Mock Scrapes for Mature Bucks
By Todd Amenrud
Using a buck’s scrapes as the focal point to get close enough for a bow-shot is a proven tactic from late September through December. However without the use of a trail camera or a Magnum Scrape Dripper it might be difficult to determine when a scrape is being hit. A good number of scrapes are made and seldom freshened again, and a good majority of scrapes are made nocturnally. Knowing which scrape areas to target and when to strike are keys to hunting scrapes effectively. Mock scrapes can often assist in deceiving a mature buck into making that one, fatal mistake.
Mock scrapes are a great way to entice bucks into an area. My best luck comes from making a series of mock scrapes and using Magnum Scrape Drippers over them - my own fake "scrape-line" so to say. The Magnum Drippers are heat activated so they drip during daylight hours. This conditions bucks into showing up during legal shooting light and hanging around in the area longer. This method is tried and true for targeting bucks pre-rut and again post-rut.
Targeting the right area is important. You can't just target any overhanging branch and expect to create a successful mock scrape. For a buck, a scrape doesn’t actually begin on the ground - it starts with the “licking branch” hanging over the scrape area – usually about five to six feet high. So obviously the site must have at least one branch the correct height. I suggest targeting areas already being used by your target buck. Other good spots tend to be funnels connecting one wood lot to another, secluded food plots, or areas you know to have been good scrape areas year after year.
I tend to pay less attention to scrapes made on field perimeters and concentrate on ones closer to bedding areas. You want to seek out an area that your target buck is claiming as his, then push in and make it look and smell like there's a rival buck moving in on his turf. Look for the areas with the largest scrapes, spots that contain numerous scrapes or clusters of scrapes, and scrapes that you know have been freshened again and again.
Once I find the area, I search out the same type of tree with the same height overhanging branch (licking branch) that the buck originally approved of. This interaction branch is usually about five to six feet off of the ground. Try to duplicate the variables that the specific buck you're after preferred – the height of the branch, the same type of tree, etc. You can actually use the buck’s existing scrapes - in the whitetail world the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often then not I’ll make my own scrape, trying to copy the specifics found with the buck’s existing scrapes.
The actual mock scrape is best created with a sturdy stick found in the area, or a rake can make very fast work of this job. However, just as with any gear you use in this process the rake must be as free of foreign odor as possible – don’t select a rake that’s been hanging near your vehicle’s exhaust in your garage and expect to fool an animal with the sense of smell of a whitetail. Try to make the scrape on flat ground (if possible) and make sure it is free from all debris. Again, be careful not to transfer human scent to the spot. Clean rubber-bottomed boots and gloves should be worn to reduce scent-transfer.
After collecting data from mock scrape locations set up both, at mock scrapes and natural existing scrapes without drippers, there’s no question that you’re odds are significantly better at scrapes, or scrape areas, that have Magnum Scrape Drippers. This wasn’t conducted as a scientific study, but I would say your odds are at least double when using dripper(s).
I prefer a set-up that initially varies the scent used in each. I believe with more than one "mock" you’re increasing your chances that something's going to be right with at least one of them that will draw a response. I’ve used as many as six drippers and created as many as a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My two favorite scents are Active Scrape, and Trail's End #307 used in the dripper. However, you can use any liquid scent as long as it will flow through the dripper.
The idea is to let your drippers freshen the site for you by dispersing scent during daylight hours, conditioning bucks to show up earlier in the day and spend more time at the site. If I check the spot before I hunt it and see that a preference is shown towards one scent over another, I will change the rest of the drippers to that scent. Use your best judgment, if the site is smoking hot with fresh sign back out and hunt the spot as soon as the conditions permit it. If you want things to “build” for a while, then refresh the drippers with new scent.
Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up that I have are the “mock rubs” I also suggest creating. With a pruner or wood-rasp, I rake-up as many two to six-inch saplings as possible. A real intruder buck would also mark the territory in this way. If the bucks in the area aren’t rub-crazy, don’t go overboard. On the rubs, and in various other places around the set-up, I use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus. This scent could be classified as a territorial intrusion scent. The illusion I want to create is that a foreign buck has moved in on his breeding territory. Select Buck Urine is sometimes also placed out at several key places in the area.
Timing is critical for mock scrapes to work consistently. In the Midwest I seem to have my best luck from the second week of October through the first week of November, and then again after Thanksgiving and into the first part of December. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding, mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be actively protecting breeding territory.
As mentioned, when creating your set-up you must be cautious of scent-transfer. Rubber gloves should be worn to avoid leaving smells on the overhanging branch. Elbow length trapper’s gloves work perfectly for this. Super Charged Scent Killer should be sprayed on your boots and clothing to help reduce odors before you access the site.
Another little secret is to hang your drippers on a higher branch above the interaction branch. This keeps them from getting a good whiff of any foreign odors that may have permeated the dripper's cloth cover. I like to pull down a higher branch with my pruner and hang the dripper on it, just make sure the scent will drip into the scrape. It’s OK if some of the scent also hits the licking branch too, I haven’t seen this influence results at all.
Don't expect your exact mock scrape(s) to necessarily get hit. Sometimes they may interact directly with your creation, sometimes they don’t. However, my goals are to simply draw them to the area during legal shooting light and hold them there for a longer period of time; I don’t care if they touch my mock scrape as long as I get the shot.
A hunter should use all other aids and information in conjunction with scrapes. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are at that time, where your target buck is bedding, and where he may have other hot scrape areas. Take in the "big picture" of the whole area and use all of the scrapes in relationship with other factors before making your set-up.
Photo credit, buck photo: Tony Campbell