A key part of hunting the rut involves trying to intercept bucks as they travel far and wide in search of does. The odds of actually doing so increase if you set up where deer are most likely to travel, and hunt when they’re most likely to be in the area. These three stand set-ups can be employed across much of the whitetail’s range. Try them this month on the land you hunt.
How to Make It
You can make deer move a little bit out of their way, but not a lot. Make your mock scrape in a place where a deer is already inclined to go, like a deer trail, woods road or field edge.
Find or fashion an overhanging limb. Research has shown that more than 90 percent of active scrapes have an overhanging “licking” branch, and that the mere presence of an overhanging branch 3 to 6 feet high will sometimes induce scraping. Bucks also seem to show an affinity for moist soil, most likely because it intensifies and prolongs a scent.
Using a stick-not your feet and certainly not your hands-scrape away the leaves and duff, just as a buck would, exposing bare soil [A].
Apply a urine-based scent in the scrape. Begin in the pre-rut with buck urine, which represents a challenge to local bucks. As you get closer to peak rut, switch to estrous doe urine to simulate a hot doe in the vicinity. You can apply scent directly; however, hanging a dripper over the scrape [B] allows you to keep the scrape “fresh” without having to make frequent visits.
You should also apply scent to the licking branch [C]. Gels will last longer than liquids. You’re better off going with a glandular-based scent on the branch than urine, though the latter will work in a pinch.
How to Hunt It
Scraping might start a month or more before peak rut, but the highest use occurs in the two weeks leading up to peak breeding. That’s when you should be hunting. Also, most scrape visits occur at night, so set up close to a bedding area and concentrate your efforts around twilight.
Set up on the downwind side and don’t overhunt. Limit yourself to two or three times a week, and never hunt a mock scrape on consecutive days.
Deer hunters often go to great lengths to conceal themselves from the wary eyes of whitetails. But when you consider that their sense of smell may be as much as 10,000 times as sensitive as ours, it makes sense to put much more emphasis on scent control.
Kill Your Stink
Human body odor begins as the waste product of bacteria that feed on organic matter and thrive in a warm, moist environment. Wash away the bacteria and their odorous by-products and you eliminate the problem-at least temporarily. Use scent-free soaps that don’t contain non-cleaning additives like moisturizers, perfumes, proteins, oils or vitamins, and that leave no residue. Pay particular attention to your head, crotch and armpits.
Unfortunately, in the time it takes to walk from your vehicle to your stand, bacteria are already on the rise. Spraying and/or wiping yourself with scent-suppressing solutions prevents and eliminates odors by molecular conversion as the products oxidize, bond with and further neutralize bacteria.
You can also create an environment that is unfavorable to bacterial growth by wearing the right base layer, which will draw or wick moisture and bacteria away from the body. There, odor-causing bacteria are destroyed chemically by anti-microbial solutions topically attached to the fabric, or by silver particles added through ionization.
Your body emits odor-causing acids that soaps and base layers can’t touch. For those, you need an outer layer that traps and/or absorbs odor. Carbon-impregnated clothing has long been used for this. Cinch wrist and ankle cuffs and waist and neck openings.
Speaking of clothing, wash it regularly with the same scent- and additive-free soap you use on your body, and spray it frequently with scent-suppression solutions. Wash and/or spray the rest of your gear regularly. Transport and store it in scent-free and airtight containers.