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Deer Behavior

A Closer Look at Whitetail Scrapes

by Bobby Worthington   |  September 22nd, 2010 0

The author believes that scrapes are made by rutting bucks as a place where does in heat can come together with rutting bucks. Furthermore, the author believes that the age of a buck determines what kind of scrape he will make. In other words, there is a significant difference in a scrape made by a 1 1/2-year-old "youngster" and one made by a 5 1/2-year-old "bull of the woods," like the one depicted in this illustration. Illustration titled "Who's Been Here?" by Brian Kuether, courtesy of Northern Promotions, Inc. For information on this print, visit

I read an article not long ago that described the different kinds of rubs. The writer named many different types of rubs. One type he called “boundary rubs,” and in his story he stated that boundary rubs are used to mark the outer limits of a buck’s territory. He further stated that a buck would not go outside of these marked boundaries. The writer went on to say that he could always tell a boundary rub because the buck would stop and turn 90 degrees to his trail and make the rub so it faced his trail.

I suppose that bucks also have a trail going all the way around their boundaries so that they make boundary rubs along that trail! The trails must be like a perimeter road a landowner might have around his property line. I suppose we could call it “a boundary trail.” It’s easy to throw stuff out there when your subject can’t dispute what you are claiming!

Therefore, let me say that I don’t claim to understand everything about scrapes. I don’t believe there is a human on earth who understands everything there is to know about a deer’s very complicated communications system. However, this is my interpretation of scrapes through knowledge gained from a lifetime of observation, thought and study.


When it comes to the true purpose of whitetail scrapes, I believe that scrapes are made by rutting bucks as a place where does in heat can come together with these bucks. A buck lays out his scrapes like a fisherman lays out a trotline. He’ll bait the woods with scrapes hoping a hot doe will find one of them (more on this later). What about the different kinds of scrapes, you ask? This is a reasonable question, especially when you consider all the things that have been written over the years concerning scrapes.

I believe the differences we see in scrapes are caused by the maturity of their maker. I don’t think one buck makes many different kinds of whitetail scrapes. Nor do I believe that one age-class of bucks makes different types of scrapes with different purposes. The age of the buck is responsible for the differences we see in scrapes. The age of the buck dictates the scrape’s purpose, and ultimately its usefulness to a hunter. Let’s explore my beliefs along these lines.

First, let’s look at an immature buck’s scraping habits. In the fall, 1 1/2-year-old bucks have dispersed from the places they were born. They usually wander haphazardly through the woods until they settle in a new territory and work out a travel pattern. Once they are filled with testosterone, young, immature bucks will make scrapes anywhere they happen to be. These scrapes will be around the edges of fields, on logging roads and in any other locations the bucks happen to travel.

Young bucks are still trying to figure things out and are still trying to refine their rutting skills. The scrapes are seldom revisited. That is to say, a yearling buck will not make his rounds for the express purpose of checking the scrapes he has made. However, very seldom does an older rutting buck that happens upon a scrape walk near it without giving it some attention. These older bucks simply cannot help themselves. It’s nature’s way. It’s instinctive.

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