November 2017
Talkin' Huntin'

A Tricky Licking Branch

Mock Scrapes for Bucks

 

A buck is urinating down his tarsal glands into a mock scrape previously created (notice the Magnum Dripper hanging above). This is usually the last step in the process when a buck makes his own scrape.(Credit: Paul Marion)

Some call a "buck’s scrape" a "calling card to the does." I disagree; I feel a scrape’s primary function is to be a buck’s breeding-territory marker. And, it’s left for ALL of the deer in the area, especially the other bucks. From years of observing rut activity, I believe, when breeding actually gets underway, little attention is focused on scrapes. However, as an aid for hunters to learn about a buck and a contrivance to draw a buck close for a shot, scrapes are at the top of the list.

While bucks will make scrapes without a licking branch present to trigger the act, it doesn’t happen often. An overhanging branch, most often referred to as a "licking branch," is necessary 99.9 percent of the time to induce scrape activity.

Interrelating with the licking branch by chewing on and/or licking and scent marking it with his forehead and preorbital glands is almost always the first step in the process when a buck makes a scrape. The majority of scrapes are made underneath these licking branches that are usually about 5.5 feet off the ground. The actual ground scrape is made by the buck pawing the ground and whisking the leaves and dirt away. Then, the majority of the time, he will urinate down his hocks and over his tarsal glands into it. The order of these steps may vary from one buck to another, but most often it will occur in exactly this order.

Mock scrapes are a great way to entice bucks into an area, hold them there longer and bring them close enough for a shot. The best results I’ve had come from making a series of mock scrapes and using Magnum Scrape Drippers over them – my own fake scrape line, so to say. Magnum Scrape Drippers are heat-activated so they drip during daylight hours, conditioning bucks to show up during legal shooting light and stay in the area longer.

The new Super Charged Scrape Dripper will also be a new tool I will use this season. It has a higher output than the Magnum Dripper to replicate more deer traffic. The new Super Charged Dripper will operate for about seven to 12 days on 4 ounces of scent, where a regular Magnum Dripper will put out that same 4 ounces in about two to three weeks. Both have their place, in my view.

Hanging in the tree is a Magnum Scrape Dripper, a tool that drips scent during daytime hours conditioning bucks to come to the area and spend more time there. A new Super Charged Scrape Dripper is an option now. It has a higher output, simulating elevated deer traffic. (Credit: Paul Marion)

 

So where should you locate your mock scrapes? You can’t just go out to any overhanging branch and expect success. Concentrate on areas closer to bedding areas. You want to target where a buck is claiming – move in and make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck invading his turf. Look for areas with the largest scrapes, spots that contain numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again. Once you locate an area with activity, try to duplicate the variables the local bucks prefer.

You can use a buck’s existing scrape(s). In the whitetails’ world, the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often than not I’ll make my own, trying to copy the specifics found with 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.

I prefer to use numerous drippers, each on their own scrape, and possibly vary the scent in each. I believe with more than one mock scrape you’re increasing the chances that 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 over a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My three favorite scents are Active Scrape, Golden Scrape or Trail’s End #307 used in the dripper.

Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up I’ve had are mock rubs I also produce. With a pruner or wood rasp, I rake up as many 2- to 6-inch saplings as possible. A real intruder buck would typically also mark the territory in this way. 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 of a foreign buck moving in on his breeding territory. Select Buck Urine is also used in several key places.

 

Most always, the first step in creating a scrape is a buck licking and/or chewing on an overhanging branch and scent marking it with his forehead and preorbital glands. This is obviously why it’s referred to as a “licking branch.” (Credit: Tony Campbell)

Timing is important for mock scrapes to work. I seem to have my best luck from the second week of October until the chase begins; then again after the peak of breeding and throughout the rest of the season. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding, mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be claiming and protecting territory.

When making a mock scrape, you must be cautious of scent transfer. Rubber gloves should be worn to avoid leaving unwanted smells behind. I actually like to hang my drippers on a higher branch above the licking branch if available. This keeps bucks 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 get hit. Sometimes they may annihilate 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. I could care less if they touch my mock scrapes; I just want the shot opportunity.

A hunter should use all other information in conjunction with the mock scrapes. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are, where your target buck is bedding and where he may have other scrape areas. Consider it all collectively before making your setup.

 

Todd Amenrud is the director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.