Hunters know that making mock scrapes – and ambushing deer near them – can pay big dividends. Like a lot of other deer detectives, Kevin Whitehead of Elsberry, Mo., has learned that sometimes the secret to getting mature bucks to reveal themselves is to play to their need to visit scrapes and leave their own hormone-charged calling cards.
Unlike most hunters, Whitehead begins creating mock scrapes in late spring, months before the rut in the Show-Me State. He also uses unconventional methods for fashioning the pseudo deer sign.
“I use the front loader on my John Deere tractor to create scrapes under pin oaks,” explained Whitehead, who’s a farm manager for Greenwing Farms in Anadda, Mo. “I keep a mowed path around the perimeter of a sizable grassy area that has a bean field on one side, milo on another side and huge timber on the other sides.”
Although Greenwing Farms is primarily used for duck hunting, Whitehead is allowed to deer hunt the 560-acre Pike County, Mo., spread whenever he can get away from his agricultural duties. A game-camera photo revealed seven bucks visiting one of his scrapes at the same time. All of the bucks appeared to have at least 130 inches of jaw-dropping bone, revealing the scrape to be a hotspot of big-buck activity. One of the visitors carried particularly ample antlers.
“I had never seen him before, and I told my cousin Brian Collins that I’ll probably never see him during the daylight, but I’m gonna try anyway,” added Whitehead.
On Halloween morning, Whitehead settled into a cottonwood tree 25 yards from the social scrape. After about 15 minutes, he looked to the southwest and saw a big deer working one of his scrapes. Binoculars revealed it to be the big one, and Whitehead willed the buck to not disappear into the milo field as it nibbled on the licking branch and then moved on.
The buck trotted down the mowed path to the next scrape, now about 150 yards away, and started fervently pawing at the earth. At this point, Whitehead had his Parker crossbow firmly in hand and kept telling himself, “Don’t screw this one up!”
Moments later, the buck finished at the second scrape and headed toward Whitehead. The deer was entirely focused on getting to the next patch of pawed ground and had no idea that a broadhead-tipped bolt would soon be headed its way. As the buck passed the cottonwood, the hunter emitted a small grunt to stop the buck, then pulled the trigger of his crossbow.
The deer ran about 40 yards before toppling over in the tall grass. Minutes later, Whitehead stood next to a 16-point, 181-inch nontypical giant that had made the fatal mistake of working scrapes after the sun came up.
Not only is the buck one of the largest that Whitehead has taken, but bagging it won him a friendly bet that he and his cousin Brian make every year, the loser buying the winner a case of his favorite beer. The pair has made the same bet four years in a row, and Whitehead has never lost. His success proves that sometimes unconventional strategies can yield exceptional results.
Learn More Tips for Making Mock Scrapes
White-tailed deer use scrapes as billboards to advertise themselves to other deer. Hunters use these scrapes to get an idea of where bucks are traveling. You can replicate these scrapes with a few easy tips from Steve Bartylla in this super episode of Hunt ’em Big.