Whitetail Scrape Lines: What You Need to Know

Nov 6, 2020 | Whitetail Hunting | 0 comments

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Animal sign is the basis for a hunter’s understanding of activity in any given area and helps him/her determine if the spot is worthy of an investment of time.

Scat, tracks, beds and forage are all important in finding a suitable habitat for your quarry. But the most exciting, and infuriating, sign of game are often rubs.

In the West, elk and mule deer rubs are exciting to see, but often don’t lead to enough information. Elk can travel over ten miles a day away from their rubs and mule deer range can change based on the season, so the rubs may offer no clues.

All throughout the Midwest and East, however, rubs and scrapes lines are a tried and true tactic for targeting mature bucks.

Hunting a scrape line isn’t as easy as finding rubbed trees and staking out the area all hunting season. Scrapes often need a detective’s eye and a monk’s patience and some basic understanding of deer behavior. Finding a solid scrape line could be the difference between tag soup and a big buck for you this year.

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Scrape vs Scrape Line

When looking for a scrape line to hunt over, you need to pay special attention, whether you’re looking at general tree rubs, or if it is a scrape line. Whitetails will rub trees throughout September as they rid their antlers of velvet. Scrapelines, on the other hand, won’t begin to show up until around mid-October, as bucks begin their preparations for the rut.

The rut is all about scents for deer. Trees belonging to a scrape line will have loose dirt underneath where a buck has pawed at the ground and urinated on it. This mound of dirt will be matched with scrapes on above branches where the buck has rubbed its antlers to mark the spot and applied a generous amount of scent from its head.

Like early elk bugling, this act starts as a way for bucks to keep track of one another in a certain area. Look for scrape lines to start appearing in early, to mid, October as bucks begin their early preparations for the rut.

BaseMap Tip: Set Smart Markers on the densest cluster of scrapes you find in October. The waypoints will slowly start to show a pattern forming, giving you an idea of where the buck begins and ends checking the line.

How To Hunt a Scrape Line

Cameras are an important tool before you even think of setting your stand over a line. When mature bucks begin making a scrape line in early Fall they are almost completely nocturnal. To even get an idea of the quality of deer working a line of trees and bushes, you must have cameras set up for night time movement.

As the season progresses toward the rut, bucks will start checking on their scrapes more and more during the daylight. Your cameras will come in handy again as you start to detect when certain bucks begin visiting the scrapes during shooting hours.

When bucks start visiting during shooting light, it’s time to get in your stand. Take in mind though, even if you’ve seen bucks cruising during the daylight, you can’t expect to pattern them to a specific hour. This is the exciting part of hunting a scrape line; knowing that at almost any time of day you could see a mature deer coming out to check on things.

BaseMap Tip: Use HuntWind to find consistencies in wind direction. Knowing which way the wind consistently blows will help you cue in on potential bedding areas, as a buck will like to smell any other deer using his line. The wind direction will also help you plan from which direction you want to access your stand and also let you know the most likely direction a buck will work from.

Additional Tips For Hunting Scrape Lines

Like we mentioned earlier, a scrape line is all about scent. This makes synthetic deer urine scents particularly valuable when hunting a line.

Buck scents are great for making mock scrapes and convincing your target deer that there is a competing buck nearby, encroaching on his territory. You can use sticks, or even rattling antlers to make the scrape, then disturb the dirt with your boot and apply the scent.

Doe estrus scents will also lure a suitable buck out to check his scrape lines the closer the rut nears.

BaseMap Tip: drop specific waypoints on areas you marked with synthetic scents to keep track of which trees are marked with buck scent and which with doe. Keeping track like this will help you key in on what time of year the different scents work the best.
The rut is undoubtedly the most exciting time to be sitting in a stand all year long. Adding knowledge about when scrape lines are formed, how bucks use them and the best tips for hunting them will increase your chances of filling a tag this year.

Make sure to keep BaseMap by your side as well, to mark, map and catalog all the memories of this next, best, hunting season.

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