Science & Behavior of Whitetail Scrapes


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If you hunt whitetails, it should be no secret to you that whitetails communicate through scent they leave behind. Whether detecting danger, bucks seeking a breeding doe or a doe locating a hiding fawn, whitetail deer use scent for much of their survival and social interaction. Scraping behavior of whitetails, is one of the CHIEF ways whitetail bucks leave scent behind throughout the year.

Bucks work scrape’s overhanging branches, called a licking branch, throughout the year, often times more than they work the scrape itself. But their most aggressive scraping of these areas occur from October to December when testosterone levels are highest. When a whitetail buck makes a scrape he does so where there is an attractive branch hanging along a roadway, at the edge of a field, on a well-worn trail, or in a random area he’s walking through. In most cases a buck begins the scraping process by rubbing his forehead, preorbital, and nasal glands on the branch and in some cases will actually lick and chew on the overhanging branch. Once done, most bucks will paw the leaves and other debris from the ground under the branch, then urinate into the pawed-out earth.

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The process usually takes less than two minutes. During this time, however, a buck will leave liberal amounts of scent behind. Scraping, like rubbing, allows a buck to make his presence known. It’s a calling card of sorts; a post on a whitetail bulletin board. Research suggests that scraping is primarily a buck activity. Does have been known to work a scrape from time to time but they most frequently work the licking branch above the scrape. Bucks almost always work both.

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Scrapes can be broken down into 3 different categories, though the names or classification of these are often debated. The are Boundary, Secondary and Primary Scrapes.

Boundary scrapes: Boundary scrapes are made by traveling bucks moving through his territory. These scrapes will show up along field edges, fence rows and roads that aren’t too busy.

Secondary scrapes: Secondary scrapes are made my bucks as more of an impulse. These are far more random and a result of the buck “feeling the need” to make a scrape. Call it impulse, hormones or whatever you’d like but these scrapes are less frequent, spiritic and typically not a good target for hunting over.

Primary scrapes: These are the scrapes that hunters need to target. These scrapes are the epitome of whitetail scrapes, with some having the potential of becoming very attractive to whitetail bucks. These scrapes can be found in strategic locations—inside corners of agriculture fields, ridge lines, pinch points and especially along well-worn trails between bedding and feeding areas during the rut. Find these primary scrapes and hang a stand!

Bucks work licking branches 365 days to leave their scent, scraping behavior peaks during the 30 day window leading up to peak rut, especially during the last 10 days. Once breeding kicks in scraping behavior drops off drastically. Scraping will continue during the post rut but at a significantly lower rate than occurs leading up to that point.