Next to a rub on a thigh-sized pine or cedar, the whitetail scrape is perhaps the most exciting of all deer signposts. Like rubs, not all scrapes are of equal value. That’s why learning how and why bucks make scrapes will make you a better hunter.
As we’ve learned from deer researchers like Michigan’s John Ozoga, ground-deposited scents are unquestionably an important component of any buck scrape. The scents provide vital clues to the maker’s identity, breeding readiness, and no doubt relay other messages — possibly, as some investigators have proposed, even the maker’s health status. The truly mystifying feature of any heavily used buck scrape, however, is the scent marked overhead limb—sometimes referred to as the “licking-branch”—which extends about head high directly above the pawed site. This may be a single slender stem or consists of a clump of brushy multi-branched stems. In either case, the scent-marked twigs always possess dry, broken tips that enhance their scent-holding properties.
As shown in this photo, bucks accomplish this limb-tip conditioning either by thrashing the stems with their antlers or by biting off the stems’ terminal buds. While doing so, scent from a buck’s forehead glands is quite likely deposited on the stems. Pieces of branches found lying in scrapes clearly attest to these more vigorous types of marking episodes.
For these reasons, it’s wise for rut-time bow-hunters to hone their skills at making mock licking branches that will result in scrapes that bucks visit throughout the hunting season. For more information on how to attract deer and obtain the knowledge you need to kill the biggest deer of your life, check out our comprehensive Whitetail Behavior video.