Seal the deal with scents and scrapes when bowhunting for deer
Daylight is waning, temps are dropping and leaves are falling. That means bucks will soon be on the move, in daylight, seeking pretty gals to breed both near and far. Wise hunters can try to fool a love-struck titan by employing aggressive hunting techniques that appeal to the deer's naturally induced romantic desires.
While humans are initially attracted to potential mates by sight, deer are driven primarily by scent. They use a unique combination of bodily scents – including saliva, urine and gland secretions – to communicate their willingness and readiness to breed.
Fortunately for hunters, these natural liquid odors are collected and bottled from live captive deer (or duplicated in synthetic form), making them readily available for purchase from a variety of outdoor retailers. With proper use, they can at times be very effective in the field.
My favorite time to use scents is when bucks are traveling through my hunting area during the early stages of rut. The strategy I employ is to make a mock scrape near a primary natural scrape, essentially doubling my chances of drawing a buck in close.
Natural scrapes are usually made by bucks, but are utilized as communal signposts by members of both genders. Sometimes a buck randomly scrapes an area or thrashes a tree out of frustration but never returns to check the sign, while other primary scrapes are opened year after year and are visited regularly.
While the lesser secondary scrapes pop up at various locations and may eventually go cold, the primary scrapes tend to stay open and hot for the duration of all three estrous cycles. Almost every deer in the herd seems to visit them. Thus, these are the scrapes hunters should really key in on.
After identifying a primary scrape by observation or scouting camera, I like to shake things up by using a combination of bottled buck urine and doe in estrous urine to get things moving in my favor when bucks are cruising during daylight hours.
Though I still set up close to the primary scrapes, I try to entice bucks by laying down a scent drag to my stand with doe in estrous scent, then antagonize them with a nearby mock scrape that mimics a rival buck's secondary tension scrape.
Approaching my stand from a perpendicular angle that bisects established deer trails, I drag a cloth doused with estrous scent past the upwind side of my stand. Then, I create a mock scrape situated upwind from the primary scrape. This way, I can better control the positioning of a buck for an ideal shot opportunity.
To construct the mock scrape, I use a rubber-soled boot (or a stick with gloved hands) to expose a patch of bare dirt about 20 yards from my stand. Then, I apply buck urine directly to the ground and either sprinkle a bit more estrous scent on the ground or hang the scent drag cloth on an overhanging limb at eye level to circulate more scent into the air.
Most times, a crossing buck intercepts the scent line, and either follows it with his nose to the ground or parallels it a few yards downwind, scanning ahead for a receptive doe. When he gets close to the stand, he either comes directly within shooting range to the mock scrape, or skips to the primary natural scrape, from which he also smells my fake, get agitated and heads my way to investigate.
This strategy has worked for me with bucks of various ages. Reluctant bucks can further be lured into range by giving a few contact calls on the grunt tube or can-style bleat call. It adds a little extra realism and can often make the difference.
There's no doubt- big bucks get careless during the rut as a result of their crazy libidos. By pulling out all the stops with scents and scrapes, you just might get the opportunity to make a buck's next mistake his last one ever.