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Hunting scrapes not the best plan

October 17, 2009 at 10:36 PM


This time of year, finding signs of deer can build up your hopes ... or tear them down. When you don’t see much evidence of deer activity in your hunting area, it’s hard to be optimistic.

There’s always a glimmer of hope. Deer movement patterns often change when the crops are out or when other hunters turn up the heat. When your buddies tell you about all the deer tracks they’re seeing, just remind them that tracks make pretty thin soup.

Whether you’re finding a lot of deer signs or only a little, reading what you see correctly can help you determine what kind of deer are in the area.

Bucks are polishing their antlers on shrubs, saplings and trees right now. The old saying that “big bucks rub big trees” is often true.

Still, those smaller trees that are uprooted, broken off or bent over might not be the handiwork of a spike buck, mainly because a young buck isn’t strong enough to inflict that type of damage. An immature buck didn’t make the gouges you see that are head-high or taller — unless he was standing on a stepladder.

When all other rub analysis fails, look at the tracks around the rub. It’s always true that big deer leave big tracks.

Near areas where there are rubs, you may find a scrape, or maybe even a line of them. Many times, scrapes will be on the edge of a fringe area, where cropland meets the timber.

Just to be clear, bucks rub trees, and they scrape the ground. A scrape indicates that a decent buck has at least passed through your hunting area.

A study on buck behavior and scrapes conducted in Alabama concluded that, in the 5,000 acres under observation, bucks that were 2½ years old or older were the ones most likely to make scrapes. The Alabama scrapes monitored with trail cameras showed that peak scrape activity occurred two to three weeks before the rut. Even at that, you may want to think twice about hanging your stand around a scrape. The rest of the information isn’t all that encouraging.

While as many as 15 different deer visited the scrapes that were being observed, does were the most frequent visitors. Three-fourths of the deer activity around any scrape took place at night. The buck that created the scrape seldom maintained it. In fact, he was unlikely to return to the spot more than once, if he came back at all. At best, the odds of him returning even once, day or night, were only about 50-50. When the rut was over, the activity around scrapes stopped.

The good news about the Alabama study is that when you find a scrape, it’s an indicator that a decent buck is moving through your hunting area. But hunting a scrape may not be time well spent unless you are sitting there when the big guy is making it.

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