Why You're Seeing Early Scrapes
Fall has set in on many areas of the country, along with deer seasons opening and some even in full swing. As more hunters head to the stand, reports of deer sign have been plentiful. Rubs will increase in numbers as bucks break away from bachelor groups and begin to establish individual territories. As the rut approaches, these same bucks will start to create scrapes to communicate with the herd, particularly with potential mates, as well as with other bucks to signal a territorial marking.
However, reports of “early” scrapes are beginning to pop up in hunting forums all over the whitetail range. The fact is you can actually begin to find these types of scrapes as early as late summer, or “community scrapes” as they are called in the whitetail world.
As summer heat fades and days begin to shorten, testosterone levels in bucks begin to rise. Not only does this trigger the calcification or hardening of antlers, but it begins the territorial behavior between the bucks in an area.
Bachelor groups that have roamed lush soybean fields together all summer begin to disperse across thousands of acres of landscape. As this massive migration is occurring, there is a mass communication between the individuals in the herd through pheromones, which are often confused with hormones.
Hormones are the chemicals that control physiological processes of the body WITHIN an individual. Pheromones are chemicals released to communicate BETWEEN individuals of the same species in an area. For example, during the rut, there are hormones that ignite a doe into estrous and pheromones are released to signal bucks that the doe is in estrous.
Community scrapes come into play when bucks break out of their bachelor groups and establish a new territory. They will begin to make scrapes very similar to those made during the rut but simply to communicate with others in the area. These scrapes will not appear in the frequency of those during the rut, but will be visited by multiple bucks and does as territories are being established.
Many of these community scrapes will remain active throughout the season and become a primary scrape for one or two dominant bucks in the area during the rut. These scrapes are great places to setup trail cameras early in order to inventory the bucks that are active in an area.
Travis “T-Bone” Turner co-host of Bone Collector points out, “I certainly take a scrape line into consideration along with where the deer are feeding. I gather all intel to determine best stand location at this time of the year.”
Like scrapes during the rut, these community scrapes are very unpredictable. It is difficult to say when a buck may utilize the scrape, if at all. From my personal experience, I see a lot of night activity around these scrapes until I get within a couple weeks of peak-rut. At that time, the scrape becomes a 24/7 “communication line” between bucks and does as the breeding season ignites.
Many properties with at least one buck three and a half years of age or older will have a handful of community scrapes on it right now. The ebb and flow of activity will continue through October, at which point, they will become a daily visitation site for bucks. It may be difficult to pattern use, but knowing a buck is using the scrape is one piece of the puzzle to tagging him this season.
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