Many of my whitetail hunting tactics grew out of my work as a photographer. For more than 10 years I had the privilege of taking photos of whitetails on a large property in a remote part of the Northeast.
During my early days there I was able to get some good pictures of bucks making scrapes, but not with the frequency I wanted.
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I didn’t invent the mock scrape, but after viewing and photographing bucks making scrapes I came to realize that I could greatly increase the frequency of scraping behavior by making attractive licking branches in very strategic locations — namely in the prime travel corridors between bedding and feeding areas.
This strategy began as a way to get more and better photographs, but I soon found that the scrape line was a great way to increase my hunting opportunities. Wherever I hunted in North America I incorporated my scrape trapline into my hunting strategy when these hunts were during the prime scraping period, which occurs in the weeks leading up to the rut.
I’d do this by scouting the natural travel corridors, looking for new and old scraping sign. Most corridors or funnels have more than one route running through them. For the bowhunter these multiple routes present a serious problem because it is impossible to cover them all from one position. For example, we have a natural funnel on our farm in New York. This particular corridor is a 500- by 150-yard spruce plantation. There are as many as seven different trails weaving through it, connecting a prime bedding and feeding area. Because of the lay of the land, whitetail bucks make many scrapes in this corridor during the autumn months. The problem was that I never knew which trail a buck might use on a given day.
To remedy this I coax bucks into using a particular trail by making artificial scrapes. Scraping activity and daytime sightings of bucks can be greatly increased by hanging licking branches along the trail you wish to hunt. The “mock scrapes” actually induce bucks not only to scrape more, but also to frequent the area and trail on a more regular basis. The reasoning is not complex: Making a scrape trapline is like making a superhighway for trophy bucks.
Every year around the first of October (the time of year will vary in other parts of the country), I check each trail for sign. Then, on the trail that appears to have the most sign, I begin hanging licking branches about 50 yards apart, with as many as 10 licking branches along the trail. I’m careful not to make all the licking branches from the same tree species; rather, I’ll use some branches from hemlock boughs and others from maple, apple or oak. Some of the branches are thick and rugged, while others are slender and whippy. The common factor is that each branch hangs to about five feet off the ground. I find that bucks prefer a variety of branches as opposed to one kind.
The last step is to scuff all the debris free from the ground under the branch so the dirt is exposed in a three- to four-foot circle. I do this with a small, three-pronged hand rake. Whitetails love smelling and urinating into fresh, roughed-up dirt, and this step enhances the location. And by keeping the dirt roughed up under the licking branch I’m able to know the size of the buck that works the scrape. Once I see the evidence left at the various sites, it isn’t hard to decide on a good stand-placement strategy. I set up within bow range of one of the well-used branches so that I’ll have a shot while the buck is using the scrape.
If you make the scrape trapline along a well-used trail and do it right, the bucks will come. Perhaps this all seems too easy to believe. However, over the years I’ve learned that a mock scrape line is one of the best ways to lure bucks to your stands. It’s not foolproof — nnothing is when it comes to whitetails — but it’s as close as you’ll get.