The Anatomy Of A Deer Scrape

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buck working a deer scrape
When working a deer scrape, bucks will urinate on the tarsal glands located on the insides of their back legs in order to deposit additional scent on the ground.

Only after these things are done will the buck begin to paw out the ground, then step into the scrape and urinate into it. When he urinates in the deer scrape, he releases only enough urine to “get the point across.” Since a deer’s sense of smell is so superior, far greater than we could ever imagine, he does not need to deposit a lot of urine. This is important to remember when constructing mock scrapes using deer scents. By not emptying his bladder, he is able to save enough urine for the multiple scrapes he is sure to make. When a buck makes a scrape he doesn’t leave too much scent, so why should you?

Where to Look For Deer Scrapes

Deer scrapes, like buck rubs, are positioned with a purpose. You’ll find most deer scrapes and scrape lines in travel corridors and between bedding and feeding areas. It is these select places that receive the most activity, thus increasing their likelihood of being seen and smelled. These are known as primary scrapes and are made by the more dominant bucks. If you were ever curious as to how many mature bucks utilize your property, look for buck rubs and deer scrapes. In many cases there is a direct correlation between the number of buck rubs and deer scrapes, and the number of mature bucks using your property. However, while scrape making is primarily done by mature bucks, scrape utilization is not.

After a dominant buck makes a scrape, any passing buck is likely to urinate in the scrape and work the overhanging branch. Again, this is because of the information made present by a buck’s scrape. Deer are extremely curious creatures and they want to investigate any and all odor emitted by other deer in their woods. This is key during the breeding season because in a deer herd with a balanced age structure among bucks, this helps diminish the young, immature bucks role in the breeding process. This ensures that older, more mature bucks with superior genes to the majority of the breeding.

When to Look For Deer Scrapes

The timing of the appearance of fresh deer scrapes in the whitetail woods is perhaps the most useful information a deer hunter can know regarding deer scrapes because it signifies that mature bucks are on their feet and looking for does. As the amount of daylight a buck takes in through his eyes decreases, his testosterone level and eagerness to breed rises. Generally speaking, a buck’s testosterone level will peak November 1st. This means that the highest scraping activity is likely to be during the last week of October and the first week of November. This is also when deer scrapes will be the most active or “hot”. You can capitalize on deer scrapes during this time by setting up downwind of the scrape or the direction that you think the buck will come from.

Bucks generally work and tend scrapes during the seeking phase of the rut. That is, the time just prior when bucks go chasing does through the open fields at all times of the day or night. During the seeking phase bucks are out looking for does. Since the does’ estrous levels don’t indicate a readiness to breed, bucks spend the majority of their time between bedding and feeding areas making scrapes and waiting for that first estrous doe to appear.

When to Hunt Deer Scrapes

Like buck rubs, the majority of deer scrapes are made just before the rut kicks into full swing. This little piece of information will allow you to better adjust your rut hunting strategy. If overnight the woods you hunt seem to become littered with scrapes and rubs, you know that mature bucks are on their feet and looking for does. You can capitalize on this by hunting travel corridors, funnels and pinch points; anywhere bucks will be on their feet in search of that hot doe. This is usually between bedding and feeding areas where most hot scrapes will be found.

Conversely, if you find several old, dried out deer scrapes that appear to have been abandoned you can bet that most of the bucks in your area are either chasing or locked down with hot does. This may be a time to let your hunting property relax and relieve some pressure off the deer herd. If you simply can’t resist the urge to harvest a monster buck, hunt the fringes of bedding areas, or the thickest cover you can find during the middle of the day. You may be able to coax him away from his doe for a shot by doing some light rattling.

The Licking Branch- The Most Important Part of a Deer Scrape

The most important part of a deer scrape is often the most overlooked part. The overhanging branch, better known as the licking branch, is the single most important part of a deer scrape. The licking branch is of the most importance because of the amount and type of scent deposited in this location. When a buck works over a licking branch he will deposit scent from his forehead gland, preorbital gland and salivary glands on the licking branch. The scent left by those glands is like that buck’s fingerprints and lets other deer in the herd know of his presence. In many cases, bucks will work a licking branch without ever pawing at the ground or creating a traditional deer scrape. So be on the lookout for branches that are broken or look like they’ve been chewed on, as these licking branches will often be used by several bucks throughout the course of the pre-rut.

The Dirt on Deer Scrapes

Deer scrapes have often been misunderstood by deer hunters. They have always been exciting and encouraging sign to find, but they often times give confusing and misleading information. Many deer hunters have wasted a lot of time hunting over deer scrapes that were being visited after dark; never to see the monster buck they were dreaming of. Although deer scrapes are common throughout the deer woods in the fall, understanding when and why they were made just may be the key to your next trophy whitetail.

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