Mock Scrapes: How to Bring in the Bucks
What are mock scrapes and why are they important?
If you asked me five years ago would I ever see myself researching and creating a mock scrape I would say, 1. What the hell are you talking about? and 2. I don't voluntarily play with deer piss. Well, here we are. I'm out in the middle of the North Georgia mountains, creating what I hope to be elusive yet effective mock scrapes with my husband.
So what is a mock scrape? A mock scrape is an impression made by a buck to either the ground or a tree to let other bucks know that the area in which they've marked is their domain. Bucks come up to an appealing tree in the woods, they rub their heads and lick a low hanging branch and they scrape the ground vigorously with their hooves. Once an adequate scrape has been made into the ground, they proceed to relieve themselves as a way to leave their scent behind. Other bucks may pick up on these smells and find the mock scrape, only to cover up the previous buck's marking with his own - it is a literal pissing contest.
By manually creating a mock scrape, you are mimicking a territorial buck marking. In doing so, you are creating a proactive, strategic method of manipulating buck behavior patterns and ultimately, attracting bucks to your hunting area. Bucks will start coming out of the woodwork to check fresh scrapes during daylight hours versus checking them nocturnally. This increase in buck activity in addition to bringing them into a certain area will work in your favor when it comes time to get a good shot on one.
What to consider in creating a scrape?
So now we know what a mock scrape is and why it's important, but what about creating one on your own? Below are several key points to consider. You'll find that everyone goes about creating mock scrapes differently, but they all have the same key elements:
First and foremost, you need to find an adequate location to make your mock scrape. You can have a very will manicured, text-book of a mock scrape, but if it is not in the right place, you can kiss your hunting season goodbye. Find pinch points or a merge of two habitats or game trails. Find high-traffic areas where resources are nearby (i.e., think about food, water, shelter).
Once you've found a good area, start considering the specifics of the mock scrape. You'll need to find a tree with a low-hanging branch, or "licking branch," that is approximately 4-5 foot above ground. Keep in mind, that the height of the low-hanging branch depends on the size of the bucks in the area; deer in lower evaluations of flatland tend to be larger and taller while bucks in higher elevated mountainous terrains tend to be smaller, shorter. Select your trees and branches accordingly. If you need to, you can go as far as to adjust the branch height as needed.
The branches need to be green (not dead, or they will break and fall off and well, there goes your mock scrape) and at an angle to where bucks can easily come in and rub their heads on them. Knock off all dead branches above and below the licking branch. You want the licking branch to be prominent and inviting.
So you've found a great location and a great looking tree with a great looking licking branch. Congrats! But we're not done. Now you'll need to make the ground scrape and apply appropriate scents.
In making the ground scrape, ensure that there is visible dirt and soil that can be easily scuffed. If thick grass is present, simply whack away excess or tall grass so that you can easily dig into the earth and overturn dirt. Scrapes are typically 24 inches in diameter and can be dug using circular or triangular motions. To make the scrape, simply use a nearby branch and begin digging into the ground. You can bring along tools that may make this easier, but be mindful about contaminating the scrape with outside scents.
Two elements of your mock scrape require an application of pheromones and urine - these are the licking branch and the ground scrape. For your licking branch, we apply pre-orbital gland or forehead gland scent along the ends of the branch and the leaves using gloves and a cotton swab (pheromones are pretty potent!). We apply this gently and are careful not to go overboard with this. The scrape on the other hand can be inundated with scent.
Now for the actual scrape, we generally pour buck urine in and around the scrape. You'll want to do this liberally. More is better. Don't be shy. Ultimately, you want to grab a buck's attention and perhaps, piss them off. They'll catch wind of an intruding buck's behavior and will want to assert their dominance over scrapes. An effective scrape will bring bucks to actively investigate intrusions and may even bring them out during the day outside of their normal nighttime routine.
Some hunters swear by using their own, human urine (they will actually pee in the scrape), some will use store bought buck urine (us), and some do not use any scent at all. If you do choose to use doe urine or estres, please do this closer to rut; if bucks smell this too early, they will be highly suspicious and may not return to the scrape. They may even leave the area entirely - don't do this.
When do you make a scrape?
So we've considered the physical aspects of the mock scrape but what about timing? You can essentially make scrapes at any time, as bucks will rub and lick on the overhanging branches year-round. However, be strategic with the application of scents especially doe-related, as we mentioned earlier. Scents will be important closer to rut when bucks are ready to mate and you'll want to utilize a combination of both buck and doe urine at this time. Some hunters wait last minute to do this (up to a week before rut), but more successful hunters will do this about a month before rut begins. Be intentional with the scents. It's okay to create a scrape early and then come back closer to rut to apply estres. You may already witness activity at the scrape.
What about the weather? Will a thunderstorm ruin my scrape? A lot of store bought scents are made to be endure rain and thunderstorms. Most are rain proof which is great. However, make sure that branches are still intact and that there are no obstructions over the ground scrape.
I haven't seen any bucks on my camera, and hardly any sign on my scrape, what gives? My first instinct would be that your scrape is in the wrong location. That is the most important component. Next is the overall appearance and appeal of the scrape - are you sure your licking branch as at the appropriate height? Also, it could just be a matter of time. How long have you been waiting? It could take several weeks before you see any sign of bucks coming in. Patience is key.