Today is probably not your season opener, but make no mistake–it is opening day of the rut, and you need to be in the woods. This Tuesday lies in the middle of what I call scrape week–the micro-period when finding a fresh scrape means you stand an excellent chance of spotting its maker during daylight.
I know what you may be thinking: I’ve sat over scrapes and never seen a thing. Bucks lay down all that sign at night. But this week is different. First, we’re three days past the last full moon of October, a widely acknowledged catalyst for rutting behavior across much of whitetail range. Second, testosterone levels have been climbing in mature bucks for the last several weeks. Peak breeding is on the horizon and those bucks sense it; scraping and rubbing activity is as frenetic as it will be all year. Finally, late October’s cooler weather will keep bucks more active during daylight hours. If there’s a mature buck around, today is the first best day to get a crack at him.
Research suggests that a mature buck may make a dozen or more scrapes in a single day right now, and countless rubs. This spoor has been likened to a buck’s calling card, but I think it’s much more than that. When a buck thrashes the ground or hashes a tree, he’s not merely signing in–he’s throwing down a gauntlet to competitors: I am the perfect combination of UFC champion and Love God! What are you gonna do about it?
Let the bucks sort out who’s the boss. Your job is to arrange an up-close encounter. Here’s how to start.
First, head to a prime evening food source on your property, such as an oak flat or secluded feed field. Walk its edge and you’ll find one or two main deer trails entering it. Choose the trail that leads back toward the best area of security cover–an overgrown clear-cut, a swamp, or a large swath of dense brush.
You’ll probably spot some rubs and the odd scrape on the trail adjacent to the feed. Ignore them and follow the trail to the thick stuff. You’ll likely walk through a dead zone of little to no buck sign before you get to your spot. When the sign reappears, you’ll recognize it: a series of scrapes on an old logging road, perhaps a cluster of rubs where several smaller entry trails meet at the main artery. This is where a buck is arriving before dark and working off steam before hitting the groceries to pester does. It’s also where you could fill your tag tonight.
Set up a stand on the downwind side and within range of the best sign. Then throw down a gauntlet of your own: a triangle of mock scrapes within 15 steps of your stand. Wear rubber-soled boots so you don’t leave residual scent. Slip on a pair of latex gloves and hang a buck-urine-soaked scent wick above a mock scrape that offers a clear shot from your stand. Keep your bow on your lap. The buck could appear at last light…or minutes from now.