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Hunting Scrapes

Old 10-14-2008, 12:40 AM
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Default Hunting Scrapes

I copied this from T.R.Michels website, wth his permission:

This is an excerpt from my Complete Whitetail Addict's Manual.
Hunting Whitetail Scrapes
By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors

After seven years of whitetail scrape research I have to admit that I'm a firm believe in using scrapes to determine which rut phase the deer are in, to determine where the bucks are most active throughout the day and night, and to determine what time of the day the bucks are most active. Once I have determined which rut phase the bucks are in (so I know how active they may be during daylight hours) determined that scrapes in particular areas are getting hit on a regular basis; and determined which scrapes are getting hit most often during daylight hours, I have a pretty good idea of where I should setup to hunt for bucks.
One of the best times to hunt bucks is during the scraping phase (which often occurs from mid to late October in states above the 40th parallel), because it is when buck are often most active and predictable in where and when they move during daylight hours. But, you can use the information you gain from checking scrapes regularly to hunt bucks during the entire hunting season.

Hunting the different Rut Phases
Bucks begin traveling their rub routes, working licking branches, and using some scrapes during the Pre-Rut/Rubbing and Dispersal Phases, as much as two months before peak breeding. Even though these Pre-Rut/Rubbing and Dispersal Phase scrapes may not be used regularly they can be productive as hunting sites when they first appear in September or October. If these early scrapes are traditional they may also be used during the Primary Breeding Phase, and again during the Post Primary Breeding Phase of the rut.
The best time to see bucks at scrapes is during the Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase, the two to three weeks just before peak breeding activity. Because of their strong rutting urge buck's leave their beds earlier than normal at this time, and they may check the scrapes near their bedding area before sunset as they make their nightly rounds. They may also return to their beds later than normal in the morning after looking for does all night, and they may check the scrapes along their route near their bedding area after sunrise.
Although bucks may not regularly visit scrapes during the Primary Breeding Phase they often travel the areas where both traditional and non-traditional scrapes occur (in travel corridors leading to and from bedding areas and food sources; in staging areas near food sources; and near doe core areas), as they look for or tend does. This is why you should pay close attention to all scrapes, especially those near food sources and doe areas.
During the Post Primary Breeding Phase the dominant bucks that are not worn out, and some aggressive subdominants, may start traveling rub routes and making new scrapes, or re-using previous scrapes. Most of this scraping activity will occur near doe use areas, and at staging areas near food sources. When the bucks no longer find evidence of estrous does they usually return to the security of their core areas to rest and put on weight for the remainder of the rut and the winter. During the six years of my study I seldom saw dominant bucks outside their core areas in daylight hours during the Rest Phase.
Does that were not bred (or did not conceive) during the Primary Breeding Phase may come into another estrous about a month later. Older does, and some yearling and unhealthy does, may come into their first estrous at this time. This is when bucks start traveling rub routes and making scrapes again as they search for these estrous does. The bucks are not as aggressive during this late breeding phase as they were earlier, and they may travel together to and from food sources. I often see bucks moving during the early evening and late morning hours at this time, especially when there is cold weather and cloud cover.
Hunting Secluded Areas
Although bucks start to move more during daylight hours as the rut progresses, they are still security conscious. As I noted in an earlier chapter, the scrapes made in September and early October were often in open areas where the deer feed at night. Obviously, many of these open area/field edge scrapes are unproductive hunting sites, because the bucks usually visit them at night. But, as scraping activity increased in the last two weeks of October, more scrapes opened up in wooded areas, in brushy ravines, along creek and river bottoms, along over grown logging roads, and on wooded benches on the sides of hills; places where the bucks could move during the day, but where they felt safe. As the rut progressed more of these secluded area scrapes were used, and fewer of the open area scrapes were used. Many of these secluded area scrapes occurred along rub routes. This suggests that the best scrapes to hunt are those that are in secluded areas, where there is a rub route that the buck uses at it moves during the day.
Hunting the Right Scrapes
Which scrapes should you hunt? That depends on when and why the scrapes are used. Scrapes made early in the season may be made simply out of rutting urge, and they may not be used again. Scrapes made near early seasonal food sources may not be used after the food is gone and the does stop using the food source; this often occurs after the breeding period. Recently used scrapes made after the breeding period may be the scrapes of subdominants that begin scraping because the older bucks have quit checking their scrapes and exerting dominance over the younger bucks; the older bucks are busy chasing does.
Once you have found a secluded area scrape that looks like it is recently used try to determine whether or not it is being used frequently. The best way to do that is to check it daily, and if you have the opportunity you might as well hunt it while you are checking it. Frequently used scrapes that do not show recent use should be noted because they may be traditional scrapes, used at specific times during the season. Try to figure out why the scrape was used and when, then use the information to hunt the area next year.
If a scrape is near an all season food source (browse, clover) and a more preferred food source (acorns, corn) becomes available, the deer may abandon the area. A scrape in this area may be re-opened later if the food source is still there. Frequently used scrapes showing recent use should be watched closely and hunted. Frequently used scrapes of any type are often traditional; used year after year; used by subsequent dominant bucks; used by numerous bucks; and are possibly checked by all bucks in the area. Frequently used traditional scrapes in secluded areas may be used during the day and often occur in travel corridors and near doe use areas.
Scrape Lines
It is difficult to predict which scrapes to hunt, and when to hunt them; because most scraping occurs at night; because bucks begin to scrape more in the day during the Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase and Primary Breeding Phase; and because scraping by individual bucks does not occur on a regular schedule. Since there is no reliable way of predicting when or how often a buck will scrape, the best thing to do is choose the right area and hunt it when the conditions are right. Although hunting individual scrapes can be productive, you may be better off hunting near areas where numerous scrapes occur; areas referred to as scrape lines, especially if the area contains several traditional scrapes.
Scrape lines often occur in travel corridors connecting daytime bedding areas and nighttime food sources that are used by both does and bucks. These travel corridors may contain several traditional scrapes. Scrape lines may also occur in staging areas, often downwind of food sources. Scrape lines containing more than one traditional scrape should be your first choice as a hunting site. Remember, because of their semi-open location, many traditional scrapes are used at night, but they are likely to be used during the day in the Pre-Primary Breeding Phase.
Groups of Scrapes
Groups of scrapes often occur in staging areas that are near food sources. Although these may seem like good areas to hunt, they may not be. Bucks often scent check scrapes from downwind before they approach the scrape, and they may not even approach the scrape. This means that bucks are extremely wary near scrapes, particularly where there are numerous scrapes that numerous bucks may be using. The best way to hunt scrape lines and staging areas is to find the rub routes the bucks use as they approach the scrapes, and then set up crosswind or downwind of where you expect the bucks to check the scrapes from.
Conclusions
The farther a scrape is from the buck's bedding area, the more likely it is that the scrape is used during the night. This means that the scrapes that are most likely to be used during the day are: those in wooded or otherwise secludes areas; those near the buck's bedding site; those along its route as it leaves its bed in the afternoon; and those along its route as it returns to its bed in the morning. The best place and time to hunt scrape lines is during the Pre-Primary Breeding Phase in the morning and evening, as close to the bedding area as you can get without alarming the buck. You can also hunt scrapes during the Primary Breeding Phase and Post Primary Breeding Phase, because the bucks may travel all day in search of estrous does, and they often cruise scrape lines throughout the day; which is when you should be prepared to hunt all day.

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