Mock scrapes. We’ve heard the term thousands of times. Maybe they’ve even been talked about too much, but I still love them. Scrapes are my number one tool for getting inventory on which bucks are around every single year. In addition, 90% (or more) of the trail cameras I put out each season are on scrapes. I think these spots are where you can gather the most and best information about the deer in your herd.
What is a mock scrape? Simply put, a mock scrape is a scrape that is created by you, as the hunter. There are a couple of key components to scrapes, an overhanging branch (licking branch), and a cleared spot on the ground. In most areas during the fall, you’ll see natural scrapes scattered throughout a deer’s habitat. The advantage of a mock scrape is that you can create a communication spot for the deer to visit that is advantageous to you, either for a trail camera or for hunting.
When do I create a mock scrape? Deer utilize scrapes on a year-round basis, but the activity is exponentially higher as it gets closer to the rut. I prefer to create most of my mock scrapes late in the summer just before the bucks start to shed their velvet. I enjoy getting photos of the bucks in velvet but the primary reason for this timing is to get ahead of when the deer actively start creating new scrapes on their own. What I’ve found is that if I can create mine early, and they’re in a good location, those ones tend to be the hotter ones as we go into the fall season.
How do I start a mock scrape? I start with the location. As I mentioned, you have the opportunity to create this in a location that is advantageous to you as a hunter, but it still needs to be somewhere that makes sense for the deer too if you want to maximize its use. I really like creating scrapes where I have multiple things coming together. As an example, a field edge or food source that intersects with a major entry/exit trail for the deer. Or if in the woods, I look for intersecting trails, not just one. The more reason for a deer to go through that area, the more your mock scrape is going to be utilized.
Another popular place for a mock scrape is in the middle of a field, away from the edge. I like to use these, especially in larger plots, to increase the chances of a mature buck coming into bow range. In this case, if there’s not already a tree in the field, you may need to set a post in the ground to attach the licking branch to. These can be major communication hubs and it’s very tough for a buck to come out into the field without checking that scrape out at some point. Just be sure to orient the licking branch in a way that the buck will likely be broadside if he comes in to work it.
Once you have your location picked out, you’ll need to decide what type of licking branch to use. This can be a popular topic for hunters to plead their case about what’s best, and certainly different areas of the country could show different results, but I’ll list out what works best for me. In my experience, an oak branch has given me the best results. I don’t know what exactly it is about it, maybe it’s the rigidity of them compared to other options, but overall, through the years I’ve seen the most utilization and longest-lasting scrapes with oak branches. The second-best option for me has been grape vines, followed by pretty much everything else (ropes, cedar branches, pine branches, etc).
I have seen the most success with mock scrapes when I have a very obvious vertical branch, one that is by itself for the most part, hanging from another branch that is higher and more horizontal. When cutting your vertical piece, the length of it will depend on how high it is that you’re going to be hanging it from. There is one important thing to keep in mind here though, depending on when you’re setting the scrape up. If it’s early in the season when leaves are still green and on the branches, you’ll need to keep in mind that as those leaves fall off, everything is going to lift in the air. If I create my mock scrape in the late summer, I like to have the bottom of the vertical branch hanging around waist to belly button height, giving it room to lift up closer to chest height as the leaves fall. If you’re hanging it on a tree that won’t change much, like a pine or a cedar, then you can just start it at chest height.
To attach my vertical branch to the overhanging one, I like to use rubber wire or zip ties. Other helpful tools to have with you for mock scrapes are pruners and something to clear the debris from the ground, like a machete or a string trimmer. I usually clear a spot underneath the vertical branch that is roughly 3’ by 3’ and is cleared to the dirt.
What is the best mock scrape scent? This is another debatable topic among hunters, and there are a lot of options out there that will work just fine. I’ll give a couple of options that have worked for me, but I’d definitely suggest trying different ones in your area to see what you have the most luck with. As for a real option, I’ve seen good results with pre-orbital gland lures that you drop onto the licking branch. These are nice because they’re taken directly from real deer, but they tend to require a little more care when not in use. For that reason, I’ve gravitated towards a synthetic option, like the ScrapeFix powder. The deer have reacted well to this one for me and it’s convenient to just have it with me all the time. I typically add a few puffs to the scrape and licking branch to get it started then let the deer take over from there. I don’t usually need to revisit these areas to freshen them up or add scent.
Again, mock scrapes are an excellent tool to learn about and get photos of the deer in your area. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with different setups and it’s cool to see the scrape locations you set up transform into communication hotspots for the deer.