Deer Scents | Create Mock Scrapes to Kill Big Bucks
Create Mock Scrapes This Season for Better Intel and Hunting
If you’ve hunted deer for very long or just spend a lot of time in the woods, you’ve probably seen a few kinds of deer sign. Trails, rubs, beds, and scrapes are all important types of deer sign that hunters can use to pattern deer and make them more “hunt-able.” But sometimes the deer sign you find isn’t located in the best spot, which makes hunting over it really hard. In these cases, you could make mock scrapes yourself to alter deer movement patterns and bring them in closer to a strategic hunting location or trail camera site. If you haven’t used this method before, you’re in for a surprise. The first time you catch a buck pausing over one of your mock scrapes for a sniff, or better yet, working the scrape, you’ll be addicted to this approach.
Why Should You Make Mock Scrapes?
There are three reasons why you should make your own mock scrapes this bow hunting season: attraction, distraction, and action. Let’s look at each of these reasons a little more closely.
- Attraction – Deer love to use mock scrapes as a way to check in with each other. Think of it as their version of email. They deposit their scent into the scrape by urinating in it and depositing other scents from glands. This lets other deer know they’re there and lets them know their status (i.e., whether they’re ready to breed, dominance, etc.). If they notice new mock scrapes popping up, you can be sure they’re going to check it out. This makes them attractive to both trail camera sites and bow hunting
- Distraction – Once a buck discovers a deer scrape within his home turf, he’s fairly likely to continue checking it with some regularity. At least while he’s around. When they inspect and urinate into them, they are pretty distracted, which takes possible attention off of you or a trail camera.
- Action – While the deer are distracted by your mock scrape, it’s a little easier for you to draw your Hoyt bow back and have the time you need to pull off a calm and collected shot.
How to Create a Mock Scrape
Since they’re such a useful tactic to include in our deer hunting approach, let’s now focus on how to make a mock scrape using the best methods (for the best results).
The first thing you should consider before you make a mock scrape is the best spot for it. If you make one in a location you can’t hunt effectively, you won’t be able to take advantage of it and it will be a waste of time. Find a spot along a natural habitat edge, where two different land cover types meet. Deer like to travel along habitat edges, so you know that deer should be able to find it once you make it. Find a well-used trail along this edge for extra confirmation and a more focused site location. Ideally, this trail will also cross between feeding areas and bedding areas, or between known buck bedding areas and doe bedding areas. Now consider the access. Will you be able to stealthily sneak in and hunt the spot or is it too exposed? Bucks will likely check these scrapes in the morning and evening (after and before feeding, respectively), or throughout the day as the rut approaches. Make sure there is a suitable tree for a tree stand downwind from the scrape site, preferably in a spot where you won’t have to cross the deer trail.
Once you’ve identified a spot that meets these criteria, it gets a little simpler. Just find a tree near the deer trail with a branch hanging at about deer head height (four feet or so). This is your new scrape location. The branch is important because bucks like to deposit scent on it via small glands near their eyes and on their forehead. The spot underneath the branch should be clear of thick vegetation or shrubs so that you can scratch the soil surface up easily.
Mock scrapes don’t need to be huge to be effective. Most natural scrapes you see in the woods are only about two feet across, usually in a circular or triangular shape. Some larger community scrapes that are used by many deer can be five feet across over time, but most are not nearly that big (especially early in the season). Aim for about two feet across when making mock scrapes as a good starting point. This is large enough for deer to notice and easy to install.
Just as scent control is critical for low-impact hunting, it’s also important while making your mock scrape to keep the scrape site and the surrounding area free of any outside smells. Remember, a scrape is meant to concentrate deer activity to smell it, so they’ll be actively sniffing around the area. This is not the time to get careless with your scent elimination efforts.
When you go into the field to make your mock scrapes, wear your best scent elimination clothing and durable rubber boots. Bone Collector Clothing and Old Dominion have you covered there. Together, they provide a really solid barrier to scent dispersal while you’re setting your scrape up or hunting. Try to never step in the scrape site itself, and don’t use your feet to scratch the dirt, even if you’re wearing rubber boots. If you’ll be using scents, as recommended, you should also wear a pair of latex gloves to keep it uncontaminated. They’re cheap and easy to stash with you. Try not to touch the licking branch at all, unless you’re applying scent to it with your gloves on.
Making a Mock Scrape
Now let’s talk about how to physically make a mock scrape. Many people use a garden trowel to scratch the leaves away from the soil in order to make their scrapes. But that could potentially spread other scents around and it’s one more piece of equipment to bring with you. Instead, simply grab a strong branch from the area (using your latex gloves) and scratch the ground up with that. When you’re done, you can simply toss it aside without fear of raising suspicion. Start immediately under the licking branch and scratch into the dirt, flinging the leaves, grasses, and other debris off to the outside edge. Continue in this fashion until you have a good shape roughed out. Then simply make a few deep gouges to expose the soil further. Remember, deer hooves are sharp and can cut into the ground pretty effectively. Next, it’s time for deer scent.
Deer Scents and Mock Scrapes
This is the fun part where you can get really creative with your mock scrape scenarios. Deer are naturally attracted to the smell of overturned earth, likely because they associate it with scrapes anyway. To really sweeten the pot, so to speak, you can fool their nose using their own scent to simulate a scenario you choose. Using deer scents on mock scrapes will prime your mock scrapes for deer activity and encourage other deer to use them.
How to use deer scents may be confusing at first. They’re not all the same, and using the wrong one in the wrong spot or season might do more harm than good. For example, while doe urine can be used throughout the season without any issues, using estrous scent in a buck scrape in September won’t be nearly as believable, and may even push some wise bucks away.
That being said, deer are cautiously curious animals. While they don’t usually go running in to investigate every smell or sound they encounter, they will occasionally sneak in to do so. That’s why many whitetail attractant scents on the store shelves contain vanilla, apple, or anise smells. They draw deer in to see what it is. But the problem is that they will likely only check it out once or twice. Bone Collector Scents, on the other hand, are pure and created using real urine. If you think about it, that makes a lot more sense. If bucks are actively looking for estrous does in the fall, wouldn’t it be better to apply the scent of a single doe in heat to a scrape (just like a real doe would), rather than applying all kinds of other curiosity smells to the woods?
You can use any appropriate deer scents alone, or a combination of them, to trick whitetails into thinking something different. For example, a few drops of buck urine or scrape mate alone will let other deer know that a buck likely visited the scrape last. Some doe estrous scent during the pre-rut to post-rut will let a traveling buck know that a doe in heat is nearby. If you combine these two scents in the same mock scrape, you’ll create a more realistic scenario, where a lone buck is following the estrous doe with the intent to breed her.
Bone Collector King O’ The Wood Whitetail Full Rut Buck Attractant
You can also use buck tarsal gland scent in the scrape itself with forehead gland and preorbital gland scent on the licking branch above to add further realism that a rutting buck made the scrape. You can apply the preorbital scent directly to the branch, but it will last longer and disperse more if you apply it to scent wicks or scent wafers.
Bone Collector Urge Whitetail Doe Full Estrus Attractant
By using these deer scents again alone or in combination you are making an extremely attractive point for both hunting and for your trail cameras.
Mock Scrapes and Trail Cameras
There are a few ways you can use scrapes for hunting. The first is to simply scratch a new one into the ground on your way out to the tree stand. This approach is useful during the pre-rut period when bucks are actively moving and looking for does throughout the day. As a buck moves along a high-percentage spot (like a field edge), he will see or smell your mock scrapes. When he sees that it is freshly made and has the scent of an estrous doe with a buck hot on her heels, you can bet he’s going to check the area out more thoroughly. Depending on how far the scrape is from your tree stand, it’s helpful to have your Bushnell binoculars at the ready throughout your hunt, so you can quickly make a decision to shoot or pass.
The other approach is to make a mock scrape in the woods before you intend to hunt it. In this case, you’re basically trying to establish a community scrape in a high-traffic area. The idea is that you will get deer accustomed to using it on their own, which will draw deer in naturally once you decide to hunt. You can then monitor the scrape using Bushnell trail cameras when you’re not in the woods. While you wouldn’t want to check normal trail cameras too often, you would still want to do it enough to know when a shooter buck is using it with some regularity. Now there’s the Trophy Cam HD Aggressor Wireless trail camera, which sends pictures right to your cell phone, tablet, or email. That way, you’ll know exactly when you should call in sick to chase a buck using your scrape.
No matter which approach you go for, each time you enter the woods, make sure you’re using the same methodical scent control procedures that you’d use on a hunt. The last thing you want to do when you finally start getting daytime visits from a nice buck is to let your scent spook him before you even start hunting over mock scrapes.
Other Ways to Sweeten Mock Scrapes
If deer don’t find and use your scrape, there’s no point in you making it in the first place. So you may also want to locate mock scrapes for whitetails near other attractive places from the start. For example, you could make one on the field edge of a small hunting plot. Deer will already be using the food plot during hunting season, and most of it should be within bow range of your stand if it’s a hunting plot. Putting a scrape here makes sense because deer are sure to find it and you can take advantage of its location to hunt it and the food plot at the same time. You could also use a scent drag system to lay a scent trail from your scrape going closer to your tree stand for a better bow shot.
Where legal, you may also want to place it adjacent to an existing or new mineral station or other attractants. Big & J is the best deer scent attractant for that purpose. They come in a solid block, granular, and liquid form with various scents and flavors that offer long-range attraction power. Again, deer will already be drawn to these areas, so you’ll just need to take the steps above to be within easy hunting distance of a nice buck.
While it’s not very difficult to make a mock scrape, it’s extremely useful as a hunting tactic to attract and hold deer long enough for you to make a good shot. Consider adding it to your bag of tricks this season and see what happens.
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