I must confess that I am a scrape hunter. A strategy, it seems, that is no longer as popular amongst my hunting peers as it once was a decade ago. Perhaps it’s because we hardly ever see hunters hunting over them in our magazines or on our television sets anymore. Or perhaps it’s because so many of us have failed while hunting them in general, deciding instead that they’re better left for our trailcameras.
Whatever the reason, I am going to try and revive the lost art and point out how effective they can be when hunted and/or prepared with careful consideration. I’ve had my fair share of failures over the years. With each one however, I’ve learned valuable lessons that have helped me get on top of some great deer too. Including 2009, when I was able to take two P&Y whitetail from the same tree, over-looking the same mock-scrape.
This is where I’ll begin, a five part series that I am hoping will lead to not only the demise of another solid buck by myself in the fall of 2011 over a scrape (whether natural or manufactured), but also in giving other hunters a quick glimpse into this world as I see it.
I realize you may be thinking that it’s a bit early to be thinking about scrapes. I don’t think it is truthfully. It’s never too early to develop the plan you’re going to implement this fall. Mock-scrapes, which is what this blog is about, first begin with a plan and that’s what I’m hoping to give you with this blog.
Part 1 – Planning a location for a mock-scrape.
The “idea” behind the making of a mock-scrape.
I believe this is the most over-looked aspect of mock-scrape design and often their greatest design flaw. It’s important to understand that these scrapes should never be expected to perform a miracle, attracting bucks during daylight hours from lengthy distances away. They simply will not do this. They’re not going to surrender the survival methods of an older buck. He will not just throw all caution to the wind and run to your scrape. The “idea” is to up your odds while in a treestand. The “idea” is to pull the buck in your direction more often than allowing them to walk another trail which may (and often does) take them out of bow range. Your “idea”, as I believe, is to simply give him a chance to hunt you. Whereby, he seeks your position out because it offers him communication with other deer through scent being left behind in the scrape, but is really not that far off course from where he would naturally be traveling to or bedding anyway.
This is the essential aspect of a mock-scrape, allowing a buck to hunt you as if he were really hunting other bucks for hierarchy and other does for greater lovin’ potential. Doing all of this without really taking the buck too far off his secluded path in which he feels great comfort traveling in. It’s almost as if you are making him believe that he, himself, has better odds of breeding by visiting your scrape. And all along you are just trying to up your odds by giving him the opportunity to visit yours.
These are my interpretations of what building a mock-scrape should be and this is the only way I know how to make them work. Understand the “idea” of a mock-scrape and I promise you better success.
What You’ll Need – Location, A Licking Branch, Entry/Exit.
What I’ve learned over the years of hunting and creating mock-scrapes is that you always need three things to come together. The first is location. It’s not enough to just create a mock-scrape where a deer will never know you exist (a strategy I’ll talk about further into this blog) the deer must want to exist where you’re making the scrape. For example, creating one in an area where the deer are unlikely to visit in daylight, like the edge of an Ag field easily viewable from a road, is not a good location. Either are most locations where it’s easier for you, the hunter.
A whitetail buck of the caliber most of us seek (greater than 3 or 4 years old) will not venture out into the open. Bucks of this age seek survival above all else and one of the ways they do this is by holding tight to thicker cover. You need to do the same. You must be where a buck feels comfortable in daylight hours to shoot a buck in daylight hours. A simple and basic piece of information I know, but one I observe is so easily forgotten by other hunters - ultimately leading to frustration as their scrapes are not visited during legal hours. Holding tight to cover has helped me raise my odds significantly.
The Licking Branch.
In its simplest explanation, the licking branch is a small tree limb or group of limbs that extend out, often exactly over the actual scrape itself. It is this limb’s importance I wish to talk about. This branch is, without question, just as important to your mock-scrape as location. It’s this branch that will be visited more than your scrape ever will, so it is absolutely vital you plan your scrape with one above it.
Broken limbs that hang out over a scrape are often referred to as a liking branch.
As I look back on countless numbers of trailcamera pictures I have of bucks visiting my mock-scrapes over the years, it is this branch that receives the most amount of attention. Bucks come and go, and only a few times will they stop to paw at the ground, nearly every time, however, they will stop to hit that licking branch.
Female deer almost never paw. They will however, hit that licking branch. Science knows very little about this branch and its importance to the whitetails themselves, but that is of little consequence to myself anyway. I know it’s important as I have hundreds of photos to prove it. I believe this is an essential part of the creation and success of your scrape. Make sure you have one and make sure you are treating it with the same regard and care that you are giving the scrape itself.
I believe licking branches to be just as important to mock-scrape creation as the actual scrape itself.
A plan for solid Entry/Exit into your scrape.
We can all agree that entry and exit to and from your treestand are the cornerstones to many of our own successes over the years. You can’t escape this phenomenon, the pros talk about it in their articles, on television, even while giving seminars. The one place I never hear it is in relation to the construction of a mock-scrape. Why this is, I shall never know.
If we stop and think about what exactly a scrape is, it can best be described as a place where whitetail gather and communicate with one another through the use of scent. So it should be no surprise to anyone when I say that the most important part of creating a mock-scrape (in my opinion) is having a sound entry/exit in which to hide as much of your human scent as possible so that a buck may never have the opportunity to dismiss the scrape as a place where a human visits. You know he’s already going to be using his nose and you need to beat it. A task that is often the demise of many of my own past mock-scrapes. That is until I began utilizing better entry/exit strategies into my set-ups and water (above any other) to my advantage.
Pond edges and other water sources are the perfect cover for a solid entry and exit plan into your mock-scrape.
Water is the life-blood of any mammal on earth and is especially vital to a buck during the breeding season. I have never seen a good water source go unturned by a local whitetail community when it coincides with adequate cover surrounding it. This is my favorite place to lay down a mock-scrape: along the edge of a water source. The added bonus of which is an invisible entry and exit into my mock-scrape set-up by walking in the shallow edge of the water the last several yards (typically about 60 yards or more) on my way in. The odor from my wet and muddied boots seems to go unnoticed by the deer once I get out, touch up my scrape, and then disappear back the way I came.
Water edges are often deer magnets, attracting both sexes of deer during most periods of the year. Often times, multiple trails meet on their edge.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe entry and exit must always be through water when entering a mock-scrape set-up. I am just trying to convey the extremes I often go through to eliminate scent in an area I know for certain deer will be using their noses with great frequency. I once used a disked Ag field with as much success as a water source. I simply walked a good 30 yards from the tree-line in the torn field which I knew whitetail would never venture onto (no food), except to travel near the edge occasionally. It worked well - as the thick cow manure and mud that always accumulated on the soles of my boots covered my tracks into the mock-scrape set-up brilliantly. I simply just prefer water sources since they are common on just about every property I’ve ever hunted and offer the added incentive of always being visited.
The trick, in my opinion, is placing the scrape not too far away from where you will emerge from a scentless entry or exit. As in, placing a scrape another 60 yards into the woods will likely still put down a great deal of your scent as opposed to if it were only 10 yards in. I find it’s best to be within a few long strides of your entry/exit. This way you have enough time to refresh the scrape, leaving behind relatively little odor before you disappear again into that same entry/exit route.
The same goes for your treestand. By placing a mock-scrape near some sort of scent debilitating resource like a pond or creek, you also have a quick entry/exit into the stand itself- an added bonus.
Stay tuned to Bowhunting.Com as I continue Part 2 of this blog in late summer, in which I will be actually laying down three different mock-scrapes on two separate properties. Then in Part 3 I will discuss their successes and/or failures, including trail camera pictures of (hopefully) a few good bucks prior to the rut. In Part 4, I will discuss hunting non man-made scrapes (the real ones) and the qualities I look for in them. Part 5 will, if I did things right, be myself behind a scrape hunted buck. There is, of course, no guarantee.
I look forward to this five-part, semi-live blog series on hunting scrapes, and hope you’re interested in coming along for the ride.