The Real Dirt on Hunting Scrapes

Posted on March 29, 2013

If you thought hunting a scrape was useless, then you’d better think again. Here’s the right strategy that will produce serious results.


Let’s say I was visiting my home town and wanted to find a certain guy, my unrequited crush from high school. I wondered what he’d look like now, where he spent most of his time, and more importantly, was he with someone?


I grabbed a slice at a pizza place, where I didn’t see anyone I knew, and had the same result the next evening at a Chinese restaurant. But the next morning, I took a counter seat at the neighborhood coffee shop, where I learned everything about everybody.


In fact, I figured if I frequented that coffee shop, odds were that I’d soon see my crush. In fact, sooner or later I’d see everybody in town and I might even see a new guy, even better than the guy I sought.


I hope you know where I’m going with this. The pizza place and the Chinese restaurant are akin to secondary scrapes. The local coffee shop, well, that’s the primary scrape, where everybody learns everybody else’s business.


As you plan your strategy for hunting season, here’s a key thing to remember: the coffee shop is routinely visited year round. The pizza place and Chinese restaurant aren’t visited as often; in fact, a visit to those places may be a one-time deal.


“A mature buck can make in excess of 200 scrapes a year, and several studies have shown that we’re lucky if the buck consistently reworks a dozen of them—the remaining 188 scrapes fall into the ‘random’ category,” said Steve Bartylla in his book, Advanced Stand-hunting Strategies. “In short, random scrapes make up the vast majority of scrapes found in the woods but are all but worthless to hunt. Once made, they’re rarely looked at again.”


bow hunter

There are primary and secondary bucks scrapes. The primary ones are of the most important to hunters, as bucks will regularly visit these, whereas secondary scrapes get visited much less regularly, making them poor hunting spots. When hunting a particular scrape, be sure you’re setup within 20 yards of the prevailing downwind side of the scrape. This will put you in the best position for a shot and to catch bucks scent checking further downwind of the area.


How Deer Use Scrapes

The old belief that a primary scrape is “controlled” by the area’s dominant buck has been thrown out the window by lots of research. In fact, to sum up the research, scrapes are visited by all ages of deer and serve as a communal property for a number of reasons.


Another common belief was that deer always scraped at the scrape, which is not true, according to research.


“Half the bucks that come to scrapes don’t do a thing,” wrote Dr. Dave Samuel and Robert Zaiglin in Whitetail Advantage. “Two common behaviors are marking the overhanging limb and rub-urination.”


Both bucks and does perform rub-urination—bringing the knee joints of the back legs together and urinating over the tarsal gland. This behavior is done throughout the year but most often the week prior to the rut.


“The key is that rub-urination in bucks is tied to his testosterone levels and the doe’s estrogen levels,” Dr. Samuel and Zaiglin continue in Whitetail Advantage. “It is most prominently done by bucks just prior to the peak of the rut.”


bow hunter

The licking branch is a critical part of a primary scrape, as it contains the most important pre-orbital gland odor of deer. If you happen to find a good scrape in a bad hunting spot, you can move the overhanging branch to a new location, and then make your own mock scrape setup.


In all of the research, game cameras are positioned at scrapes and deer identified. Their visits are noted and counted. At first glance, it would seem disheartening to those of us who are tempted to hunt scrapes—the majority of the older bucks never visited the scrape more than once or twice.


There’s a reason for that. The scenting ability of the whitetail is so amazingly good that those older bucks have learned they don’t need to bother with all that scraping and urination in the scrapes. In fact, they ARE “visiting” the scrape, by making a scent check at a distance.


Go back to the coffee shop analogy. You know how it is when you hit your local spot. You know who’s there from the vehicles in the parking lot. If you’re looking for a certain person, you don’t need to go inside.


“When selecting a tree, I look for the one best suited to hide me, that just happens to sit about 20 yards on the prevailing downwind side of the scrape,” Bartylla advised in Advanced Stand-Hunting Strategies. “This placement allows me to shoot to the scrape, as well as catch bucks that are scent-checking it from as far as 50 yards downwind of the scrape.”


By Lisa Price

Author’s Note: To learn more about Smokey’s Deer Lures, visit or call 304-564-4087.

 For the full article, check out the May issue of Bow & Arrow Hunting!



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