Truth From the Stand

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Scrape week seems to get here faster every year. I’ve said it before all scrapes are not equal. Most scrapes work well for trail cam pictures, but that doesn’t always mean good hunting. Scrapes that are the “odd man out” can help you put a deer inside shooting range.

What do I mean about the odd man out? It’s much like finding Waldo on the back of a cereal box. Those details that make one scrape different from the rest are so important. A water hole, thicker cover, and terrain advantage will make a scrape more valuable.

Below you’ll find three ideal scrapes for a hunting situation. These scrapes should spur your own thoughts from previous hunts or from your scouting efforts. If you need more scape info, here’s a podcast with Troy Pottenger to learn how to use scrapes as big buck traps!

The Bottom Of a Ditch: Ditches are usually made by two finger points sticking out from the main ridgeline. They often have water at their base, whether from a mountaintop spring or runoff. Bucks like to bed or travel across the top of these fingers because they offer the best escape and cover.

As they travel over the top of the small points, they can use thermal scent to keep them safe in small increments. The scent advantage is also useful for scrapes at the bottom of the ditch. A buck traveling or bedding on a point system like this can move along fast.

The best ditch bottoms for a scrape have a flat base and are wide enough to support saplings for licking branches. Ditch scrapes can be hard to find after rain because of runoff, so keep your eyes open for the licking branch. The licking branch is what keeps these types of scrapes active.

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The Unique Tree: Depending on the region, maybe you’ve noticed that bucks often make scrapes under the same type of trees. Maybe you’ve seen most of the scrapes you’ve found develop under hemlocks or beech trees.

Of course, the strength of a scrape is based on what’s around it; cover, water, food, etc. But sometimes, when a scrape is under a tree that doesn’t fit the pattern, it has more drawing power. The tree that falls outside the pattern usually has the most evident licking branch.

In 2021, many of the scrapes I hunted were under laurel bushes. Sneaking in the dark, I noticed a brand new scrape relating to the line I was going to hunt. An oak branch had snapped, and the ends of that branch were splintered and chewed. The ground was bowled out and as black as coffee grounds. In that pattern of scrapes, this one was the most unique and most used. Hunting close by that scrape paid off.

New Cluster: Fresh earth is something I love to see on the way into the woods. When scrape activity starts, it may often seem like frustrated activity. Walking into an area with 3 to 10 scrapes in a 20-yard circle probably doesn’t mean much when the best scrapes are already established. But if you find a place like this in the first half of October, you’d better get into a tree.

This spot signals bucks getting ready for the rut. They have pent-up testosterone, and they are rearing to go. Agitated scrapes like this pop up the most in staging areas. During this time, bucks still follow a bed-to-food pattern and don’t know what they want. But that usually means a few return trips to the same spot. If you’re in a tree above fresh sprinkles of dirt on the leaves, you’re giving yourself higher odds of the buck returning.

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Ahead Of The Curve: Consistent bits of information will have you up to speed before the season begins. Want a good process and to know what to do in every situation as soon you come to the point of decision? Feed yourself the information you need to stay one step ahead.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>