In North Georgia, during the first three weeks of November, the rut is in full swing. This is the time of year when most Central and Northern states experience a high-rut activity. Hence, the data gathered should be representative of most parts of the country, except for the deep South. The researchers gathered miles of videotape and hundreds of sightings from deer in the study area.
Most hunters overlook scrapes until it is too late. However, once the does are in heat, bucks no longer check scrapes. They instead chase the does. This is an important fact in the hunt for bucks. Here are some tips to hunt bucks that are using scrapes:
First, establish a good ambush point along the scrape line. If the buck is a bit shy, place a branch 40 inches above the ground on a nearby tree. Next, rake the branch with a stick to remove leaves and spread the soil. This trick will cause the buck to think that another buck has taken over his territory, so he will be more likely to check his scrapes during daylight.
Bucks check their scrapes at least once a day during daylight hours. Once they have determined that their scrape has a fresh licking branch, they can be condition to revisit it throughout the day. A buck will be most likely to reappear during the last few minutes of legal shooting light. This is an excellent time to reposition and make your shot. To maximize your chances of a successful hunt, set up a daytime stand a few hundred yards downwind from the scrape.
The initiation period begins in mid-October in most whitetail ranges. In areas with a December or January rut, it may be later in November. Bucks begin pawing random scrapes when they first start feeling testosterone surges. This activity may be a means of venting pent-up frustration. The more active the scrape, the better your chances of spotting a buck during the rut.
Mature buck behavior
This article describes how a University of Georgia researcher was able to study how mature bucks check scrapes. His findings suggest that mature bucks sniff scrapes more than yearlings, but that they do not suppress this signposting behavior. A major reason for the difference could be the presence of does at the scrape site. These does may have influenced buck testosterone levels. But regardless of the exact cause, the results from his study are significant.
The results of this study show that buck behavior at scrapes is largely communal. It’s not enough for a single buck to visit a scrape. Other bucks might visit as well. In fact, 50% of visits to a scrape occur during the night. Hence, the presence of several bucks at a scrape doesn’t guarantee that one will be seen again. It is even possible that a certain buck won’t visit the same scrape again, especially if it’s a hot one.
Evidence left by a buck in a scrape
A buck leaves evidence in a scrape on a field during rut season. Typically, does do not show much interest in scrapes, but bucks often sniff the area and may be directing their scent toward other bucks. Bucks have been observed to react to scrapes in other ways, such as with rubs or saliva. It is not entirely clear why the deer would respond to scrapes, but evidence in scrapes may provide valuable information.
In the study, researchers found that some scrapes were used by multiple bucks, and some had no evidence of a buck. This suggests that older bucks were not actively avoiding scrapes. However, the monitoring equipment was a factor in deterring bucks from visiting these scrapes, and the researchers checked the scrapes once every one to two weeks. The researchers also discovered that not all mature bucks leave scrapes during the rut.
Finding a buck’s scrape in daylight
When hunting mature bucks, one of the best methods is to find a scrape during the daylight. Bucks use scrapes as an advertising system and a place to gather information. Since most scrape visits happen at night, hunting over them will not produce the desired results. To maximize your chances of capturing a buck, you must find the travel route between the active scrape and the bedding area. This way, you can intercept a buck as he heads to and from his scrape. The unpredictable behavior of bucks makes for some exciting hunting experiences.
Using trail cameras to monitor the activity of the area surrounding a buck’s scrape will help you find active scrapes. Bucks are most active at night but will sign for the day when it is easier to locate them. If you find a cluster of scrapes in a relatively small area, it means the buck spent some time in the area. But timing is crucial. In general, scrape activity increases in the fall and peaks in late October. Towards the end of November and December, activity will decrease.