Trail camera placed over an active whitetail buck scrape

Scrape Cams

Legendary Whitetails 10.20.2016

The time is NOW!  If you haven’t placed your trail cameras over scrapes yet, you’re missing out.  October 10th through November 2nd -ish is prime time to have your trail cameras over scrapes.

Call in sick, cancel appointments, throw the kids in the truck, do whatever you need to do to get your trail cameras pointed over an active scrape.  An active scrape should always have a trail camera over it, but now is the time when a buck’s testosterone is steadily rising and scrapes are opening up and being visited on a daily basis.  Why would you not want to capture the activity of a central buck hub?  It’s like an everlasting bait pile for bucks.  Seriously, now is the time that we as hunters have to adapt our scouting strategies to match those of the bucks we are chasing.

Like I said earlier, the three weeks leading up to peak breeding are scrape-tastic through much of the country, so here’s how to find, analyze, and capitalize on an active scrape.

Big buck working a scrape in Wisconsin


RELATED: Understanding Whitetail Scrape Behavior


Where to Look for Scrapes

Scrapes made during this time of year are usually not random, meaning they usually have some sort of strategic placement.  As we near peak breeding and even into the peak, you will see more and more random scrapes start to pop up as testosterone levels are sky high.  In this case, basically any overhanging limb can serve as a potential scrape site at any given moment.

During the second half of October, you’ll find the majority of scrapes along field edges, logging roads, tree lines and travel corridors.  In short, think EDGES – big and small.  Even in big timber country, logging roads and secondary or soft edges are the primary areas to search for scrapes and scrape lines.  A soft edge, for example, would be something like a hardwood stand butting up to a conifer stand or an alder swamp. Hard edges on the other hand are most common throughout the Midwest and farm country and occur when a block of timber butts up to a field, food plot, or pasture for instance.

When you’re scouting these areas for scrapes, keep an eye out for overhanging branches that hang about 5 feet off the ground and extend out and over the field.  These act as the licking branch where bucks disperse scent from their forehead, preorbital, and nasal glands, while pawing the ground below and urinating on their tarsal glands.

For more details on hunting hard and soft edges, check out Mapping Whitetails #04 – Finding and Analyzing Rub Lines.

Choosing the Right Scrape to Focus On

Once you find a scrape, you need to know if it’s one worth putting a trail camera over.  You’ll find out pretty quickly from your camera card pull if you chose the right scrape to monitor.  When you have a bunch of scrapes, choosing the right scrape to monitor can be a struggle.  There’s a few reasons picking the right scrape can be a struggle, but the most common is usually a lack of trail cameras.  If we had enough of them, we’d simply put them out over every scrape and not have to worry about finding the best one.

This past weekend I was moving trail cameras from food plots to scrapes and found 10+ scrapes around a 10-acre alfalfa field.  I found the scrapes, but now I needed to figure out which one to hang my trail camera over.  I looked at four factors to determine which scrape I should monitor:

  1. Size of scrape – the bigger the scrape, the bigger the buck…and the more bucks. This isn’t always true, but it’s a pretty safe generalization.  The more active a scrape is, the more it grows in size and the more likely multiple bucks will be using it.  Hang your trail camera over the biggest scrape in the area and you’ll likely be happy with the results.
  2. Licking branch – the licking branch sometimes gets overlooked. The longevity of a scrape often relies on the longevity of a licking branch.  Bucks tend to thrash those overhanging branches a lot when they’re working a scrape, so the stoutness of a branch does play a factor in my eyes.  I also think they target the bigger and stouter branches more frequently because they serve as a better visual cue.  Bottom line is the bigger scrapes will usually be under a prominent licking branch.
  3. Tracks in scrape – since the ground is bare dirt, a clear track can be a tremendous indicator of the size of the buck using the scrape. If the track is more than 2 ¼ inches wide (with no more than a ¼ inch split in the toes) the buck is probably over 2 ½ years old and nearing maturity. Even obscure tracks can give insight as to how active a scrape might be and whether it’s been hit multiple times.
  4. Location of scrape – exactly where the scrapes fall are of tremendous value to us as hunters. Going back to that alfalfa field I recently scouted for scrapes, some were in the middle treeline, while others were along more prominent edges. Based on the lay of the land, I can figure out which one’s are more likely to be hit during daylight hours and which one’s would be more subject to midnight visits.  Also, I’ll usually try to monitor ones that fall closer to huntable areas.  See the map below to see why I chose the scrape I did to hang a trail camera.

Whitetail scrape line I chose the scrape in the SW corner (green arrow) to hang my trail camera over.  It was similar size to many of the others, but had a stout licking branch and was at the intersection of the two scrape lines running along the south and west edges.  This was also the closest scrape to bedding and was near a treestand (red pin) I recently hung, which should give me the best probability of seeing daylight action.

Building and Enhancing Scrapes 

In order to build your own scrape tree, all you need to do is find a scrape worthy tree or branch, cut it or transplant it, wire it to a T-post, create a mock scrape, and wait for the right buck. They are most effective in open areas near natural travel corridors like a field, prairie, or food plot, basically anywhere low hanging branches are uncommon.  Place them in accordance to your treestand or blind location, being sure to set them up for a perfect broadside shot opportunity.

DIY mock scrape treeHere’s a mock scrape tree we placed in the middle of a food plot by wiring it to a T-post. 

You can make already existing scrapes more attractive by bolstering the overhanging branch with fresh cut limbs secured with zip-ties.  This is also a great way to make an easy mock scrape.

Scrapes are a whitetail phenomenon that fill hunters with excitement.  The mad dash is fast and furious through the last half of October and you’d be a fool to miss the action.  Get your trail cams out now, and if you really want a show, set them to video mode.

For a more in depth look at building your own scrape tree check out this article: Making Your Own Scrape Tree


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