Like most serious whitetail hunters, I get excited when I see an area that’s all torn up with scrapes and rubs. It’s proof that a buck has been there recently.
Several studies have shown that the vast majority of scrape visits by mature bucks are during the nighttime. I have come up with a few tricks to turn the odds in my favor. Here are my top six tactics for spicing up scrapes and increasing the odds of bringing bucks in-range during legal shooting hours.
The first thing I did was quite offbeat, but it really worked. I deposited some of my own fresh urine in a scrape. Don’t laugh, I am dead serious. Most store-bought deer urine has an ammonia smell to it and it doesn’t have the fresh smell deer expect to find in a scrape. After doing this for several years, I no longer feel weird standing over a scrape emptying my bladder. My urine is fresh and the deer are very curious about it. I have killed bucks over scrapes with my urine in them, in one case, less than an hour after I put it there. If you have the guts to try this, you will be convinced. I guarantee it.
Bucks and does alike know all the other deer in their home areas. They communicate throughout the year, mostly with scent. If a different deer moves into the area, they notice right away and focus some energy on learning who this new deer is. I have found that I can use this behavior to activate a scrape. I carry a few clean zipper-seal backs with me at all times. When I come across a scrape, I often scoop a bag-full of the musty-smelling scrape dirt and take it with me. When I get back to the area I am hunting, I dump the bag in a scrape near my treestand.
Add a branch
Almost all bucks build large scrapes under an overhanging branch. They lick this branch and mark it with their forehead glands.
I like to add a branch to these scrapes by twisting some light wire onto the limb to make an extension. I have used zip ties for this too. On this added branch I put some doe-in-heat lure. I use a small spray bottle to spray a mist on the branch. Some companies make deer scent in a gel form, such as Special Golden Estrus. The gel helps the scent last longer when globbed on an overhanging branch.
One of the problems with using scent properly in scrapes is how fast the smell dissipates. Dump a little lure from a bottle on the ground and it soaks into the dirt, then it gets stirred around by the first buck that comes along. It’s soon so diluted that it isn’t giving off much scent. I overcome this problem by using a small plastic container like a film canister.
Put a couple cotton balls in the container and fill it halfway with deer lure. Now dig a small hole just large enough for the canister and about a half-inch below the surface of the dirt. Put the canister in the ground without the lid, and smooth the dirt back over the top.
Use a Scrape-Dripper
Wildlife Research Center makes a bottle that you can hang over your scrape called a Scrape-Dripper. It has a rubber tube on the bottom that allows the lure from the bottle to drip slowly onto the scrape continually adding fresh lure. Because of its design, it tends to drip more slowly when the weather is cold, so at least in theory, it would add more scent to the scrape during the daytime when it’s warmer. Some people think this may condition the bucks to visit during the daytime.
Add a scrape and rubs
One of the best ways to enhance the area and attract attention is to add some scrapes and rubs to make it look like the area is a hub of deer activity. You can do this without introducing any foreign scent or deer lures, which can be an advantage if you are dealing with a particularly skittish buck.
I like take out my pocket knife and slice a few small trees down to the white inner bark, making it look like a fresh rub. I often use a knife to freshen existing rubs too. These visible indicators of a buck’s presence really get their attention. It might cause them to come over for a look even when the scrapes alone wouldn’t have been enough.
Choose a site under an overhanging branch, and pull away all ground cover, exposing fresh dirt in an area about the size of a garbage can lid. I like to do it with a stout stick and throw the dirt back from the scrape like it was built with aggression. Sometimes in grassy areas, you will need a rake to work up the sod.
There’s no need to be discouraged if all the bucks are hitting the scrapes in your area at night. These six tips can help you activate the scrape clusters and bring out the aggression in bucks. Try a couple of these tactics this year and I’ll bet you agree that they take notice. At the very least, you will be getting game camera photos of more bucks, and at best, you will be in a photo holding one of them!
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.
Images by Bernie Barringer