The summer months have always been my favorite time to utilize game cameras for scouting deer. While using cameras, I try to take an inventory of how many deer are on one particular property and out of that list I like to note how many bucks help to make up that number. After getting a visual from the cameras of the deer that make up the population of the property I will be hunting on, I make a hit list of how many “shooters” are living in the area. When I first began using game cameras for this purpose, I would normally pour out a variety of food, trying to attract every deer in the country.
Unfortunately, when it came time to view pictures, I would spend most of my time sorting through hundreds of pictures of does, fawns and small immature bucks with only a few mature bucks making an appearance. In hopes of trying to eliminate an excessive number of unwanted pictures and replace them with more quality images, I switched to using only minerals in front of cameras since I seemed to get more buck pictures with this attractant placement. Even though more pictures of bucks and less pictures of does and fawns started taking place, I still wasn’t happy with the ratio of bucks to does on camera. Thus, I began seeking other options to attract more bucks when trying to scout for the upcoming season. This is the moment in which I discovered using mock scrapes, partnered with deer scent during the late summer and early fall.
When I was first turned on to using scent and mock scrapes during late summer, I thought this is a crazy idea. As with most hunters, I was only familiar with using scent during mid-October and November with the soul purpose to attract bucks because of breeding purposes. Hence, why I wondered how using this combo during the summer was going to work. The fact is, bucks use scrapes throughout most of the year. The difference being that scrapes throughout the year, other than during the pre-rut and rut, have an entirely different meaning.
During the breeding season, scrapes are made by a buck to show his presence in the area and to also create a place for does to leave their scent when getting closer to breed. Bucks in the area will check on other bucks’ scrapes in hopes of finding does first. I have personally explained these types of activity by relating it to that of humans. A doe visiting a scrape is kind of like a female leaving her phone number for the male, saying look me up, I am interested. However, a scrape during the early season is a totally different scenario.
A scrape during the early season or latter part of summer is more like a sign-up sheet to see who all will be participating during the upcoming season. During this time of year, bucks will make scrapes to merely show their presence in the area. Other bucks in the area will investigate, leaving their scent behind as well, as a way of saying “I am here too”. This routine eventually leads to the dominance amongst bucks heading into fall. This works to a hunter’s advantage when scouting, as they can go into an area and make a mock scrape, then hang a Stealth Cam game camera in front of the scrape to capture all the different bucks in the area that come to check in. This gives the hunter a better inventory of what bucks are in the area, without capturing an abundance of other deer along the way.
How and Where To Make Mock Scrapes
When looking for a mock scrape area during the early season, mainly in the month of September, for scouting purposes is not much different than in mid-October. Finding a good travel route from a food source to a bedding area is a great place to put a mock scrape. Once a travel route is found, I look for a over-hanging branch. This “licking branch” is great for bucks to rub the top of their heads, leaving forehead gland scent on the branches for other bucks to know who has been there. As when making mock scrapes during mid-October, I am still scent cautious about my own human scent during this time as well. Even though I will not be hunting these scrapes, I still do not want any deer to be spooked in these areas.
Before entering the woods and seconds before getting to the specific area where the mock scrape will be located, I spray my entire body especially the bottoms of my feet, with Scent Killer Gold scent eliminating spray. The scent control efforts continue as I am creating the mock scrape. I will always use a limb or some other natural object to rake out the leaves of the scrape. I never use my feet to clean out a scrape in order to prevent leaving any odors that might still be lingering. Once the scrape is made, I hang a Wildlife Research Center Super Charged Scent Dripper with Golden Buck scent. Using a scent dripper keeps the scrape fresh for a week or so without having to re-freshen with scent, thus eliminating multiple trips to the scrape and taking the risk of spooking deer. Using the Golden Buck scent simulates that of a buck checking in and encourages other bucks to do the same.
During the latter part of September, I will also use Wildlife Research Center’s Golden Scrape scent which has a combination of doe urines along with buck scents, which is a combination of scents that will be commonly found in a scrape. Another precaution one can take when worrying about leaving human scent is by using a wireless game camera such as the Stealth Cam WXA camera which allows viewing of pictures without having to pull a memory card. Again, the less one visits the area, the less human scent is brought into the area. One must remember that in late summer or early fall, especially early September, it is most likely that bucks are still in bachelor groups. This means that when a buck comes to visit a mock scrape, there is a good chance that the other bucks in the bachelor group will visit as well. I never want to spook a deer by having them smell my human scent, but I am even more concerned when it is a group of bucks that I want to stay in the area throughout the hunting season.
As for how long one should continue with mock scrapes, I usually leave them until bucks begin splitting out of a group and began fighting to see who the dominant buck is going to be. Once they establish who the king of the woods is for that year, I will re-establish mock scrapes in mid-October when scraping is done to attract does.
The main reason most hunters use game cameras throughout the year is to see what deer are in the area. Even though some do not like to admit it, we are all hoping for a buck of a lifetime to show himself on camera. By taking advantage of using mock scrapes during the earlier parts of the season, one will increase the odds of finding mature bucks, allowing the hunter the ability to narrow down the hit list so that throughout the season they have knowledge of what bucks could show at any given time.