Adrenaline rush: finding a hot whitetail buck scrape line

The author’s dad takes a quick look at a scrape line that their hunting party stumbled into on Sunday.

Wrapping up a day of Zone 3 deer hunting last Sunday, I quietly walked through a four-acre patch of small bur oaks. My 14-year-old son was sitting on the far side, and I wanted to kick a deer past him. No luck, but en route I stumbled on a fresh, hot scrape line.

We planted the bur oak patch 16 or 17 years ago on my dad’s place along the Winona-Houston county line. Slow-growing trees, they’ve just begun to reach critical mass the past couple of years, and when leafed out, a forest emerges. But it doesn’t contain any trees large enough for a stand, so we’ve largely ignored the plot for hunting.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that a buck has been working the quiet parcel. The scrape line on Sunday contained at least eight fresh scrapes that all had seen action within the previous 24 hours.

A trail camera, which the author’s dad placed on Sunday afternoon, produced images of bucks freshening the scrape mid-week.

After showing the scrape line to my dad, he placed a trail camera in the vicinity on Monday. You can see a respectable buck appeared this morning (Nov. 9), and there were pictures of two smaller bucks, too.

Like many hunters encountering a scrape line, I’m eager to immediately build a ground blind (given the lack of stand trees), then hunt the patch this upcoming second weekend of the 3A season. But then I remembered the words of the late Gary Clancy, a hardcore deer hunter, who often advised against becoming too enthusiastic about hunting over scrape lines.

In his book “Hunting the Whitetail Rut,” Clancy says a clear scrape line definitely suggests the sign of a mature buck. Few bucks, however, visit scrapes during peak breeding time, and many of them visit scrapes at night. That’s especially true of scrape lines along field edges or in semi-open areas, he wrote. The time signature on the photos clearly validates that point.

Clancy liked scrapes in dense cover, especially a series of them where he believed a late-season bowhunter or firearms hunter had a shot at witnessing some daytime movement.

In a few years, the scrape line I located probably would qualify as thick cover, but not yet. Given that, I concluded that Clancy probably would advise setting up on a corridor between that scape line and a logical bedding area.

I called a couple of other hunters for advice, including Outdoor News contributor and Bowhunter magazine equipment editor Tony Peterson  He asked me to describe adjacent cover within the near vicinity, then stopped me when I mentioned a pond 100 yards from the scrape line.

In the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing, water provides a logical, easy place to set up, he said. The whole area represents a logical crossroads where – if I’m willing to invest some time – a buck eventually should appear during shooting hours. The stars just might align late this week, with temperatures moderating slightly and deer being more willing to move. That’s where we’ll be this weekend.

“I’m not a big gimmick guy,” Peterson told me. “Figure out where deer walk, then sit there and shoot them.”

After seeing the fresh images of Wednesday morning buck activity, Tony gave me the thumbs up to place a quick, but well-camouflaged ground blind.

And we have a big project for next spring, when we’ll build a permanent stand adjacent to the plot. The area had lousy mast this year, in part I suspect, because of the late frost that hit the region in May. Here’s betting on more seasonable temps in spring 2017 and a bumper food crop in the area next fall. Combined with the success of antler-point restrictions in Zone 3, I’m liking our chances in 2017 and beyond.

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Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Hunting, Rob Drieslein, Whitetail Deer

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