My friend Terry Krahn, an avid bowhunter who lives out near Pine
Island stopped by recently to tell me how impressed he is with the
activity he is seeing at his fake scrapes. If Terry had stopped by
in late October or early November, you would probably say, “So
what?” But Terry’s visit was on April 28.
Seems a little early to be messing with mock scrapes doesn’t it?
I mean, the bucks have just begun to grow their antlers. Aren’t
bucks supposed to establish scrapes in the fall after their antlers
are full grown and free of velvet?
I was not surprised that virtually all of the dozen or so mock
scrapes Terry already has established are being hit regularly. I’ve
learned over the years that you can’t make a mock scrape too early,
but you can darn sure make them too late. In fact, the biggest
reason why hunters do not have better luck with fake scrapes is
that they wait until bucks are pawing out their own scrapes before
they establish mock ones. By then, you’re wasting your time.
That’s why Terry is out there in the spring establishing mock
scrapes. That is why I have made trips to both Iowa and Wisconsin
already this spring to do the same thing on farms I hunt in those
The real communication center at any mock scrape is not the
scrape itself, but the overhanging branch. Countless times I have
watched bucks enter a scrape in the fall and pay little if any
attention to the scrape, but spend minutes rubbing their face and
forehead on the overhanging limb, hooking the limb with their
antlers, and often repeatedly licking, chewing, and nuzzling the
tip of the limb. Often these deer seem to be in some kind of
dream-like trance as they work the overhanging branch. There is no
doubt in my mind that the important messages shared at a scrape
between deer are delivered via the overhanging branch and not from
the pawed up ground beneath it.
In fact, at this time of the year, many of the bucks that visit
a mock scrape will not paw the dirt below the overhanging branch.
That occurs later, beginning in early to mid September after the
bucks have shed the velvet from their antlers. Right now and
through the summer the bucks will focus their attention on the
overhanging branch. The bucks will establish scrapes under most of
them, but not all of them, in the fall. That is when I will
determine which mock scrapes to hunt over.
If you are interested in trying these early mock scrapes, there
are a couple of things you should know before you run out to make
First, while a lone fake scrape will attract some attention, a
string of three or more scrapes is much more effective. In fact, if
the lay of the land and the cover allows for it, I like to lay down
two fake scrape lines that cross each other and hang my stands at
the intersection of the two lines. As the diagram indicates, I
usually hang two stands at the intersection so that I can hunt the
location regardless of the wind direction.
The second point to keep in mind is that mock scrapes are most
effective when you locate them along natural buck travel lanes. In
the hill country of southeast Minnesota and across the river in
Wisconsin where I bowhunt, ridges are my preferred location for
mock scrapes. Bucks love to cruise the ridges. I usually do not put
scrape lines down low in hilly country because the wind is so
fickle down in the valleys. Old logging roads are always good. So
are edges, but I do not mean field edges. Sure bucks will scrape
along field edges, but nearly all of this scraping is done at
I like what I call “the inside edge,” those places where
hardwoods meet conifers, or where relatively open timber abuts a
real jungle. Deer just naturally travel along these inside
Making a mock scrape is easy. Find a good overhanging branch no
more than five feet off the ground (about four feet is the perfect
height.) If there is no overhanging branch where you want to make a
mock scrape, cut a live branch from another tree and with the
landowner’s permission, of course wire the branch where you want
it. This works very well. In fact, I sometimes think bucks are more
inclined to scrape under an “artificial” branch just because it is