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

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells had an exciting visit with Mark Hayes, design engineer for Mathews, as the pair looked at the new V3 27 and V3 31 bows.

New for 2021: Excalibur Crossbow, BowTech Bows, TightSpot Quiver, Ripcord Rests, Black Gold Sights

New for 2021: Excalibur Crossbow, BowTech Bows, TightSpot Quiver, Ripcord Rests, Black Gold Sights

New for 2021 are several hunter-defined products, such as the Excalibur TwinStrike Crossbow, BowTech Solution and Solution SS Bows, TightSpot Pivot 2.5 Quiver, Ripcord Cage and Code Red X arrowrests, and Black Gold Pro FX and Pro Hunter HD sights.

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

Bear Archery's newest bows - Redemption EKO and Legit RTH - are light, adjustable and fast.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

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.

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties are accompanied by melted Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and Thousand Island dressing and then pressed in between two toasted and golden brown pieces of rye bread.Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe Wild Game

Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe

Kristy Crabtree - October 27, 2020

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties...

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 SHOT Show

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...

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

Follow these steps to find any deer you've hit, whether struck by bullet, slug or arrow.Field Skills: Deer Recovery Done Right Hunting How-To

Field Skills: Deer Recovery Done Right

Mark Kayser - November 24, 2020

Follow these steps to find any deer you've hit, whether struck by bullet, slug or arrow.

When it's cold and miserable, and the rut is pretty much done, it's still one of the best times of the deer season for a trophy.Late-Innings Whitetails: How to Rally for a Southern Giant Whitetail

Late-Innings Whitetails: How to Rally for a Southern Giant

Doug Howlett - November 24, 2020

When it's cold and miserable, and the rut is pretty much done, it's still one of the best...

You can't always wait for the deer to come to you.Don't Just Sit There; Consider Making a Treestand Move Whitetail

Don't Just Sit There; Consider Making a Treestand Move

Tony Hansen - November 25, 2020

You can't always wait for the deer to come to you.

Finding rutting bucks on public land is a matter of identifying small parcels overlooked by the crowd.Picking Pockets for Western Whitetails Whitetail

Picking Pockets for Western Whitetails

Bob Robb - December 01, 2020

Finding rutting bucks on public land is a matter of identifying small parcels overlooked by...

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