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Do Elk Make Scrape Lines?

Old 11-09-2008, 12:23 PM
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Default Do Elk Make Scrape Lines?

T.R. Michels posted this on the COFA forum so I'm posting it here.

I got this e-mail and thought you would find it interesting:

TR, I have taken your description of the scent area below the licking limb (dry wallow) because it is what it looked like. The wallow was a shallow bowl that had a dark wet spot in the middle and looked like an elk has lain in it. When you grabbed some of the dark dirt and smelled it you found a distinct pheromone odor with no strong urine smell. Quite pleasant to be exact.

I observed this behavior in an area that had Mule deer. The limbs were about 5 to 6 feet off the ground. It appeared that the elk had chewed the limbs or twisted the limbs with their antlers to break them. It did not look like they had thrashed them though. The limbs hung over the dry wallow like deer limbs do over scrapes.

I am quite sure these were not deer made scrapes because the scent in the dry wallow was quite pheromone in nature without any strong urine odor. I have found these same dry wallows in elk bedding areas also without the licking limb.

I would hear the elk working these areas during the morning mostly up til about noon. The lines were mostly on ridge spines, although I did find a line on a bench that was used by elk bugling. I found the most prevalent ones on ridges that were surrounding bowls. I figured they were so the bugles would carry like turkeys work bowls.

This all was happening from Aug thru Sept like you said from velvet off to mating. I usually hunted from opening day thru the second week in Sept. No later than Sept 20.
It also was my observation that the same bulls were working the lines of dry wallows and most were mature bulls. I would hear them work the bowl from one end of the ridge to the other. I had good success at intercepting them on these lines. I used this knowledge for hunting and it worked.
It seemed to me that these were resident bulls not wanders because the bugling was recognizable and they were the same bulls working these lines. They didn't work the same lines each day. It may be like every other day or so.

I hope this will explain my observations better. If you have any more questions please feel free to ask.


And I responded with this:

What you describe sounds like elk thrashing (and possibly chewing) branches with their antlers. As I said - I've seen them do this, and it may result in minimal damage, so it could resemble the overhanging branch at a whitetail scrape.

What you describe sounds like dry wallows, with the scent from them being the scent associated with elk urine. It does not smell like whitetail urine, possibly because bull elk have a scent gland on their belly, just in front of the penal shaft, and some of the odor we smell could be from this. But, most bull elk smell like you describe.

The activity you describe (because it occurs in August and early September, when the bulls may not have gathered a harem yet or are looking for more cows) is activity associated with the pre-breeding phase; when the bulls may not be with cows yet or may be lookiing to add more cows to a harem. Or - it could be bull without a harem. And if the bulls did not have a harem of more than 5 cows, and they did not wander a lot, but used the same areas on a regular basis, it might result in the scenario you describe.

I don't think scrape-ines are activity normally associated with elk rutting behavior, but more a consequence of the elk not wandering a lot. In most areas, elk wander quite a bit, using up to 40 square miles as a fall home range, meaning they may be on another mountain the next day, and not return at all, or return a few to several days later.
With fragmentation of elk habitat, and elk using agricultural lands more (as forage areas), we may see more of this.

Do you know if they had cows with them, and if so how many cows?

God bless,

T.R. Michels
Trinity Mountain Outdoors
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Old 11-09-2008, 08:49 PM
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Default RE: Do Elk Make Scrape Lines?

i read this whole thing and im still a little confused but why wouldnt they make scrape lines....
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Old 11-09-2008, 09:10 PM
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Location: McCall Idaho USA
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Default RE: Do Elk Make Scrape Lines?

No, in a nutshell elk do not have established rutting/scrape lines that are checked on daily for extended periods of the rut like whitetails! Elk have staging/displaying areas that are used yearly in July, Aug, & early Sept. They do not use these rubbing/raking areas in an effort to attract cows. They would attract other bulls first before any cows would be interested. Bulls use vocalness for the most part calling cows their way or in a form of advertising their positions!

Too, elk frequent large areas & rarely stay in one area more than 3 weeks at one time, in most cases 7-10 days--A lot can depend on herd size & feed/water/cover! Scrape/Rub lines would be of no use!

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