Making Sense of Deer Scents

Whitetail Deer Hunting Tips and Articles

Whitetail Deer Scents


Mock Scrapes


       The scene unfolding before me would forever remain in my memory: like the first time a trout hits a homemade fly or a tom turkey responds to a box call. The buck was actually coming into a scrape that I made! The eight-pointer confidently approached the scrape and after sniffing it, he pulled the overhanging branch down with his mouth and rubbed it across his fore head. He then pawed the scrape, walked through it and disappeared out of sight over a ridge. Since it was still four days prior to the opening of bow season, I could only hope the scene would be repeated in the near future.

The original experiments with scrapes can be traced back for years. For those of you unfamiliar with mock scrapes involve:

  1. making a man-made scrape (using a forked stick or rake) under a low-hanging branch. 
  2. Hitting the low-hanging branch with the stick or rake to give it the appearance of being chewed on by the buck.
  3. Using “doe-in-heat” urine in the scrape and on the low-hanging branch.
  4. Making every attempt to reduce human scent at the mock scrape site

Using the above techniques, some deer hunters have tricked bucks into starting rut behavior earlier than normal, prolonged the rut, and coaxed bucks into the proximity of favorite stands. I was so curious about these techniques that I began to experiment with mock scrapes last fall. After a great deal of thought regarding location, I originally constructed six mock scrapes. I soon encountered two problems, Despite my best efforts at scrape-making, only two of the six scrapes were ever visited and freshened by a buck. One of the scrapes (as far as I could determine) was freshened once; the other was revisited several times, but never when I was on stand.

The other problem I discovered was that manmade scrapes can quickly become an expensive proposition! It is not uncommon to use half a bottle of “doe-in-heat” urine per scrape by the time you anoint the overhanging branch and put some in the scrape itself. Since one can spend seven to nine dollars per bottle for good “doe-in-heat” urine, the cost adds up in a hurry. I began to rack my brain to think of a more effective and cheaper way of constructing mock scrapes. One day, while sitting in my tree stand, an idea struck me. Why try to improve on the real thing. Would it be possible to “move” a real scrape to a more favorable location (from the hunter’s point of view). I am happy to report that the answer is an emphatic yes! Here is the equipment necessary to construct a “Moved Scrape”:

A pair of pruning shears.

Some lightweight wire.

A gallon can.

A small hand-trowel.

A pair of rubber gloves and boots.

A rubber rain suit.

Fox or deer urine and spray-bottle applicator.

A small rake or forked stick.

Before even attempting to move an active scrape, one must pay me meticulous attention to reducing as much human scent as possible. Remember, a deer’s sense of smell is several thousand times more sensitive than our own. Take a lesson from a good fox trapper: boil the pruning shears, wire, pliers, can, and rake in water. Remove all of the above with tongs and let them dry. Again, using the tongs, place everything in a small trash bag. I also wash the boots, rain suit, and rubber gloves and place them in a second trash bag when dry. Your next task is to locate an active scrape in an area you are not hunting. It is very important that the scrape be an active one, and that it also be located under a low, over hanging branch. After locating the scrape, wait a few days to allow your scent to completely disappear from the area.

 On the day that you “move” the scrape, be sure to shower, using an unscented soap. Carry the two trash bags with you until within several hundred yards of the scrape. At that point, put on the rubber gloves. Then put on the rain suit and the boots. Finally, lightly spray your boots and pant legs with either fox or deer urine; good results can be obtained with either. You are now ready to approach the scrape.

When you arrive at the scrape, get down on your hands and knees and smell the scrape. By doing so, you can usually locate that area of the scrape that smells the strongest of buck urine. When you find that spot, take your trowel and remove the dirt in and around it. I usually dig about an inch deep. Place the urine-soaked dirt in the gallon container and seal it tightly. Now turn your attention to the overhanging branch. Using your pruning shears, cut off the overhang-ing branch. If possible, cut the branch at a point three or four feet from where it is evident that the buck has nibbled on the branch. Try not to touch that area. If you have a long distance to travel, put the branch in one of the trash bags. If you have to travel by car to the scrape location, remove your boots, rain suit and gloves, putting them back in the trash bag before getting into the car. Put them on again only when you arrive at your destination.

You are now ready to construct your “Moved Scrape.” I assume that you earlier decided on its location, probably putting it in dose proximity to one of your favorite stands. The only necessary requirements are that your selected site has the all-important overhanging branch and that it be in an area frequented by one or more bucks.

At this point, take the branch that you cut from the real scrape and wire it to the overhanging branch at the new location. Again, try not to touch the area chewed by the buck. Now, using your small rake (or forked stick), make a mock scrape under the overhanging branch. Finally, take the can of urine-soaked dirt from the real scrape and sprinkle it on top of the mock scrape. You have now completed a “Moved Scrape.” Just be careful to leave your boots, rain suit, and gloves on until well away from the “Moved Scrape.”

If you follow the procedures outlined above, I think the percentage of your man-made scrapes taken over by bucks will increase significantly. You will also save the expense of “doe-in-heat” urine. It is hard to improve on Mother Nature.