September 22, 2010
I don't make mock scrapes because I think mature bucks will take them over and hang around the area. But there are several good reasons why I do make them. For one, I make and use mock scrapes as a scouting tool. I use these scrapes to spot-check each funnel to see how much deer traffic the area is receiving during rut movement.
A mock scrape in a funnel is a great location for a trail camera. I only use infrared cameras in these locations because I know I will be hunting here later. You never know if a buck you are targeting is flash-shy or not. Some bucks are even spooked by the infrared light from no-flash cameras. Yes, bucks can see the light from an infrared camera.
Some funnels are too wide to get a shot of all the deer passing through them in a single photograph. A mature buck could pass just behind your camera or out of range in front of it. However, if you place a large scrape in the funnel, you can bet that any mature buck moving through the area will put his nose in it.
If you don't own trail cameras, you can still use the scrape for scouting by closely examining the tracks left in the scrape. Of course, you can only do this if you really worked up the ground within the scrape. Especially take note of any large track that shows up in the dirt on a regular basis.
A WINNING STRATEGY
This leads me to the next reason I like to make scrapes in all of my funnels. Sometimes a funnel will not restrict movement as close to my tree as I like (or need) for a close shot. When a mature buck passing through the area sees a large scrape a few yards away, though, he'll usually take the time to walk over to it and check it out as noted, offering me a close shot.
The third reason I like to make mock scrapes in my funnels is because it helps me to get a standing shot at relaxed deer. As you probably know, mature bucks are constantly on the move during the rut. If you've ever tried to settle your sights on one of these traveling bucks, you know how difficult it can be. Many fine trophies have been lost because the buck would not stand still long enough for the hunter to make the shot. Of course, you can always try grunting to stop him, but that will immediately put him on alert. It's always much better if he stops on his own.
The final reason I make mock scrapes at all my stand locations (in funnels) is to lure bucks over to my stand site. As mentioned in Part 1 last month, I don't believe a buck will "hang around" the location of a scrape he has found. However, if a mature buck passes by your mock scrape at night or some other time when you're not there, he won't soon forget it. Then, the next time he's passing through the area, the chances are good that he'll come right over and check it out since he knows it's there.
I also believe that if you make a scrape in a mature buck's core area, he'll keep an eye on it. Making a large scrape 15 to 20 yards from my tree stand has made the difference for me on several occasions.
HOW TO MAKE A MOCK SCRAPE
Experience has taught me that it's always best to initiate mock scrapes in the late spring or early summer because you'll need to stay in the area for some time to figure out exactly where to place the scrape(s) and it will take time to fashion the scrape(s) the way you want it so it will look real. If you wait until the fall to do this, you'll obviously disturb the area, and this could be counterproductive.
Also, by making your scrape(s) in the spring, all you'll need to do when hunting season rolls around is slip in and rework the ground in the scrape. You may even find that a buck has already opened up your scrape for you. I have several trail camera photos of bucks in velvet in early August working mock scrapes that I had made in the spring.
Once you decide to make a mock scrape, you'll have to decide where to place it. Obviously, you'll first need to know which tree you'll be hunting from. After you've picked the right tree, locate the spot in your funnel through which most of the deer will be passing. That narrow piece of ground where most of the deer will walk through should be your first choice for the scrape. Keep in mind that it should be within easy shooting distance of your tree. It may take some moving back and forth to find the right spot. Also keep in mind that you'll need an existing shooting lane (or one that can be opened up by trimming limbs) at the height you'll be hunting from. You should always be able to take a shot at a buck standing in the scrape.
You may wonder: What if there is no suitable licking branch in the exact location where I want to put the scrape? I've found that it's always best to place a new overhanging limb over the perfect scrape location rather than try to place a scrape in an undesirable location where a limb already exists. If there is a suitable limb or sapling hanging close to the scrape, bend it over and tie it or wire it in place. If you are forced to cut and hang a separate limb, make sure you snap off the vegetation and the small ends on the portion that hangs over the scrape.
MAKING A LICKING BRANCH
A mature buck is very particular about his overhanging limb or licking branch. The overhanging limbs on many great scrapes used year after year by mature bucks that I've seen have one or all of the following characteristics:
- The licking branch is often a dead limb.
- The end of the limb is fairly large in diameter. The size may vary from that of a pencil to that of a man's thumb.
- The limb is usually pointing downward at a sharp angle (if not straight down).
- The limb that seems to be preferred by mature bucks is usually between 4 and 5€‚1/2 feet off the ground.
Very seldom have I found a mature buck working a scrape with a limb lower than 4 feet. Oftentimes, if you find an existing limb with these characteristics, there will already be a scrape under it!
Knowing how particular mature bucks are about licking branches has led me to fabricate my own overhanging limb most of the time. While I'm traveling through the woods on the way to my funnel, I'm always on the lookout for a good limb. It doesn't take much looking to find a curved, sturdy limb with an end that can be broken off to finger size. A word of caution, however — be careful not to touch the end of the limb that will be hanging over the scrape. Oil containing human scent from your hands can stay on the limb for a long time.
Whenever I find a suitable limb, I'll give it a hard whack or two on the ground to make sure that it won't break with hard use. Then I'll take that limb and attach it over the perfect scrape location. I always carry a saw, a hammer and a handful of 16-penny nails, some wire and a pair of wire pliers. If you're hunting on public land, it may be against the law to cut limbs or nail nails into a tree. In that case, use the wire and remove it after you've finished hunting. If you're hunting on private land, it's always good to ask permission before you put nails in a tree.
If you use your imagination and do a little experimenting, you'll be amazed at the ways you can come up with to attach a limb in the right location. I've often said that I could hang a licking branch out over a lake! Sometimes I'll use a long-dead tree limb to span a large gap between two trees and then attach the licking branch to that dead limb so that it hangs properly over the scrape.
If my perfect spot for a scrape does not have any suitable trees nearby for a licking branch, I've also been known to use 2-inch by 2-inch wooden stakes purchased at the local hardware store. One should be about 4 or 5 feet long and the other should be about 2 or 3 feet long. It's a simple matter to drive the posts into the ground a few feet apart and nail or wire your limb securely to them.
SCENTING YOUR SCRAPE
After your limb is in place, remove any sticks or leaves from the ground underneath it. Now it's time to really work the soil. Use a heavy rake to tear up the ground in an area as big as a truck hood. Also, if necessary, this is the time to cut a wide shooting lane between the scrape and the tree you'll be hunting from.
After you've finished making your mock scrape, back out and stay out of the area until around the first of October. This is when you'll need to return and start working the ground again. This is the time I also place scent in the scrape.
There are several reasons I recommend this fine product. First, it's made from the best deer scent on the market. Second, strict precautions are used during the manufacturing of Deer Dirt to ensure that the product is not contaminated with any human or foreign scents. And third and perhaps most important of all, the scented dirt is waterproof. Through a patented process, deer urine is incorporated into the waterproof dirt. This means that the scent does not wash away every time it rains.
I've never liked the idea of pouring a bottle of expensive scent on the ground only for it to be washed away with the first rain shower. What's more, because of the possibility of contaminating the area with human scent, I don't like the idea of continually returning to my scrape site to freshen it up.
As an added precaution, when I revisit my mock scrapes in early October to rework them up, I always use total scent control. Once the scrape is ready, I get out of the area as quickly as possible.
When you come back to hunt one of your mock scrape locations, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that the scrape has been worked regularly by bucks passing through the funnel. I've had that happen on a number of occasions. Now is the time to sit back and reap the rewards of the work you did in the spring!