Making the Most of Mock Scrapes

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Whitetail Buck at Scrape

Making the Most of Mock Scrapes

Mock scrape diagram

An aerial view of the location of the mock scrape described in this article. The included photos were taken at this location.

You have probably read the magazine articles that make it sound easy-as-pie to kill a mature buck.  Employ this tactic or that strategy and the formula is complete.  Any day now a stud 4.5 year old is going to come sauntering by, during broad daylight and offer you a 12 yard broadside shot, right?  If you are like me, you’ve spent at least some amount of time trying some of the different things you’ve read, and to no avail.  It’s easy to write about a tactic and make it sound like a foolproof way to kill your buck.  But the truth is, no one single tactic or tip is going to put you on a mature deer, especially on pressured ground.  What individual tactics can provide you with is one more piece of the puzzle.  In my opinion, that is where the popular tactic of making mock scrapes falls.  Mock scrapes are a tool that can tell you a lot about the deer in your area, if they are used correctly.  If you hunt pressured ground, you need to keep your expectations in line.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a mock scrape, but for those who aren’t, simply put, it is a man made scrape that mimics a natural scrape created by the deer in your area.  So, what do you need to know about mock scrapes and what benefits can you expect to receive by utilizing them?

1. Placement is Key

You need to consider where you are putting a mock scrape.  Where you place the scrape can and will have a direct impact on its effectiveness.  For many years I never believed in the tactic because I tried to place scrapes where I wanted them, not where the deer would use them.  My site selection was random and I hung a scrape dripper gadget with some cheap deer urine in it and called it a day.  After all, that seemed to be what I read about in the magazines and saw on TV.  What I didn’t realize was that the urine in the scrape is only one

8 point buck at scrape

There is no doubt scrapes provide a place for scent transfer, however, bucks don’t always urinate in scrapes and the licking branch plays an equal or greater role in scent marking than the scrape itself.

small component of the scrape dynamics, and many people believe it is not even the most important one.  Mock scrapes should be placed in high traffic areas so that they gather the attention of the highest percentage of deer possible.  You are more likely to have deer begin to use your mock scrape if you select an area where the deer spend some time or an area they tend to utilize regularly on the way to and from food.  Inside edges along food sources, or pinch points at the end of a funnel have been productive areas for mock scrapes in my experiences.  Areas that have a lot of deer sign, even if you suspect it is night sign, are good prospects.  Don’t overthink it, but don’t just put a scrape next to a tree you would like to hunt and expect a dead area to magically heat up.

 

2.  How to create a mock scrape

Once you determine a high percentage location for your mock scrape the next part is constructing it.  The first thing you need to look for is a low hanging branch.  In the area I hunt, I have found that most of the natural scrapes have licking branches located approximately at chest to eye level.  I am 6′ 2″ so between 4 and 6 feet is

Whitetail buck at scrape

Many people select a tree with a licking branch above their own head. Overestimations of a whitetails height can lead to improperly placed licking branches, leading to unused mock scrapes. Licking branches should be placed between 4 and 6 feet off the ground. A good practice is to mimic the height of licking branches on natural scrapes in your hunting area.

a safe estimate and some may be lower. (6 feet is the maximum in my opinion.)  I think a big mistake people make is making a mock scrape under a branch that is higher than their head.  People have a tendency to overestimate the height of a Whitetail.  A low limb with multiple branches can work wonderfully and you may find that additional scrapes will appear adjacent to your mock scrape.  Once I locate a suitable branch, I take a nearby stick and scrape the leaves and debris away to expose the bare ground, trying to touch as little as possible with my bare hands.  I like to score the ground as well, and fling some dirt out with the leaves.  In addition to urine and gland secretions, I believe deer can smell the freshly disturbed earth and it piques their curiosity.  I have used a lot of different scents in an effort to attract Whitetails but, quite honestly, I have found that urinating in the scrape is the best way to encourage deer to investigate your new creation.  It might sound crude, but your own urine is free and deer urine is selling for $10-20 an ounce these days.  There is some evidence that once urine breaks down most of its unique qualities are lost anyway.  One thing that I have done is

This young buck is investigating the glandular lure applied to the licking branch above the mock scrape.

This young buck is investigating the glandular lure applied to the licking branch above the mock scrape.

used a glandular lure and put it on the licking branch to encourage its use.  I really can’t say if it works, but I know the trail camera photos I have, that were taken shortly after applying this scent, show most deer using the licking branch where I applied the lure.  You can probably forego this part, as the visual of the fresh scrape, the urine and the presence of the branch will likely be enough to attract deer passing through the area.  The mock scrapes I make are in the easy access, low impact areas of the properties I hunt.  I want to be able to get in and out to check the use of the mock scrape without disturbing deer.  Since my mock scrapes aren’t located near my treestands, I will put a no-flash trail camera over them to monitor the deer using the scrape.  Being able to slip into these areas to exchange memory cards without impacting the deer you are hunting is another reason to have them in accessible places, like the inside edge adjacent to a crop field.

3. What should you expect out of your mock scrape

I think too many common ground hunters expect to be able to make a mock scrape and draw a mature deer out of its bed in daylight hours in order to kill it.  They plan to hunt over their new mock scrape and think it is going to provide more deer sightings and increased shot opportunities.  This is the problem.  On pressured ground, you need to manage your expectations.  You may create a hot spot, but unless you are placing the scrape within bedding cover (which will inherently alert a buck to your presence) the likelihood of you catching a mature deer over it in daylight remains slim.

More mature animals will utilize mock scrapes under the cover of darkness.  Using mock scrapes in conjunction with a No-Flash trail camera is a valuable inventory tool and a more realistic application on pressured ground.

More mature animals will utilize mock scrapes under the cover of darkness. Using mock scrapes in conjunction with a No-Flash trail camera is a valuable inventory tool and a more realistic application on pressured ground.

Mock scrapes should be viewed as an inventory gathering tool and the best time to implement this tactic is in the last week of October through November.  When you start seeing natural scrapes pop up where you hunt, its time to lay down some mock scrapes.  When you use a mock scrape in conjunction with a quality trail camera you have the opportunity to see which bucks are still on your property as well as which of the neighbors bucks may be cruising through once the rut begins.  Mock scrapes aren’t a substitute for knowing where a pressured buck is bedding, or a substitute for hunting rut funnels and pinch points in November.  They should be viewed as a tool to determine if the animal you want to kill is still using the property.  Most of my mock scrape photos are taken at night, but it doesn’t diminish the value of the mock scrape because I am not expecting to use it as a hunting location.  Additionally, you can freshen the scrape periodically throughout the season and they can become good locations for trail camera surveys after season in order to determine which bucks have survived.  To further entice post rut bucks to utilize my mock scrapes I will gather the tarsal glands from all the deer that are killed by other hunters I know; especially tarsal glands from estrous does or bucks killed on other properties.  I hang the tarsal glands above the licking branch and they serve to attract deer to the mock scrape site even after the rut.

There is something thrilling about capturing a picture of a deer utilizing a mock scrape you made.  Maybe it is the satisfaction of a plan coming together, or maybe it is the feeling that you were able to successfully manipulate that deer’s behavior.  Either way, mock scrapes can be a useful tool and a rewarding activity as long as you manage your expectations and utilize them intelligently.

Below are some year-round photos of deer visiting the mock scrape.  This has become a destination point for the deer on this property.

Have you had experience with making mock scrapes?  Leave your comments below or email me with your thoughts at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte

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