Not all scrapes are equal. While some scrapes are nothing more than random markings, others are extremely important. These are what we call “primary” or hub scrapes and will be used by several different bucks over the course of the season. Primary scrapes will be revisited and refreshed throughout the rut and are very often reopened year after year.
Scrapes are usually found on high ground that is dry enough to hold scent. Travel corridors, feeding areas, funnels and other areas of concentrated deer activity will contain the most scrapes. Primary scrapes are usually found in funnels or where one buck’s home range overlaps another.
Primary scrapes are most often opened up by hormonally driven two and a half year-old bucks. These adolescent bucks like tearing up the woods and showing off. The real trophies in general are not so aggressive. Monster bucks tend to be more deliberate in their actions. Many times their scrapes will be nothing more than three or four pulls with the front hooves, a little deposit of tarsal scent, and rubbing his preorbital glands on a branch above the scrape to signal his intentions to other deer. The preorbital (or lacrimal) gland is located in a small pocket in front of the eye.
The percentage of scrapes that get revisited and reworked is very low. While primary scrapes can range from three to eight feet in diameter, the size of the scrape has little to do with the size of the buck that made it, or the social importance of either the buck or the scrape. To increase your odds of picking an active scrape, choose one with a licking branch above the scrape. If you watch a buck mark an overhanging branch, you’ll notice he seems to be marking it with his whole head—forehead, antlers, nose, mouth, and preorbital area. He will bite the branch and hold it in his mouth while he rubs, often breaking and splintering the branch. The more this licking branch is torn up the better.
Just remember that its location that determines a primary scrape, not the buck that made it. We are looking for a scrape that is all torn up with a licking branch above it, a scrape that appears to have been visited by several bucks. It goes without saying that this is an excellent spot for a tree stand.
If you really want to put your buck into a tizzy, just dig up the dirt from a scrape in a different location and place it in the scrape you’re hunting over. Be sure to use scent-free gear and a shovel. Dig down about six inches and transport the dirt in a clean plastic bag. Empty this dirt into your hunting scrape and your buck will perceive this as an intrusion by another buck. He’ll begin refreshing this scrape in earnest. This is more effective in the pre-rut, before the bucks are on the does.
Realizing why scrapes are made, and how deer use them to communicate with each other will help boost your hunting to a higher level.
Good Luck and Good Hunting,