WON Landing Page March 2022

Deer scrapes explained

Carrie Zylka from Wild World of CarrieZ shares tips on how to read deer scrapes. 


Carrie Zylka deer scrapes

(Carrie Zylka photo)


I have spent a lot of time in the woods, just wandering around and watching how animals interact. I have always been a firm believer in learning by observation.

You can read lots and lots of books, magazine articles and watch tv shows but sometimes you need to take that info into the field and watch the words come alive to truly understand the content.

When hunting whitetail, hunters in general tend to spend a lot of time focused on scrapes and rubs.

Hoping that if they post up over a good scrape that monster buck will magically appear to “freshen” it up at some point in the day.

Honestly, I don’t really pay that much attention to the scrapes and rubs unless I’ve patterned a buck and I personally see that he goes to XYZ scrape every morning.

But with that being said, scrape hunting can be very effective if done right.

Before I realized that I had much more luck focusing on food and cover sources, I too would scout and find a big rub and sit over it for 3 days and then curse in 7 different languages when that buck would refuse to materialize.

What I didn’t realize was there are a few different kinds of rubs, deer will rub against trees to remove the velvet from their antlers, they will actually fight with bushes to strengthen themselves, and I firmly believe that sometimes, smart mature bucks will leave rubs at eye level to advertise to does that he’s there. Sorta like grafitti “Big Buck In Da House”…

But taking that in to account, even a fresh rub may be just a deer trying to get the velvet off or as he passes he just doesn’t like something about that tree and takes a few whacks at it!

Scrapes are a bit of a different story, I have read reports that northern deer do not make as many scrapes as southern deer due to the lack of breeding pressure.

I’m not a scientist or a deer biologist, who has studies all over the country, but the Wisconsin doe to buck ratio is 2:1 and we have more than 700,000 whitetail deer currently. Take the bucks too young to breed, or the younger ones who aren’t strong enough to fight off a bigger buck out of the equation and the mature breeding bucks stand a greater chance of attracting does in heat. Hence many zones in Wisconsin being earn a buck where you had to harvest a doe before a buck to control the population.

Like us, deer tend to follow the path of least resistance when walking. A game trail that is easy to walk is obviously going to be the most beneficial for the buck to make his scrape along. If he’s walking along that path, chances are other deer will too.

I’m sure there is some sort of genetic instinct that lets them know if you make a scrape in thick brush where it’s hard to get in, chances are…no one will know its there.

In my opinion, there are actually two essential parts to a scrape. The scrape on the ground; and the tree branch hanging above it. A scrape is made (usually) after a deer has gently chewed on an overhanging branch. There are chemicals secreted by their salivary glands, their own personal scent if you will, that are left on those branches.

I liken it to the way my cat will occasionally rub the corners of her mouth on furniture, toys and even me. She’s marking those items as “hers”. The scent that’s secreted from her saliva would be detectable if another cat were to come into “her” house. She’s letting everything and everyone know she’s marked and taken ownership of this item and she is in residence.

That is exactly what a mature buck does when he’s chewing or even licking those branches. He’s leaving his scent behind for both does and other interloping bucks to know he is in residence.

Past experience has told me that many hunters don’t even take the really high branches into account. But think about it, haven’t you ever seen a buck stand on his hind legs? He’s a pretty tall dude when he wants to be.


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    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.


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