A friend who is completely new to deer hunting and is eagerly reading, learning and asking questions of hunters he knows asked me a few weeks ago about mock scrapes.
Specifically, he wanted to know what they are and how they work. I had to think of a good, clear and concise explanation. Sometimes when we’re so tuned in to hunting, fishing or something else, we automatically think other folks know what’s going on. New hunters and anglers are everywhere learning about the outdoors, which is cool.
I told him deer, bucks primarily, will rake or ‘scrape’ the ground with their front hooves below or near an overhanging branch of a tree. Then they’ll put their rear hooves in the exposed dirt, pee on the tarsal glands on their ankles, and then lick or chew the overhanging branch before rubbing their head and antlers on it. That’s a deer’s signpost, a way of letting other deer know it’s his territory, and then other bucks and does will sniff and leave their unique scent.
A mock scrape is just a faux scrape created by a hunter to give that buck a little psycho twist. They’re pretty easy to make, as Charles Alsheimer explains in this episode of Deer Talk Now when he’s describing making overhanging licking branches.
Mock scrapes are fun to make and hunt near, of course. I cover myself with Scent Killer Gold, pretty liberally, before going into the area with a small shovel and gear. When I find a spot, I’ll clip off limbs as Alsheimer suggested (gotta watch that video link above!) and then clean out the scrape site. You can juice them up with your favorite deer urine or other scent. The D&DH crew uses the Smokey’s Preorbital gland lure for the overhead licking branch and also the Smokey’s Interdigital gland lure for the actual scrape. Both are powerful, from real deer, and they give bucks fits.
One think about scrapes (and rub lines) is bucks use them not only near or at the peak of the rut, but pretty much throughout autumn after their antlers have hardened and they’re establishing their territory. I know of hunters who start making mock scrapes as early as spring, and see results, and I’ve done the same from mid-summer on at two locations. It’s kind of a “let’s see if this does anything” scenario; sometimes it does, sometimes there’s no change.
I’ve found great scrape lines before in autumn, before cold temps arrive. I think those were early-season travel routes a buck made as he was establishing his territory and the leaves still were on the trees. After leaf-fall, when the area was more open, I think he probably moved deeper into the nearby tract of hardwoods. But those early-season scrape lines can give you an indication of what’s in the area, and you can work those with Smokey’s or your favorite deer urine or attractant, too.
Instead of guessing, too, about when those rubs and scrapes start showing up, keep track of them with a calendar so you’ll know the dates. Write what you see from this season on next year’s month and when you get to that month on the calendar, you’ll know it’s time for the “scrapes, old Johnson well site” to start showing up.