Skip to main content

Understand How to Use Scrapes to Locate Whitetails

Bucks visit them regularly and so should you.

Understand How to Use Scrapes to Locate Whitetails

White-tailed buck is shown making a scrape on a gravel trail in the Midwest. Scrapes attract bucks, but you don’t need to hunt directly over them to see action. A setup along a travel route leading to a scrape can be just as productive. (Shutterstock image)

It seems too easy.

I’m just two mornings into what is supposed to be a full week of hunting an area I’ve never been before, and a tall-tined buck is marching directly to my stand location. It takes all of 10 seconds to know this is a mature buck and one I want very badly to shoot. It’s also abundantly clear that my prior day’s decision to target this cluster of active scrapes was a good one.

Long story short, it was easy indeed. The buck passed the base of my tree at a scant six steps and tipped over stone-dead about 30 seconds later. Chalk up another successful hunt near scrapes.

I hunt a lot of different places each fall. Sometimes that means I’m hunting new areas in different states, other times it means I’m bouncing around parcels close to home. I do very little preseason scouting because I don’t find it to be all that beneficial and because I don’t have the time to do a thorough job of it (there are too many scrappy smallmouth bass to chase during the summer). Thus, I rely heavily on in-season scouting to put me on bucks, and scrapes play a large role in my setups.


Scouting isn’t a form of wizardry, even when it’s done during the season. I simply look for sign of deer activity. I classify deer sign in two ways: active and passive.


Passive sign includes trails and rubs. That type of sign tells me deer have been in an area but doesn’t guarantee if or when they’ll return. Trails indicate direction of travel and provide some clue of frequency, but not much else can be gleaned from them.

Scrapes, on the other hand, tell me more information. For starters, I know that bucks are leaving the sign. I also know, in most instances, multiple bucks are using that scrape and are likely doing so on a regular basis. Hence, scrapes are active sign that tell me bucks are in the area and will likely return.

Seasonal Shifts

The time of year will determine, to some degree, the scrape locations I’ll choose to hunt. A couple of years back, I had access to a honey hole of a property on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. It was suburb hunting in its purest form. The land I had permission to hunt was 20 acres in size, about 12 of which were planted in soybeans. There were three active scrapes under oak trees along the edge of the bean field that connected to timberland flowing behind rows of million-dollar homes.

It was an ideal early October location, and I very nearly killed a solid buck the very first night I hunted. The buck entered the field, nibbled on some bean tops and then beelined to those scrapes. I never could get a suitable shot angle, and the buck eventually wandered off. For the next two weeks, my trail cameras showed hot and heavy activity on those field-edge scrapes. Then the rut started to draw near and they fizzled.


This is a pattern I’ve seen repeated often. In September and early October, when food is the name of the game for most deer, field-edge scrapes can be dynamite. But they fade fast as the rut draws near, and if the deer are being heavily pressured the vast majority of scrape action will occur under the cover of darkness.

For late October and early November, I look for clusters of scrapes in or near cover. That’s the exact situation I had with the buck described in the opening. I was hunting a small patch of trees in the middle of miles of open prairie. There were dozens of active scrapes in a row cutting through the timber. It was a no-brainer setup.

The consensus among hunters is that bucks will abandon scrapes once peak breeding arrives. I have found that to be somewhat true, but only for a period of time. When a buck has a hot doe, he’s obviously not checking scrapes. But what happens when his run with that doe is done? He’s on the prowl again, and I believe he will return to the same route and pattern that landed him that doe. He’s going to be back in his home area, which happens to be right where the scrapes he’s worked are located.


With this in mind, I still focus on scrapes during the prime of the rut but I do so with more of an eye on travel funnels. I don’t expect to see quite as much active scraping taking place, but locations with scrapes, particularly areas with multiple scrapes in cover, aren’t happenstance. Those scraping areas were used because bucks prefer to travel there, and they lay down scrapes knowing other deer are traveling there as well.

This is exactly what I was doing when I killed the biggest 8-pointer I’ll likely ever see. I was tucked into a bushy tree that was a mess of limbs and leaves in Kansas. It wasn’t an ideal setup, but it was in an ideal location. There were a dozen active scrapes along the edge of a creek bank and, while I knew the rut was in full swing, I figured it was only a matter of time before a buck was in between does and would be looking for love again around this area of scraping activity.

Target Travel Routes

It’s important to note that you don’t have to set up directly over top of a scrape to enjoy its benefits. The key is to understand that the scrapes are the destination. They are the active sign that tells you bucks are around and they’re coming back soon. Bucks will use terrain features and funnels to get to the scrape area, and setting up on that route is the goal.

Scrapes that are located in or very near heavy security cover can be dynamite throughout the day. So long as you’re able to enter such areas without alerting deer in the pre-dawn hours, they can be some of the best morning locations you’ll find. Bucks seem to have a habit of checking scrapes prior to bedding down for the day. And, of course, these areas can be highly productive during evening sits as bucks will target scrapes when getting up for their evening prowl.

I love hunting scrapes. Like, seriously love it. As I’m sure is the case with most of you reading this, I don’t have unlimited time to hunt. I have to make the most of my time on stand, and for my money, nothing beats time spent hunting near active scrapes.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?5 Great Lures For Bluegills Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

It may be 125 years old, but the .30-30 Winchester retains its status thanks to modern loads.Turning .30-30; It's Better Than Ever Ammo

Turning .30-30; It's Better Than Ever

Richard Mann - October 27, 2020

It may be 125 years old, but the .30-30 Winchester retains its status thanks to modern loads.

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use it as needed.Venison Chorizo Recipe Wild Game

Venison Chorizo Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

Smart technology offers crossbow hunters instantaneous decision making capabilities.Field Tested: TenPoint's Vapor RS470 XERO Proves Itself on Ohio Hunt Crossbows

Field Tested: TenPoint's Vapor RS470 XERO Proves Itself on Ohio Hunt

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn - November 18, 2020

Smart technology offers crossbow hunters instantaneous decision making capabilities.

Active-duty Navy chief hosts newbie friend on memorable archery hunt in Maryland.No Limits: Inspiring Amputee Shares Buck Fever with First-Timer Whitetail

No Limits: Inspiring Amputee Shares Buck Fever with First-Timer

Aaron Ritter - December 15, 2020

Active-duty Navy chief hosts newbie friend on memorable archery hunt in Maryland.

Convince a mature buck that an interloper has invaded his turf. Then use it against him.5 Intruder Tactics to Trick Whitetail Bucks During Rut Whitetail

5 Intruder Tactics to Trick Whitetail Bucks During Rut

Josh Honeycutt - November 18, 2020

Convince a mature buck that an interloper has invaded his turf. Then use it against him.

An unusual deer hunting rifle: A good bullet placed properly is really all that's needed.Why Not Use a .357 Mag Rifle for Whitetails? Guns

Why Not Use a .357 Mag Rifle for Whitetails?

Richard Mann - November 23, 2020

An unusual deer hunting rifle: A good bullet placed properly is really all that's needed.

See More Whitetail

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now