The Anatomy of a Whitetail Scrape

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Do You Deer Hunt Over Scrapes?

Communicating by Scent

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1 | Communicating by Scent

Scraping behavior is one of the primary ways whitetails communicate with scent. When a buck makes a scrape, it will normally smell the overhanging licking branch for scent left behind by other deer.

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Forehead Glands

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2 | Forehead Glands

Once he checks the branch for scent, the buck will feverishly work the branch himself, leaving scent behind from his nasal, preorbital and forehead glands. This process lasts 30 seconds to a minute. 

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The Scent Trail

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3 | The Scent Trail

From the time they peel their velvet to the end of the rut, most bucks visiting scrapes will paw the ground directly underneath the licking branch, and then urinate in the pawed-out area. In the process, the buck leaves behind a tremendous amount of his own scent.  

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Spring Scraping

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4 | Spring Scraping

Although bucks don’t normally paw the earth beneath a scrape’s licking branch during nonrutting months, it is interesting to note that both bucks and does will scent-mark the branch 365 days out of the year.

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Location, Location, Location

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5 | Location, Location, Location

Most scrapes are typically made on higher, dryer ground, where the scent left behind can linger and is less likely to be washed away.

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Telltale Sign

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6 | Telltale Sign

Hunting over scrapes can confound even seasoned deer hunters. Most scraping activity takes place at night — but there’s no doubt scrapes are a telltale sign of a buck’s presence and habits. Good trail cameras have allowed hunters to more accurately predict when bucks will likely visit a scrape line.

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The Cold Scrape Line

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7 | The Cold Scrape Line

When a scrape line suddenly “goes cold” in November, it doesn’t mean the rut is over — far from it, in fact. Bucks check scrapes for scent left behind by does. When does in the area go into heat, bucks turn all their attention to chasing them. They have little need to check scrapes, at least for a few weeks.

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Scrape Line Route

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8 | Scrape Line Route

It is best for hunters to think of scrape lines not as a destination a buck is headed toward, but rather, a good indicator of his travel routes. Use those scrape lines as clues to where a buck is headed, and where he likely beds, and then plan your ambush that way. 

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Does Do it Too

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9 | Does Do it Too

Some hunters might be surprised to learn that does visit scrapes nearly as often as bucks. It’s simply a way for deer to communicate without actually encountering one another.

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Late-Winter Scrape

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10 | Late-Winter Scrape

Once most of the breeding concludes, bucks will again frequently check and freshen their scrapes, likely in hopes of discovering one or two late-estrous does.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published October 8, 2011.

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When you find that car-hood-sized scrape in mid-October, your pulse quickens. A big buck left it, no doubt, but what’s he look like? Where is he living? You hang a trail camera, and marvel at the number of bucks hitting the scrape each night.

No doubt about it, a big scrape is one of the coolest finds in the deer woods. But did you know whitetails will visit them in late winter? And in the spring? Click through these photos for more trivia on buck scrapes — and how to hunt them.