by Bill Vaznis
Scrapes go cold once the rut gets into full swing. But there’s an exception to the rule, and taking advantage of it can put a cruising bruiser into your sights at any time of day, all through the breeding period.
The key to finding these active peak-rut scrapes and scrape lines is to keep close tabs on the local doe population. Left undisturbed, family groups of does and fawns feed predictably on agricultural crops or mast and bed down in nearby thickets and brushy ridges.
What you’re looking for is freshly worked scrapes just outside these bedding grounds, intersecting the routes deer take to feed. This is where does spend most of their time now, and competing bucks cruise through the area checking out the females and investigating sign left by rivals. As a result, these scrapes tend to stay hot.
I’ve personally seen enough bucks working this spoor and have shot enough in the immediate vicinity to say without hesitation that they’re well worth hunting all through the rut. But the best time to tag a real monster is toward its end, after most does have been bred. This is when older bucks leave their core areas and scour the countryside for the few unbred females, and your odds of catching one flat-footed along a peak-rut scrape line skyrocket.
A Pair of Plans
When a cold front comes through and puts bucks on the move, grab a tree stand and head out early in the morning, being careful not to cross major doe trails along the way. Set up just downwind of the scrape line. Mix fawn bleats, doe contact grunts, estrous bleats, and tending grunts to lure a buck. And be patient. This setup could produce anytime from dawn till dusk.
My favorite tactic, however, is to still-hunt just downwind of a line of scrapes. The secret is spotting a buck before he’s even remotely aware of your presence, which means moving very slowly and stopping often, with your eyes and ears riveted to the cover ahead. I was doing this on a cold November morning when I glimpsed the tips of antlers just above me on the lip of a ridge. And that Pope and Young 9-pointer’s rack is still just above me…on my wall.