Many of today’s deer hunters have learned that one of the best ways to condition and create patterns for bucks in your hunting area is by creating mock scrapes. However, one of the main reasons hunters fail at making successful mock scrapes is they don’t give them enough time to get established. My best mock scrapes have been made months prior to the hunting season. I’m not just creating scrapes for inventory, but I’m trying to condition bucks to come to these locations in hunting season.
Building Mock Scrapes
I’ve been in many arguments when it comes to building mock scrapes. The majority of the arguments have been related to using scents. I don’t disagree that scents work, but I believe they are not vital toward having success with mock scrapes. In fact, I haven’t used scent in over 10 years.
The main reason why I don’t use scent is because I’m trying to create the most natural scrape situation on the market that can completely mimic the fresh scent of a whitetail. I also don’t like to stand anywhere near my mock scrapes after I create them. It only takes one deer to visit your mock scrape to get the scent process started. Once one deer places scent on it, many more deer will follow.
In my experience, attraction and location are the two most important factors for creating mock scrapes that lead to filling tags. You have to know your hunting areas extremely well to have success with mock scrapes. The better you know how the deer use an area, the greater chances your scrapes will become kill sites.
Secondly, attraction is a must. You want your scrapes to look natural, but your scrapes should be the most attractive scrapes in the area. Some of the best natural scrapes I’ve ever located were simply established under the most perfect trees that almost seem to naturally serve as a scrape site.
When I picture the perfect scrape, I visualize an umbrella. The roof of the umbrella would be a good, wide canopy of overhanging limbs above the scrape. Preferably 5 to 7 feet above ground. Then the umbrella handle is the licking branch. The licking branch is what matters most, though. That is your hook and bait for luring deer in.
I use two different kinds of licking branches, rope and mainly beech branches. I tie the rope or branch vertically to the main overhanging branch above the scrape. The vertical licking branch imitates a branch that a deer has broken and placed its scent onto while working the scrape. It makes the scrape look like it’s been used recently and frequently. It’s just another added attraction that works very well.
If I’m creating a scrape that I don’t plan to revisit for a long period of time, I’ll likely use rope. Rope outlasts just about any kind of branch you can find in the woods. I prefer thicker rope. At least 1/2-inch thick in diameter, but up to 1 inch in diameter is good as well.
Whether I’m using rope or a real branch, I like the bottom of the branch to hang 3 to 4 feet above the ground. This is typically a good height that most deer can reach.Thicker rope will hold straighter to the ground and not get tangled up in the overhanging branches during high winds. If your rope is not accessible to the deer, the scrape will shut down immediately.
One thing I’ve learned about rope scrapes is it often takes time for deer to become interested in them. Many deer, especially in the big country that I hunt, have never encountered a rope scrape. They don’t look as natural as a real licking branch. So once again, get your rope scrapes set up months in advance. It will pay off immensely.
I like beech branches because they are extremely durable, and they hold their leaves for almost a year after being cut. The leaves also give much added attraction to the licking branch. We always put so much focus on how deer use their noses, and we forget that they have incredible eyesight. They are using their eyes as well as their noses. They are always on the lookout for scrapes no matter the time of year.
Also, when making a mock scrape, look for dry and flat ground. Wet ground will not hold the natural deer urine that deer disperse when they tend your mock scrape. You shouldn’t place scrapes on sloping ground either. Urine will wash off sloping ground and not saturate into the scrape.
Locating Bachelor Groups
During the spring and summer months, I spend a lot of time making scrapes. Once I locate a bachelor group of bucks, I start to look for locations within their home range to build mock scrapes. The key to these scrapes being successful is knowing how bucks are using their turf both in the summer and fall. You’ll have spots where bucks only live during the summer, and also places they only roam during the fall. However, you want to find areas where they continue to pass through from now until hunting season. And these places do exist!
Summer bucks are a little more tolerant of human pressure and they tend to be more daylight active. You can create a mock scrape in the middle of an open field and see a ton of daytime activity right through the middle of September. Then, like a light switch, a buck becomes a different animal. This is a time when most of his daytime movements are in and around thick cover.
If I find a bachelor group of bucks and I locate a mature buck within that herd, that’s when I start to put boots on the ground in that area. I keep my eyes peeled for historical rubs and rub lines around cover or close to known buck bedding grounds.
If I find historical sign, I’ll set up a scrape and a licking branch on a trail or travel route close to the old buck sign. Then I’ll continue to make several mock scrapes within that area. These locations are likely more active in the fall than in the summer. But occasionally the bucks pass through during the summer months. By making several scrapes within that area, you give those bucks a greater chance of finding at least one of your scrapes.
Don’t be concerned if your scrapes aren’t being visited regularly during the summer. In fact, that could be a good sign. Once a buck finds a scrape for the first time, he never forgets it. I’ve often witnessed bucks show up months later to a scrape as if it appeared they had visited it on a weekly basis. They observe their homes just as well as humans, if not more. They remember every little detail within their home grounds. Especially the mature bucks!
The reason why you’ll often see minimal activity on these scrapes during the summer and then an increase during the fall is due to habitat change and seasonal shifts. Summer bucks will use their home ranges differently. They spend less time in thick cover, and they also have different food sources during the summer months. That’s why locating historical sign is so important. Especially where you find sign-post rubs. You can count on bucks revisiting these locations every fall.
This past season, I created a mock scrape in late May that led me to filling my Pennsylvania buck tag on a dandy big-woods buck. The buck eventually found the scrape in late July, two months after I built it. He only visited the scrape a couple times during the summer, but then he showed up more frequently during late October. This scrape enabled me to keep tabs on the buck and recognize that he was hanging in that area. I ended up killing the buck during early November on another mock scrape I had also made months in advance, just a few hundred yards away.
Creating Community Scrapes
Community scrapes don’t happen accidentally. These scrapes are created naturally by deer in precise locations. Community scrapes are great to hunt around during the rut and are vital to getting a solid inventory of what deer are living in your hunting area. Some hunters immediately assume any big scrape is a community scrape. That is far from the truth. The size of the scrape has nothing to do with determining what kind of scrape it is.
My definition of a community scrape is a scrape that gets attention from most of the deer that live in a certain area. The purpose of the community scrape is to create social interaction with many different deer. If you have an area that is holding 20 deer per square mile, somewhere within that acreage, you will likely have at least one community scrape where most of the deer in that area interact with each other.
Most community scrapes are located around food sources. The main food source in your hunting area will often be home to a good community scrape. When it comes to buck bedding, bucks tend to be more secluded and stay away from other deer; but feeding areas are the exact opposite from bedding. They host deer from a lot of different areas. That’s why they tend to hold the best community scrapes.
The key to creating a community scrape is to build it in the center of the food source, or where multiple trails link together leading to a feeding area. When I’m building a community scrape, I prefer to use rope as the licking branch. Rope is extremely durable and will last a long time. Community scrapes get a lot of attention. You have to build them to last so they can withstand a lot of activity.
If you can find a hub of trails that connect from multiple bedding areas, this is the absolute best location for a community scrape. Since most community scrapes are made around food sources, they tend to get most of their attention at night. But a community scrape between a couple bedding areas will likely see more daytime activity than night. This is the ultimate kill site!
Trail Cameras and Mock Scrapes
Putting trail cameras on scrapes is no secret, but I believe there’s a lot of strategy to it. If I’m building mock scrapes in advance, I’m also placing cameras on these scrapes as soon as I make them. Some mature bucks are not very tolerant of trail cameras. By giving deer months in advance to get used to your trail cameras, your mock scrapes will become more effective as the months pass by.
Another trick I’ve found over the years is to try and face cameras downwind from your mock scrapes and even scrapes in general. A lot of bucks wind check the scrapes from a distance without ever stepping into the scrape. By watching the downwind direction, you’ll often get way more intel that you would never see on your cameras without doing so.
The deadliest strategy I have used over the years has been running trail cameras on mock scrapes. It has led to many bucks on my wall, and I believe it will continue to do so. Mock scrapes, when done right, are the best way to get mature bucks to come to your stand sites!