Which Scrapes Matter During Offseason Scouting

by Braxton Taylor

I’ve spent a substantial amount of time hunting whitetails in the big woods. Understanding scrapes has, without a doubt, led me to more consistent encounters than any other hunting tactic.

Their basic framework is an open patch of dirt with an overhanging licking branch. The size of a scrape might tell you that many deer use it. A scrape with more depth and a foul smell is a telltale sign that a mature buck frequents it. Its location could tell you when deer actually visit the area.

If you’re making a postseason scouting checklist, you’ll want to add these scrapes.

Community Scrapes

These large, car-hood-sized scrapes are hard to miss because deer work them regularly. You’ll find them at terrain junctions where several deer trails converge, and they typically hold multiple licking branches.

Community scrapes provide a cluster of intel, as most deer in a given area will visit it at some point. But they’re not just useful for the trendy habit of naming big bucks and making a hit list. The right community scrape can tell you a lot about the deer in a certain area. Using trail cameras to collect data will help you understand the personality of bucks and the habits of doe family groups in the area.

Ideal settings for trail cameras on community scrapes are a 2-shot burst with a 20-second delay for photo mode or a 15-second video with a 30-second to a 1-minute delay. A buck will spend a lot of time at a scrape. Longer delay saves battery life and SD-card space on a buck that could spend 15 minutes or more at the same scrape.

Scrapes Downwind of Doe Bedding

Scrapes made during the rut can be tough to find during postseason scouting. By spring, most of these scrapes are covered with leaves. Start by locating bedding cover first. Then, examine the outside edges for scrapes. You’ll likely find scrapes that haven’t been hit since the rut or late October. However, if you do locate a scrape line downwind of bedding, especially with decent cover, that area probably saw a lot of cruising action.

Look for scrapes with enough cover to hide a moving buck. Is there multiple doe-family bedding along the route? Will a buck be able to use a common wind to scent check the bedding? Milkweed or a synthetic wind checker is on my packing list for most scouting trips for this reason.

The small scrape lines only heat up for a couple weeks in late October, so timing is key. And this route will likely vary by 10 to 50 yards in different years. So, take notes and drop waypoints on these small scrape lines for next November.

The Scrape with Everything

If I were going to bet my money on a scrape, it would be one located just inside or near bedding with access to food and water.

During a postseason scouting trip, I followed a thick edge of mountain laurel, where I picked up three decent shed antlers. Deeper into the cover, a pounded deer trail led to a small water hole where I spotted a scraggly old licking branch. The scrape under it was underwhelming, but it had been pawed down deep and reeked with deer urine. I marked it, snapped a few photos, and planned to take a buddy there to explore further. When we did, I told him, “One of us is killing over this scrape.”

Sometimes, speaking your hunt into existence is all you need. Late into the month of October, I knelt down next to a public land 10-point.

These are the best scrapes for hunting any buck, as they will be far more comfortable in thick cover. Bucks know danger well and may not be ready to travel from one county to the next in search of does. Watch these scrapes in mid-October for a burst of activity and again the last two to three days of that month.

Keep in mind that in that thick cover, your only option may be to hunt from the ground or learn to take tight shots. So plan ahead to adjust for the surroundings—it’ll help you arrow a mammoth if he decides to visit that scrape during the rut.

Offseason Knowledge

Scouting scrapes is more than just finding one. Sometimes, it could mean investing a whole season to learn how and when deer use it. Increased value to scrapes comes from what you understand about the sign around it.

When postseason scouting for scrapes, always take a moment to read surrounding features. There’s nothing quite like becoming a student of the woods and, eventually, passing the test.

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