Whitetail deer communicate through many different senses: vocally, visually, and through scents. Combining these can be a deadly combination.
A scrape is a visual sign post. Unlike rubs, which are seldom revisited once first created, some scrapes are reworked rather frequently. A whtietail buck makes a scrape to mark his territory and to communicate to other whitetail deer in the area. He leaves his scent behind for other deer to know that he is in the area and this is his ground. By making mock scrapes, you’re showing him that there is another whitetail buck in the area that thinks the spot is his. Whether or not he's up to the challenge is up to him.
To me, mock scrapes are a vastly underused tactic for trying to harvest a whitetail deer. I hunted many years without using them. Scrapes would pop up every season, and I would hunt near them, but never with much luck. My first attempts at my own scrapes were half hearted and without much luck. My lack of scent control was to blame for that. Once I began being more careful about my clothes and what I touched, I started to see some results. My first positive experience was five years ago. I entered the timber fully clothed in scent-absorbing clothes, including a facemask and gloves. I also wore scent-free rubber boots. I had remembered a massive scrape that first popped up in the middle of October about 40 yards outside of a thicket bedding area. This area is directly between that bedding area and a food plot I had planted the year before. It was an ideal staging area that whitetail deer could hold up in just before entering the field to feed at dark. I stated the scrape rather small, just larger than a dinner plate. I checked it again 8 days later and was amazed at the amount of use it had received. One of the overhead licking branches had been broke and was hanging limp above the scrape, and the area I cleared on the ground had more than doubled in size. Unfortunately, this was before I had a trail camera so I had no idea of the size of the deer that was using the scrape.
I like to start my scrapes early. This way the deer have plenty of time to find and start using them. My target time period is the middle of September. Scrapes this time of year aren't very numerous, but by making yours the first of the season, you’re notifying whitetail deer that there is a buck in the area. The dominant buck in your hunting spot isn't going to take well to this. He doesn't want an intruder coming in and challenging him. At first, there may not be much activity in your scrapes, but the closer the rut gets, the more action you’re going to see. I’ve started scrapes just bigger than a paper plate, and by the time November rolled around, they were the size of a small car hood. Nothing gets your blood going more than seeing a freshly worked scrape with some deep hoof gouges and a few broken branches hanging above.
The most important factor when making a mock scrape is scent control. The purpose of the scrape is to pattern deer by creating an area where a buck will visit regularly. No deer is going to work a scrape that is full of human scent. If you’re careless with scent control, your chances of creating a scrape that is used regularly go to 0 in a hurry. I use the same methods for making scrapes as I would if I were going hunting: take a scent free shower, dress when I arrive at the site, and then give myself a heavy dose of scent killer on my clothes and boots. I also like to wear a pair of latex surgical gloves. The first thing to focus on is location. Think back to where you have seen scrapes in past years. You want the mock scrape to be as natural as possible-not directly on a trail, preferably not on an edge of a field, and it must have one or more licking branches 4-5 feet off the ground. I also like to use them on edges of small, secluded food plots back in the woods. Once you’ve found the spot, clear out a 1-foot diameter circle. Make sure no vegetation is left in the scrape. The next step is to use a pre-orbital gland scent on the licking branch. There are a few different manufacturers who have these types of scents. Next, use a generous amount of buck urine in all areas of the scrape. Hopefully, a buck will pass by and smell the urine from an intruding buck. As long as he doesn't smell that you’ve been there, he's going to try to take over the scrape. I like to freshen my scrapes every 7-10 days. In doing so, you’re telling that buck that there is another buck trying to take over his area. He's going to come back and leave his scent behind each time you freshen it.
The scrape I had mentioned earlier was one of the most successful I’ve ever had. After hunting it a few times rather unsuccessfully, I had almost given up. I decided to give it one final try just before the rut really kicked in and the bucks abandoned the scrapes. About 30 minutes before dark I heard a crack toward the bedding area, then out he stepped-a really nice deer, but needed one more year to grow. I don't know if he was the biggest deer using the scrape, but he was the biggest I had seen over it. He didn't work it while I was watching, but he did walk over to it and give it a good sniff. The buck was a good 3.5 year old that would have gone mid 130's, but knowing the area, I knew he had a good chance to make it through to next season. Unfortunately, I didn't see him anymore that season, and as far as I know, I haven't seen him since.
As mentioned earlier, deer communicate in many different manners, and in my opinion, scrapes are one of the best ways to harvest a buck. It combines two of the ways they communicate. The key to using them to your advantage is to remain scent-free and pick a spot that is likely to be used for scraping. Finding the right area and a dominant deer that is willing to protect his territory can lead to some awesome hunting action and possibly a good set of antlers on the wall.