Scouting And Freshening Scrapes | Arrow Penetration Test (Episode 511 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: Scrapes are incredible tools to pattern and hunt whitetails.

GRANT: I really enjoy hunting near scrapes, especially during the pre-rut when bucks use them the most. Scrapes are communication hubs. There’s always a few scrapes in any area that remain active year-round. You may have seen on the GrowingDeer social media pages some of the scrapes here at The Proving Grounds that big bucks have been using throughout the summer.

GRANT: Bucks are just about to or already have shed their velvet. This is a clear indicator that their hormones are changing and some bucks will leave to use a different portion of their home range.

GRANT: You may think it’s a tad early to be thinking about scrapes, but that’s not the case at all. Now is a perfect time to be in the woods freshening up existing scrapes or making mock scrapes.

GRANT: It’s just a couple of weeks before archery season opens here in Missouri. It’s a perfect time to put out some Code Blue scrapes.

GRANT: Putting out scrapes this time of year, especially when using the buck scent, can get bucks working an area, get them focused on that scrape and they will then stay focused on that scrape throughout the season.

GRANT: I’m at a small opening in the timber we call Blackberry and we noticed there was a natural scrape here a few years ago. We enhanced this scrape by using Code Blue scent and had a bunch of pictures and videos at this location.

GRANT: There are natural scrapes throughout The Proving Grounds, but it’s nice to get bucks patterned on a particular scrape early in the season so you can hang a stand and have a good chance of tagging an adult buck.

GRANT: Deer tend to be very sensitive to smells around scrapes. I mean, if we think about it, a scrape is an olfactory or a scent communication tool. It’s like the old telephone booth except deer all come here using their nose to see who’s been in the area.

GRANT: Knowing that, it’s extremely important to have good scent control, whether coming in and enhancing the scrape or hunting the area.

GRANT: I’ve got rubber boots on and I just treated them with D/Code at the truck before I ever walked into the area. I also treated my hands with the field spray because I don’t want to deposit a bunch of human scent on the overhanging limb. Overhanging limb tends to be the most valuable or sensitive part of a scrape.

GRANT: I’ve eliminated my scent. I’m in the area. So I’m just going to hang a wick right here on the limb deer have been using but rather than spray it, I like to take the cap off the bottle, stick it up on here and saturate that wick with scent. That way for several days it’ll be slowly dripping right into the scrape.

GRANT: And you’ll be amazed at how much it expands and you’ll see it’s starting to drip a little. Obviously, faster at first, right on the ground, almost like a buck urinating right here. I like using a wick that has a lot of surface area so when the wind blows by any buck downwind can catch that smell. If I only put scent on the ground, it’s not getting near the distribution as up in the air.

GRANT: I was privileged to do my master’s research on scrape behavior on public land. Boy, talk about a tough situation; trying to get a lot of data of deer using scrapes on public land where other folks are hunting. It was a great season in my life. I learned a huge amount. Trail cameras – well, we were testing some early models – they were big back in that day and, of course, used film cameras, and we were limited to 36 pictures, so you didn’t dare waste a picture when you were setting up the camera.

GRANT: Even with really crude tools, we learned a lot about scrapes. One of the first things we learned is does use scrapes as much as bucks. That makes sense because scrapes are communication hubs and deer are very social. All members of the deer herd are gonna come here and kinda learn who’s in their area. In addition, the pheromones, the external hormones that deer are putting out, at a scrape location help establish and determine the hierarchy of dominance.

GRANT: It seems that most people believe the ground portion of the scrape is most important. You’ve probably seen videos of bucks or does coming up and urinating or bucks ejaculating in a scrape. However, looking at thousands of trail camera pictures and video back in the day, deer clearly spent more time addressing the overhanging limb.

GRANT: There are multiple scent glands on a deer. I think many people think of the glands right by their knees, and those are very showy, and you might see ‘em or even cut ‘em off as you’re dressing a deer, but some of the more important glands are actually on a deer’s face. You may have noticed that bucks, especially mature bucks, will change color – usually get a little lighter or brighter – right on their forehead during the pre-rut and rut. That’s because specialized cells release a substance during the rut from the forehead gland.

GRANT: They will rub that scent on rubs and also on the overhanging limb of scrapes. Another gland on the face is called preorbital. Some people may call it the tear duct gland and you probably see deer looking like they’re almost trying to stick this limb in their eye, but they’re rubbing it on a scent gland right next to their eye.

GRANT: Almost everyone has seen videos or probably seen in person deer licking or appearing to chew on the overhanging limb. They can both leave and receive scent from licking this overhanging limb. They can take it in and determine the status of deer using this scrape. Knowing that all that communication is going on right here, it’s no wonder scrapes are used more during the pre-rut than the rut.

GRANT: A definition of the pre-rut is when just a few does are receptive but not many. So, if one doe comes by here that’s receptive or close to being receptive a lot of bucks will come in this area and try to locate that doe. Once the rut is in full swing, or most of the does are receptive, bucks don’t need to come by here. There’s so much of that receptive scent through the woods they just stick their nose up in the air and start chasing does.

GRANT: Scrapes can be hunted throughout the hunting season but the best chances of seeing a buck use a scrape during daylight hours is definitely during the pre-rut.

GRANT: Throughout much of the whitetails’ range, the highest percentage of does are receptive during the first couple of weeks of November. That means the last couple of weeks of October will be the height of the pre-rut. Given that, the optimum time to hunt based on scrape locations is during the last couple of weeks of October. However, it’s common for bucks to pattern on a scrape that’s established early, just like we’re doing here, way before the pre-rut. Knowing that is why I like to freshen these scrapes with Code Blue, put a trail camera on here, and see if I can get a pattern before the pre-rut.

GRANT: We’ll probably only show treating one scrape, but rest assured we’ll be treating several natural scrapes and making many mock scrapes before season.

GRANT: Scrapes are a great place to put up a trail camera; and I’m gonna put one up on a tree where I had one last year and got a lot of great video at this location.

GRANT: When using trail cameras to monitor scrapes, it’s best if the camera is placed perpendicular to the scrape. A camera placed in this position will almost always result in good quality pictures or videos of the buck using the scrape and that perpendicular view will allow you to more accurately estimate the buck’s age while seeing his antlers from multiple angles as he works the scrape.

GRANT: If the camera is located head-on or in the line of travel with the scrape, which sometimes can’t be avoided, it’s difficult to see the buck’s body characteristics and the full details of his antlers.

GRANT: This summer we hung a couple of Summit stands about 20 yards north of the Blackberry scrape and a few yards away from those stands is an interior road which allows us to quietly approach from two directions.

GRANT: During a southerly wind, we can approach this stand while walking the road or being dropped off with a UTV because we use this road almost daily while working at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: A southerly wind will carry our scent to the north. The deer typically run the south side of the mountain; therefore, they won’t even know we’re in the area. This allows us to enter, hunt and exit without alerting deer in the target area.

GRANT: Last fall our number one hit list buck, a buck I call Swoops, traveled through this area using the Blackberry scrape during daylight several times. I’m hoping this setup will be just the ticket to tag Swoops this year.

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GRANT: As the opening day of Missouri’s archery season approaches the entire GrowingDeer Team has been slinging a bunch of arrows.

GRANT: Last summer, we shared the results of a really cool experiment that showed how much a deer could drop once they heard the bow fired.

GRANT: Our friend, Darren Cummins from Pennsylvania, designed a very sophisticated piece of equipment that, simply put, it hears the bow fire, calculates a deer’s reaction time at 20, 30 and 40 yards and then drops a deer when that sound reaches a deer and it’s had time to react. In this case a water-filled balloon.

GRANT: I was very interested in this subject because we’ve shared several hunts that showed deer responding to the sound of a noise and dropping several inches before the arrow arrived. We’ve tested multiple bows, different draw weights, different weight arrows and discovered that even at 20-, 30- and 40-yards deer can react even with fast bows and drop several inches before the arrow arrives.

GRANT: It dropped.

GRANT: This information made a huge impact on me, so I’ve been working to have as quiet of a hunting rig as I can.

GRANT: This year, I’ve reduced the draw weight on the bow I’m using, using a heavier arrow and a few other odds and ends to decrease the overall noise resulting from a shot. One of my areas of prime focus was the arrow.

GRANT: The entire GrowingDeer Team is super excited for the start of deer season, so we’ve been shooting a lot, and while we’re shooting, we’ve noticed a bit of difference between how my arrows are penetrating and how Tyler’s arrows are penetrating. So I want to tell you the setup. I’m shooting 28 1/4 inches at 52 pounds and I’m shooting a Bloodsport 350 Evidence, the micro diameter shaft. Tyler what are you shooting?

TYLER: I’m shooting a 30-inch draw length, 65 pounds, the Justice, which is not a micro diameter, more of a fatter arrow, 300.

GRANT: So, we want to compare penetration because it’s my theory that a micro diameter arrow even with a little bit lower draw weight will get about as good if not better penetration.

GRANT: We got brand new Morrell High Roller Targets, super quality. Not saying this is the same as a deer, going through muscle tissue with liquid, body fluid in there, but at least we’re comparing apples to apples.

GRANT: Good arrow penetration is important for any deer hunter. The goal is maximum hemorrhage. That allows hunters to be extremely humane when tagging a deer. This same principle results in an easy recovery of the critter.

GRANT: A pass-through shot, especially with the Bloodsport arrow, is always great because the way the Bloodsport is designed it lets the hunter interpret where the shot was and lets them know where to take up the trail or back out for a while.

GRANT: I want to state upfront. This is not a scientific test, so before I get a bunch of hate mail, there’s no regression, there’s no coefficients. We’re just a couple of hunters out here that we noticed something while practicing together.

GRANT: So, we’re 20 yards away. We’re not worried about accuracy. We’re just trying to shoot two to three inches apart in the new target. We don’t want to shoot side by side because if we do that foam may be a little condensed from one shot to the next. So we’ll shoot two to three inches apart, shoot around the target, different corners, as we go through the test.

GRANT: I’ll shoot first, then Tyler can just shoot a few inches away from my arrow.

GRANT: All right, Tyler.

GRANT: The arrows we’re shooting are about the same weight. Tyler’s all rigged out is 459; and mine rigged out the same is 479. But I don’t think 20 grains at 400 plus grains is a big difference.

GRANT: So, it looks likes Tyler’s is about an inch more, but his arrow is about two inches longer. So, the only way to get an accurate measure is for us each to pull our arrow, and we’ll put our thumb right here at the edge of the target. Don’t let it slide. And pull it out and then we’ll measure the amount of penetration.

GRANT: Tyler, grab that arrow.

GRANT: So, just a quickie look. We can do this. Just stick ‘em right there and right there and Tyler got I’m going to say close to an inch, about an inch more. Remember he’s shooting 65 pounds, a little bit plus. I’m shooting 52 so 13 more pounds. You would expect a little bit more penetration on 13 pounds, but would it had been more if he’d a been shooting the same skinny diameter, micro diameter as I was? So, we’ll figure that out when we both shoot each other’s arrow.

GRANT: All right, let’s measure these and see what we got. So, from the thumbnail – nine and an eighth. Yep, and about eight. An inch more for 13 pounds more draw weight.

GRANT: Tyler and I have each shot our own arrow, but now we’ve swapped arrows, and we’ll compare penetration based on what we already shot. I’ll use Tyler’s arrow and Tyler will use mine.

GRANT: Tyler’s arrow, larger diameter, out of my bow. We’ll do a measure and compare it to what I shot with my first arrow. So, my arrow has a smaller diameter than Tyler’s. I had eight inches of penetration. With Tyler’s arrow, I got seven and a quarter. So, not a lot but three-quarters of an inch of penetration into the High Roller Target. It might’ve been more of a difference going through a deer because you got all that body fluid, a little bit slicker than this foam. We don’t know that for sure but certainly lost a little penetration with the larger diameter arrow.

GRANT: We wondered if the trend would be the same when Tyler shot my arrow compared to when he shot his arrow previously.

GRANT: The trend remained the same. Tyler got three-quarters of an inch more penetration from my smaller diameter arrow than he did with his arrow. The results made sense and they weren’t really surprising. Just think about it. It’s much easier to stick a pin through a piece of paper than it is your finger. Smaller diameters are gonna penetrate a substance much easier than a larger diameter.

GRANT: There are many factors of penetration in a critter versus a target. On a critter, you might hit bone, or a really thick hide, or a hog that just wallowed in mud or something like that. But overall a smaller diameter arrow, all else being the same, is going to give better penetration than one with a larger diameter.

GRANT: There are some other considerations that might tip the scale in favor of smaller diameter arrows. For example, with the smaller diameter, there’s less surface area; therefore, less resistance and less noise generated when the arrow is flying downrange.

GRANT: I’m not advocating for most whitetail hunters, especially let’s say in the central and eastern states, to take longer shots. In those areas, whitetails have a lot of hunting pressure and they seem to become conditioned to reacting to an archery shot.

GRANT: Many western game species live in areas where hunter density – the amount of hunters per square mile – is much less than the average range where whitetails are hunted and, in this case, it seems they don’t get conditioned to reacting at the sound of a shot.

GRANT: Is an additional three-quarter of an inch of penetration going to make a big difference when trying to tag most big game species? Probably not. Like most hunters, I like gathering as much information as possible so I can make good decisions before season and during the season.

GRANT: I believe there’s another very important take away from our observations. A lot of guys I know are practicing with the heaviest draw weight bow they can shoot several times in a row. That sounds good in a practice situation, but it’s not the same as sitting in a cold treestand for two or three hours and then trying to pull the bow when you haven’t been moving for a long time.

GRANT: A very important takeaway that my bow, set at 13 pounds lighter than Tyler’s bow and about an inch or so shorter draw length, got almost the same penetration just because I was using a smaller diameter arrow. A lighter weight bow makes it easier for hunters to practice more; it’s probably a lot quieter than one that’s heavier and allows hunters to stay at full draw longer in case the shot isn’t developing as they thought it would.

GRANT: Ultimately if we are enjoying the hunt, putting some venison in the freezer, it’s all good.

GRANT: I hope you enjoy the information we share on GrowingDeer. If you have some buddies that would also enjoy this type of information, please send them a link to our show.

GRANT: Maybe season has already opened where you hunt or you’re still going out behind the house and doing some practicing. Either way, I hope you get outside and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, no matter where you are, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.