Debunking Common Myths About Scrapes

Debunking Common Myths About Scrapes

I was minutes away from leaving. I’d had enough. More than enough, actually. Enough staring into an incessant bitter wind at a whole lot of nothing. Enough driving and scouting my way through prime whitetail country without seeing a single deer in more than 72 hours. It was mid-November, and I had no time to waste time perched in a tree, quickly losing interest and confidence.

I decided to take one last look down the alley before bailing. And there it was. It was as if I’d somehow willed the buck into existence. The howling wind was dead in my face, and there was no chance the buck would catch my scent. The sliver of timbered cover in the miles of prairie formed a perfect funnel laced with active scrapes. The buck was working one as it headed my way. The destination scrape was about 10 steps from the base of my tree.

The buck never got there. I put a broadhead down between its shoulders at a distance of three steps.

That buck from several years ago helped solidify a whitetail strategy that I continue to use today. It is, without question, the most consistent program I’ve used. It’s also stupidly simple. It revolves entirely around scrapes, and in order to figure the process out, I had to forget almost everything I thought I knew about hunting scrapes.

Why scrapes? Because scrapes put me on bucks faster than any other type of sign. Scrapes (and rubs) are the only type of sign that offers positive proof—it was left by bucks, and only scrapes provide the ability to tell with relative certainty that bucks are actively visiting the site.

But what about all that stuff that says scrapes only produce during certain parts of the season or that hunting near scrapes wastes time because they’re generally visited at night? Myths were meant to be busted. And these scrape myths, as far as I’m concerned, have been busted wide open.

The Nocturnal Notion

Most of the scrapes I’ve placed cameras over do see frequent after-dark activity. But not every photo was in the dark. And not every scrape showed even a majority of after-dark activity.

There were very clearly scrapes that were preferred by bucks during daylight hours. Some of those scrapes were even located along the edges of fields. But don’t take my word for it. Find some scrapes, hang some cameras over them, and see whether this nocturnal myth is factual.

Scrape Activity Peaks Just Before the Rut Fires Up

This isn’t really a myth. It is, in fact, quite true. However, the message this myth has spread is misleading at best. The fact is, targeting scrape areas is a dynamite tactic in the week when the first does come into heat and the rut gets crazy. But scrapes are also outstanding places to target in September, October, and throughout most of November as well.

Again, when I started to place my scouting, camera, and hunting focus on scrapes, I quickly learned that while there was a bump in activity in late October, those scrape areas proved to be consistent producers of buck activity throughout the fall. And, again, because scrapes are positive indicators of buck activity and it’s easy to determine whether they are being actively visited by bucks, the allure of scrapes as a primary focus of hunting effort makes a ton of sense.

Once the Rut Kicks Off, Bucks Abandon Scrapes

Again, there is a modicum of truth to this myth. But it is another overhyped and misleading notion. Yes, when most does are ready to breed, scrapes draw a bit less attention from neighborhood bucks.

Trailcam data, however, proves without question that scrapes—especially those primary scrape areas with multiple scrapes in a confined area—continue to be part of a prowling buck’s game plan.

No, a buck actively tending a hot doe isn’t likely to stroll past an active scrape. But once he’s done with the doe, guess where he’s headed. That buck will be on the lookout for another hot doe and will check bedding areas and, you guessed it, those scrape areas. Why? Because does utilize scrapes as well, and those scrape areas are generally in or near hubs of deer activity.

The End Game

My scouting efforts are far more productive now than before simply because I’m focusing solely on sign that only bucks can leave: Scrapes.

Speed-scouting a new area is more efficient because I’m not trying to decipher trails, tracks, food sources, or other intangibles that could be considered. I’m not saying those things are unimportant or that you can’t find a killer spot by looking at them. You can. But, for me, scrapes are where the bucks are.

Feature image via Matt Hansen.

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