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Hunting Whitetail Deer Scrapes: A Game of Chance?

A scrape is a type of marker created when a deer, typically a buck, removes ground material with its fore-hooves and exposes a patch of soil. Scrapes serve as a form of communication between deer, telling other deer who is in the area, and who’s “home turf,” the area is. Scrapes may also be used to communicate breeding readiness of does in the area.M1140001.JPG

Scrapes are a visual stimulus to deer hunters too. They get our adrenaline pumping because they indicate deer are utilizing a particular area. As hopeful as scrapes make hunters feel, are they an important component of the hunting game plan?

Scrapes can be a vital part of a smart hunting plan, if hunters identify productive scrapes, hunt them properly and understand they’re not a guarantee, but simply an odds changer.

Deer Activity at Scrapes

Indiana deer biologist Chad Stewart reports that buck visitation at scrapes is mostly nocturnal, a fact backed up by trail-camera images showing mature buck activity at night, especially over scrapes.

This data might dissuade many from hunting over scrapes, but experts argue that the small percentage of daytime visitation is well worth attention.

Identifying Productive White-tailed Deer Scrapes

Scrapes are usually found in groups, called scrape lines. So in order to increase the probability of encountering a buck, assess scrapes to identify the primary scrape.

“The biggest mistake hunters make is targeting scrapes that don’t have a meaning,” explains Phillip Vanderpool, veteran hunter and Hunter’s Specialties pro staffer.

To identify a primary scrape, pay attention to scrape construction, size and location of the scrape.

Primary scrapes usuallyPICT1117.JPG

• Contain a visible licking branch, which is an overhanging limb that will most likely appear to be tampered with or broken. Mature bucks rub the overhanging (licking) branch and leave behind chemicals secreted by glands located on the forehead of a buck. The chemicals serve as a form  of communication between deer
• Show as bare dirt, due to regular visitation
• Are larger than satellite (secondary) scrapes

The location of a primary scrape is also important to success.

“Utilize pinch points that funnel deer activity,” Vanderpool says. ” For instance, a scrape present in an area where trail systems come together is an excellent primary scrape. Deer moving along the trails are sure to stop at the scrape, if for not other reason than curiosity. Doing so increases the odds of catching a buck that is checking scrapes as it travels. Also, hunting a travel corridor further increase your odds of success. Deer that may not be interested in the scrape still may travel through the area.”

Phillip Vanderpool’s Three Keys to Hunting Scrapes

After identifying a scrape that appears to be visited regularly, has a licking branch overhead, and is in a good location:

1. Plan to hunt the wind. If a mature buck has any reason to believe that a scrape has been tampered with by other deer, it will most likely circle downwind of the scrape, just to check things out. Therefore it would be beneficial to set up downwind. Bucks usually come in on the downwind side to scent-check the scrape once it’s established.
2. Select a position 30 to 40 yards downwind if possible, to allow for a shot at a deer visiting the scrape, or at a buck traveling the down-wind region.
3. Consider using a dragline to help draw deer from the scrape into a clear shooting lane. A dragline is created by using a piece of material soaked in scent, such as estrous cycle doe urine, that is drug on the ground from the scrape to a possible shooting lane. Nature takes control at this point, when the buck smells the doe, it will likely follow the scent.

As with any hunting scenario, a certain amount of luck is required when hunting scrapes. But if you have a good feeling about a certain set of scrapes, follow your gut and use these tactics to increase odds of success.

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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