This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: I’ve been fascinated with scrapes throughout my deer hunting career. In fact, when I got to college, that was the subject of my master’s research because not much was known about deer scrapes at the time.
GRANT: You may find them in the woods. A lot of people ignored them. But there were a couple of early hunters that really influenced me that used scrapes and their knowledge of scrapes to tag a bunch of bucks.
GRANT: When I designed my master’s research program, I wanted to take that basic knowledge of scrapes and build on it from a scientific point of view.
GRANT: I spent a couple of years with a personal video camera. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, sitting in trees; didn’t even have enough funding for stands in a lot of trees, trying to video bucks using scrapes.
GRANT: During that time I met an infrared engineer from Kansas City. He heard me give me one of my talks and he said, “Hey. I think I’ve got a tool that will help you more.” Folks, that was the start of trail cameras.
GRANT: They were crude at the time. Of course, film – you had a maximum of 36 exposures. They were big and bulky – nothing like today’s great cameras. But I was getting pictures of deer in scrapes and it was the most exciting research, I thought, on the planet.
GRANT: It was during that time that we learned, and I actually published, that does and fawns use scrapes as much as bucks.
GRANT: We also learned that the overhanging limb is just as important, if not more important, than the ground portion of a scrape.
GRANT: When I noticed that the overhanging limb was getting so much action, I designed a quasi-research project. There were ten scrapes right down an old logging road in a creek bottom.
GRANT: And I took it upon myself to do a controlled test, if you will. This wasn’t part of my thesis. This was just something I wanted to learn. So I took a trash bag in and some snippers and every other scrape, I snipped that overhanging limb off. Put it in that bag and carried it totally out of the area.
GRANT: I put some trail cameras down there and wouldn’t you know it. The scrapes where I removed that overhanging limb, they died. They got no more deer activity. The ones I left the overhanging limb on – 50 yards away on either side – bucks, does and fawns continued using those scrapes.
GRANT: Again, that’s not published in some high-dollar scientific journal. But in my mind, there’s no doubt the overhanging limb is a critical part of a scrape.
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GRANT: Scrapes are a communication post. In today’s language, they might be email. Except you’ve got to go to the point. You can’t sit at home and receive it.
GRANT: Bucks, does and fawns will go by scrapes, either downwind and just smell and get information, or actually contact the scrape to learn about other deer in the area or leave a message about themselves.
GRANT: Some scrapes, typically along field edges, what-not, will be opened up and then just abandoned fairly soon. Other scrapes will receive action from the start of the pre-rut all the way through until the antlers are shed.
GRANT: One might think – oh, the bigger the scrape, the more activity. But I’ve got to tell you, that’s not true either.
GRANT: A big scrape typically means somebody got really excited and they did a lot of pawing – moved it a lot. It might get a lot of action, or it might go dead in a week or two.
GRANT: When I find an overhanging limb that looks like someone was mad with a chainsaw and just really beat on it, now that’s a scrape I consider hunting.
GRANT: The best hunting strategy I have found with scrapes is when there’s a line of 8, 10, 12 scrapes, pretty much in a row leading from cover to food and those scrapes are a travel corridor – they’re road signs on a travel corridor, marking the way. So now you’ve got the scrape as a pinch point and just a lot of deer moving in the area.
GRANT: I mentioned that a scrape is a general point in communication for the deer herd. But how they communicate is interesting.
GRANT: Some deer – bucks and does – but primarily bucks, will rub/urinate in the scrape. They’ll put their knees together and urinate right on those tarsal glands and let that urine drip on down to the ground. Because there’s a lot of bacteria on their tarsal glands; they’re made to collect that bacteria and that creates a different scent than just pure urine. So they urinate over those tarsal glands to communicate a specific message.
GRANT: Deer will also sniff the overhanging limb to receive information, lick the overhanging limb to probably receive and deposit information. And really, interestingly, they’ll rub their forehead – it’s called the forehead gland.
GRANT: And you’ve seen bucks just turn a dark red right on that forehead gland during that pre-rut and rut period of time. That’s because there’s a lot of production going on in those cells.
GRANT: There’s also a preorbital gland, the gland right at the edge of their eye. And you’ll see deer up doing this (Indicating). It looks like they’re almost trying to poke their eye out. But they’re depositing scent on the overhanging limb.
GRANT: No one understands all the scent being deposited by a white-tailed deer. It’s extremely intense biochemistry and it’s highly volatile. It doesn’t stay in the same form very long. And that makes sense.
GRANT: If a deer is leaving scent and moving on, you don’t want that scent to be super attractive right there for hours and hours or the deer receiving it would just stay there, right?
GRANT: It’s like that email gets deleted instantly and a deer can tell which direction the other deer was going because if the scent’s that volatile a few yards one way or the other will tell the receiving deer which direction the deer went.
GRANT: Several researchers, including myself, have shown and published that scrapes are most likely to be used by deer at the same time deer are most likely to be active – dawn and dusk. There are two peaks of deer activity during the 24-hour period.
GRANT: Kind of summarizing – scrapes are a communication point. The size of the scrape does not necessarily indicate the amount of deer using the scrape or the size of the bucks using the scrape.
GRANT: Remember – bucks, does and fawns of both genders all use scrapes. They’re a focal point of communication.
GRANT: Finding a scrape that’s located in a travel corridor or where a couple of trails cross or something like that, where you have more resources, if you will, in one area, it’s probably better than just hunting a lone scrape you find in the timber.
GRANT: Scrapes are going to be active from about the start of deer season in most states ‘til after deer season closes. But the peak of activity will be during the pre-rut.
GRANT: Once the rut starts, defined by the most does being receptive, bucks don’t really need to go by a scrape and check for communication. They’re simply cruising the area, nose in the air, trying to find a receptive doe.
GRANT: It’s really obvious. You’ll see scrapes opened up, even though leaves are falling this time of year. All the leaves that fell the night before – you go the next morning and they’re pawed out. But once that rut really kicks in, and a high percentage of does in the area are receptive, those scrapes will fill up with leaves.
GRANT: Don’t ignore them or pull your stand. Because probably right after most of the does have been bred and we’re on the downhill side of a bell-shaped curve, at the top of that downhill side, scrapes will be very active again.
GRANT: I want my stand or blind on the downwind side of a scrape. Maybe just a tad further than I would if it was another attractant. Because sometimes bucks will just cruise that downwind side, scent checking the scrape. So if you’re normally a 15-yard-away-from-where-I-want-to-shoot guy, punch on out to 20. Give those bucks a little room to be on the downwind side.
GRANT: Sometimes we get emails from folks saying that they just don’t see many deer or get many trail camera pictures of deer at scrapes. And that’s almost always because they’re hunting in an area where there hasn’t been an adequate doe harvest. There’s an imbalanced adult sex ratio. More does than bucks. There’s just no competition. And as soon as a few does start becoming receptive, those few bucks – they’re out searching trying to find a receptive doe.
GRANT: The more balanced the adult sex ratio is – one to one is great – the more effective – hunting scrapes, using a grunt call, rattling – all those techniques work better when there’s more competition for the receptive does.
GRANT: Scouting for scrapes and hunting near them is a huge part of our strategy every year here at The Proving Grounds. It is a great technique to see and harvest deer.
GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get out this year and scout for some scrapes. And more importantly, take time every day to be quiet, and listen to what the Creator is communicating to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.