve used as many as six drippers and created as many as a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My two favorite scents are Active Scrape and Trail’s End #307.
Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up I have are mock rubs I also produce. With a pruner or wood rasp, rake-up a number of two to six-inch saplings. A real intruder buck would typically also mark the territory in this way. If the bucks in the area really don’t seem to be "rub crazy" don’t go overboard. Go by what you see in the surrounding area. I’ve seen places where there were several hundred rubs in an area of about two acres and I’ve seen other spots where you really had to search to find one. On the rubs, and in various other places around the set-up, I use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus. It’s a territorial intrusion scent. The illusion I want to create is one of a foreign buck haven moved in on his breeding territory. Select Buck Urine is also placed out at several key places in the area.
Timing is also important for mock scrapes to work. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding, mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be in "claiming and protecting breeding territory mode."
When setting up a mock scrape or using a buck’s already existing scrapes, you must be cautious of scent transfer. Rubber gloves should be worn to avoid leaving smells on the overhanging branch. I actually like to hang my drippers on a higher branch above the interaction branch. This keeps them from getting a good whiff of any foreign odors that may have permeated the dripper’s cloth cover.
Don’t expect your exact mock scrape(s) to necessarily get hit. Sometimes they may "cream" the actual mock scrape. But, my goal is simply to draw them to the area during legal shooting light and hold them there for a longer period of time.
A hunter should use all other aids and information in conjunction with scrapes. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are at that time, where your target buck is bedding and where he may have other hot scrape areas. Take in the "big picture" of the whole area and use all of the scrapes in relationship with other factors before making your set-up.
Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.