I still-hunted into the wind, watching as far into the forest as I could for any sign of movement or brown fur. I love walking through the woods and figuring out where deer travel, bed, feed and interact. It is always a lesson in biology and hunting tactics that changes from year-to-year.
I worked my way to a funnel of land between two large wetlands and no sooner got to the narrowest point when I ran into a fresh scrape. It was money in the bank when it comes to deer hunting. A scrape is like social media in a human’s world. However, instead of online dating, messages, and emoticons, deer leave messages about who they are and what their intentions and needs are to fulfill the circle of life. It is a deer-world web of information on who the dominant buck is, who his competition is, how many ladies have the same zip code, and who might be flirting, or want a more serious date.
An active scrape will see regular traffic from a local deer herd, who keep tabs on each other through the sense of smell. Using different glands and urine, they are sending coded messages that only deer fully understand. A doe that stops at a scrape leaves a note for a buck that screams, “you have mail.”
The big scrape was on the upwind side of several active deer trails, meaning any deer wandering through the area would get a mail notice. I followed the trails and found a series of scrapes laid down in a half-moon pattern over half a mile. Knowing where the deer were traveling and already checking a scrape line, I decided to deliver some unfamiliar mail to the local herd.
I set up a mock scrape within 100 yards of the biggest scrape I could find in the line. I made sure the prevailing winds would take the scent to deer traveling the existing line. One whiff of a new buck in town would certainly draw the formidable competition to the new scrape, or social mail box.
I racked the grass to the bare ground under a large tree and used an overhanging branch to set up a Magnum Scrape-Dripper. The scrape looked and smelled like any of the others I’d run across, but the deer would automatically recognize the smells as something new. Curiosity and competitive nature would bring them in, where they would certainly leave their scent as a strong message.
When setting up a mock scrape, try to hang the dripper about six feet, or higher, off the ground. Deer make scrapes and urinate down their legs to pick up a scent from their tarsal glands, which runs into the scrape itself. It is the social messaging that gets everyone in the neighborhood excited.
It is wise to set up a tree stand or blind before you build the mock scrape. Active deer will check the new mailbox as soon as it is discovered, so plan to reduce activity where you want deer to travel. Put up a trail camera and spray it down with Scent Killer Gold, as deer will come in using their nose to its fullest, and you don’t want any human odor left near the scrape.
Build it, and they will come. The earlier in the season you build the scrape, the more it will get used. Once the rut has kicked into high gear, the bucks will have specific scrapes they check regularly, and you want the mock scrape to be one of them.