For any whitetail hunter targeting mature bucks one of the greatest strategies at your disposal for gaining critical information is running a trail camera over a scrape.
This is especially true if you hunt in a big woods setting where it can be difficult to find acres that concentrate deer consistently. Scrapes in these settings can be a focal point of social deer activity and may be the only trail camera location that a buck will visit consistently when he’s in the area.
Monitoring these scrapes with trail cameras can tell you many things about the bucks you are hunting and can unlock some of the vital clues that could potentially aid you in filling your tag.
Mock scrapes come into play when a location of interest to you doesn’t contain a primary scrape to run a camera over. If it does contain that deer-made scrape you are good to go, just freshen it up and hang a camera over it. If it doesn’t, you have some work to do.
Here is what I consider to be the Top 5 ingredients to a successful mock scrape to hang your camera over.
1.The number one factor in creating a mock scrape is its general location. You want to locate your mock scrapes in areas of high deer traffic. I prefer to locate them around food sources, bedding areas, or on major travel routes such as pinch points or funnels. A mock scrape in these areas will ensure deer will encounter them regularly and they won’t have to go out of their way to visit them. You must understand that a scrape will not draw deer from hundreds of yards away, but it may draw him from 50 yards and put him in front of your camera more consistently.
2.The most important aspect of a scrape is its licking branch, as it is used more and communicates far more than the actual scrape on the ground. Without a licking branch you do not have a scrape. These branches are typically 3-5’ off the ground and protrude into a semi-open patch in the timber. Break the tip of your mock scrape licking branch and make it appear like it’s been worked over by multiples bucks for years. It is very important to select the right tree species when creating a mock scrape. Get to know your hunting area and identify the types of trees deer scrape under most frequently. In the areas we hunt beech, hemlock, and spruce are our best bets.
3. The visual presentation of a mock scrape is critical to its acceptance and use by the deer herd, so try to locate them where they can be seen from a greater distance. Mock scrapes that are located in heavy cover are typically not visited as frequently, so they should be in a semi-open pocket where they are easily visible by traveling deer. A mock scrape can, and if possible should be, located next to good cover but not in the middle of it. An overhanging licking branch with a big bare spot under can be seen for a ways away and will catch his attention. If necessary we will also make a “mock rub” next to a mock scrape to draw attention to it. One of the most eye catching things in the timber for both a hunter and a deer is a big fresh rub. We also notice that the best scrapes are almost always on flat patches so make an effort to find one of these as well. A little slope is fine but we don’t find many highly active scrapes on aggressively sloped ground. This isn’t to say a mock scrape shouldn’t be located on a steep ridge, just try to find a bench on that, even if it’s a few feet wide.
4. Work the ground and don’t be shy. I like to clear as big of an area as possible as my actual scrape. A 4’ x 4’ or 5’ x 5’ area of exposed dirt is not too big. Once again the bigger, the more eye catching, and the better. Make sure to clear any vegetation and leaf litter out of your mock scrape and leave exposed soil and roots.
5. Scent is key. Scent is the main purpose of a scrape so it must be carefully considered. You want to leave scent on your mock scrape, but the right kind. Human odor is the wrong kind, and deer scents are the right kind. I take careful consideration to minimize the scent I leave at mock scrape locations by wearing rubber boots, and never touching the licking branch or the ground scrape. I will use a stick to batter the licking branch to display signs of use and to always scrape down the exposed earth, then remove the stick from the immediate area. Next I typically use some sort of forehead gland scent and apply it liberally to the licking branch and then pee in the scrape itself if I don’t have deer urine. I have found that human urine has no negative effects in mock scrape. I have only positive ones after running trail cameras over them for more than a decade.
The video below shows this step by step process of to you can best implement this strategy!