Using a buck’s scrapes as a focal point to get close enough for a shot is a great tactic during November and into December. However, without the use of a scouting camera or a heat-activated scent dripper, it might be difficult to determine when a scrape is being hit. A fair number of scrapes are made and seldom freshened again, and a good majority of scrapes are made nocturnally. Mock scrapes can be a great way to entice bucks into an area and get them to hang around longer.
By using data collected from trail cameras I’ve set up both at mock scrapes and existing scrapes without drippers, there’s no question your odds are significantly better at scrape areas with drippers. This wasn’t conducted as a scientific study, but I would say your odds are at least five times greater when using a dripper(s).
My best luck comes from making a series of mock scrapes and using Ultimate Scrape Drippers over them. I make my own fake "scrape line." 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.
Targeting the right area is important. You can’t just go out to any overhanging branch (licking branch) and expect to have success. I tend to pay less attention to scrapes made on field perimeters and concentrate closer to bedding areas. You want to target an area a buck is claiming as his - move in and make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck invading his turf. Look for the areas with the largest scrapes, spots containing clusters of scrapes and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again.
Once I find the area, I search out the same type of tree with the same height licking branch the buck originally approved of. This 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 than 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. It is also very important to keep foreign odor out of the picture. I will use rubber gloves or elbow-length trapper’s gloves and I usually give my rubber boots and my jacket or shirt sleeve an extra treatment of Scent Killer Spray. A brush up against the licking branch with your bare hand, a boot bottom you wore to the gas station stepping in the mock scrape or a sleeve containing any foreign odor brushed against the tree is all it takes for all your work to go for naught.
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 is going to be right with at least one of them that will 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 used in the dripper.
Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up I have are mock rubs I also produce. With a pruner or wood rasp I rake up some two to six-inch saplings. A real intruder buck would typically also mark the territory in this way. On the rubs, I use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus – it’s a territorial intrusion scent. The illusion I want to create is that a foreign buck has 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 the mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be in "claiming and protecting breeding territory mode."
As I mentioned, 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 if possible. 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 their 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 active scrape areas. Take in the "big picture" of the whole area and use your mock scrapes in relationship with other factors when making your set-up.
Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.