Photo by T.A. Harrison
Whether a tool for trail cameras or to stop a passing buck for a shot, mock scrapes need to be a part of your fall repertoire.
By T.A. Harrison
A scrape is not only a place for a rutted-up buck to vent sexual frustration and testosterone; it's much like a public bulletin board for deer. At certain points during the year, many bucks just can't help but check it out, freshen it up and pose for a shot or pictures.
Several years ago, a fall storm rolled through and knocked a bunch of trees down on my hunting property. In particular, a 40-foot tree fell over a fence, just missing my treestand, and the tree was left suspended five feet above the ground 30 feet into a cut cornfield.
A couple of days later I went out to move that stand, which was blocked by the freshly fallen tree, and I noticed a giant scape had been created at the end of the tree in the middle of the field.
It was the size of a car hood and several broken branches dangled down over top of the freshly pawed-out ground.
The mock scrape is a communication post that deer, both bucks and does, use on a regular basis beginning the moment velvet comes off of the antlers. If a natural scrape isn't in the right spot, a mock scrape can be created under a myriad of creative methods to create a stopping point for passing bucks. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
That got me thinking.
Where scrapes naturally occur there's rarely a perfect ambush point or treestand location that will work with likely wind directions. It never seems to work that way.
Why not set up a mock scrape exactly where you need it based on your existing treestands or shooting houses? The deer will find it and use it. That you can take to the bank.
Video by T.A. Harrison
Right Where You Need It
Perhaps you've tried making scrapes with little to no success. You're not alone. It took me a few years to figure it out, but once I did, nearly every single scrape I built now gets hit with regularity.
A mock scrape needs to be in an obvious, hard-to-miss location, easily accessible and featuring exaggerated factors such as kicked-up dirt including a couple broken and hanging licking branches.
A scrape is the bulletin board in the deer woods. It's a natural occurrence in many locations, but a wise hunter can use it to his advantage by creating one in the right place. The right time will follow. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
Depending on your specific situation, a logging road might be an ideal spot for a mock scrape; a food plot corner, along a very heavily used trail that dumps into a food source.
All are great options as long as it's in a location where you'll benefit from the slow down that will occur when a buck passes by. That is the goal, after all.
But if a camera is a part of the equation, accessibility requires strong consideration.
If a tree isn't naturally or easily positioned to create a scrape, hinge-cut a tree from inside the woods and tilt it down into position. By using a forked branch as a supporting column, you can fasten the two limbs together and the goal will be accomplished.
I believe the main clump of brush that the buck will rake his antlers against needs to be about 5 to 6 feet off of the ground — you'd be surprised at how far a deer will stretch to reach a licking branch.
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Video by T.A. Harrison
With the tree in position, snap a few of the small twigs at the end of the tree, but don't break them all the way off. The objective here is to create a visually attractive licking branch that had previously been broken by a buck working his antlers above the scrape.
They won't be able to help themselves.
Building and running cameras on mock scrapes has been a ploy of mine for years, and it's paid out substantial dividends. This 5-year-old buck worked this particular mock scrape dozens of times, allowing for confident identification and management. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
A properly positioned licking branch is the critical component to an effective mock scrape. It is the first point that every deer comes in contact with the moment they step into the scrape. I consider the licking branch a source of communication, and this is the part most deer hunters overlook when building a mock scrape.
Kick out the dirt from beneath the licking branches to a spot that's about 3 to 4 feet in diameter. This part is a visual attractant from a distance that will draw deer in for a closer look.
And this is the part where I'm going to lose some of you: I urinate in the scrape myself.
With regularity. Yes, yes, I know whitetails are very scent sensitive, and I do my best to eliminate human odor when hunting, and at all other junctures.
But after thousands and thousands of trail cam pix over mock scrapes -- that I peed in -- I can assure you, the deer don't care. I freshen my scrapes all year long.
The deer notice the scent of urine and they do their best to cover it up by working and freshening the scrape using their own scent.
Trust me, it works.
Build Your Own
And does use them too. I've not seen them paw the ground, but they do stop and work the licking branch regularly.
Contrary to many misconceptions does use scrapes with regularity. This particular image is of a mature Alabama doe working the licking branch on a second-year mock scrape. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
A mock scrape is a solid tool to encourage deer to stop for a tail camera photo or a shot during the season. But it must be done right in the right spot, and it'll be magical.