Posted on

The Ultimate Guide to Early Season Deer Hunting: Strategies, Tactics, and Tips

Early Season Velvet Buck

As the summer heat begins to fade and the first signs of fall start to make their appearance, a unique opportunity arises for deer hunters. The early season, a period that is often overlooked, presents both a challenge and an opportunity for those willing to understand and adapt to the unique behaviors of deer during this transition. 

Early season deer hunting can indeed be a tough game. Mature whitetail bucks aren’t driven by the breeding instincts of the rut, nor are they forced to food sources by harsh winter conditions. Instead, they are in a state of flux, changing their main food sources and sometimes even their core areas as summer gives way to fall. 

However, it’s not all uphill. The early season also offers a distinct advantage: the deer haven’t been subjected to hunting pressure yet. This means that dedicated whitetail hunters who have spent their summer and early fall scouting meticulously stand a real chance at bagging a mature buck before the full intensity of the hunting season kicks in and turns the deer nocturnal. 

In this article, we will take a look into the best strategies, tactics, and tips for early season deer hunting. We’ll explore how to pattern bucks before the season starts, understand their dietary shifts, set up stands effectively, and adapt different strategies for private and public lands. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a beginner, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make the most of the early deer hunting season. So, let’s embark on this journey and uncover the secrets of successful early season deer hunting.

Pre-Season Preparation: Patterning Bucks, Trail Cameras, and Food Plots

Preparation is the key to success in any endeavor, and early season deer hunting is no exception. The pre-season period is a crucial time to gather information, strategize, and set up for the hunting season. Let’s dive into the key aspects of pre-season preparation: patterning bucks, using trail cameras, and creating food plots.

Patterning Bucks

Patterning bucks before the season starts is an essential part of your hunting strategy. This involves understanding the behavior and movement patterns of mature bucks in your hunting area. Remember, mature bucks are experts at avoiding hunters, which is how they’ve managed to grow old. To outsmart them, you need to put in the work before the hunting season starts.

Start by identifying potential feeding and bedding areas. Look for signs of deer activity such as tracks, droppings, rubs, and scrapes. Pay attention to the times of day when you observe the most activity, as this can give you clues about the deer’s daily routines.

Using Trail Cameras Effectively

Trail cameras are a vital tool for patterning bucks. They provide a way to monitor deer activity without disturbing the area with your presence. However, simply setting up a trail camera isn’t enough; you need to use it effectively.

First, consider the placement of your trail cameras. They should be set up around major food sources and trails leading to these food sources. It’s also beneficial to place cameras near potential bedding areas to capture movement during the early morning and late evening.

Second, make sure your cameras are set to capture images at regular intervals, as well as when triggered by motion. This will provide a comprehensive picture of deer activity throughout the day. My camera of choice is the Tactacams and I like to place them 8-10ft up in a tree to keep them out of sight of anyone with sticky fingers.

Using a cell cam allows you to limit leaving scent in the area as the season gets closer. Pictures and even videos get sent straight to your phone eliminating the need to pull sd cards to check them.

Interpreting Trail Camera Pictures

Trail camera pictures can provide a wealth of information, but only if you know how to interpret them. They can tell you if nice bucks are around, but more importantly, they can help you figure out where those bucks are heading, where they’re coming from, and where they might be vulnerable.

Look for patterns in the pictures. Are there certain times when the bucks are more active? Are they frequently seen with other deer? Are there specific areas they seem to prefer? All these details can help you build a picture of the buck’s habits and preferences. Possibly even set up an excel spreadsheet to analyze the data and possibly identify any common patterns you may have missed otherwise.

Creating Food Plots

In addition to natural food sources, consider creating food plots to attract and nourish deer. Food plots are areas where you plant specific crops that are known to be attractive to deer. They not only provide a reliable food source for deer but also create an excellent opportunity for you to observe and pattern their behavior.

Choose plants that are known to be favored by deer and suitable for the soil and climate in your area. Some popular choices include clover, brassicas, and certain grains. Remember, the goal is to supplement the deer’s natural diet, not replace it.

Pre-season preparation is all about gathering information and using it to understand the behavior of the deer in your hunting area. By patterning bucks, using trail cameras effectively, interpreting the pictures they capture, and creating food plots, you can set yourself up for a successful early season deer hunt.

Understanding Deer Diet in the Early Season: From High-Protein Plants to High-Calorie Carbohydrates

Understanding the dietary habits of deer is crucial for successful hunting, especially during the early season when food sources and eating patterns undergo significant changes. Let’s look into the dietary transition of deer, the role of acorns, crops, soft mast, and the importance of water sources.

The Dietary Transition of Deer

As the seasons change from summer to fall, so does the diet of deer. During the summer months, deer primarily feed on high-protein plants, such as legumes, forbs, and leaves of woody plants. This protein-rich diet helps them grow and maintain their body mass and, for bucks, develop antlers.

However, as fall approaches, their dietary needs shift. They begin to transition from high-protein plants to high-calorie carbohydrates. This shift is driven by the need to build up fat reserves to survive the upcoming winter. Carbohydrates provide more energy than protein, making them ideal for this purpose.

The Significance of Acorns in the Deer Diet

Acorns play a significant role in the deer diet during the early season. They are a rich source of carbohydrates and fats, making them an excellent food for building up energy reserves. In fact, where they occur, acorns are often the most preferred natural food of whitetail deer.

There are two general groups of oak trees that produce acorns: white and red oaks. White oak acorns tend to drop earlier and contain fewer tannins, making them sweeter and more attractive to deer. Once the white oak acorns are depleted, deer will switch to red oak acorns. Be sure you can identify both types of oak trees and plan to hunt them accordingly. White oaks in the early season could be the ticket to harvesting an early season buck.

The Role of Crops and Soft Mast in the Deer Diet

In addition to acorns, crops and soft mast also play a crucial role in the deer diet during the early season. Crops such as corn and soybeans represent an almost limitless source of carbohydrates. Deer may overlook hard, dry soybeans in the early season, until a prolonged rain softens them up.

Soft mast, like apples, persimmons, and berries, may be far more important as an early-season food source than many hunters realize. These fruits are high in sugar and are very attractive to deer. When these fruits ripen and fall to the ground, deer will often prefer them over other food sources.

The Importance of Focusing on Water Sources

Water is a vital part of the deer diet, especially during the early season when temperatures can still be quite high. Deer need to drink water daily, and they will often visit water sources before they go out to feed. Focusing your scouting on water can be especially effective during drought years. A camera over a known water source can produce excellent results.

Understanding the dietary habits of deer during the early season can significantly improve your hunting success. By focusing on the right food and water sources, you can predict deer movements more accurately and increase your chances of a successful hunt.

Best Stand Setups for Early Season Deer: Adapting to Changing Conditions and Choosing the Right Sites

Choosing the right stand setup is a critical part of early season deer hunting. The early season is characterized by rapidly changing conditions, and your stand setup needs to adapt accordingly. Let’s explore the importance of adapting to changing conditions and the six best stand sites for early season deer hunting. This is a prime example why I saddle hunt. Being able to stay mobile and adapt to changing conditions will keep you one step ahead.

Adapting to Changing Conditions

In the early season, conditions can change quickly. Food sources shift as crops mature and are harvested, acorns start to drop and are depleted, and deer behavior changes as they adjust to these shifts. As a hunter, you need to be observant and reactive. 

For instance, if you notice that a certain food source is no longer attracting deer, it’s time to move your stand to a different location. Similarly, if you observe that deer are changing their travel routes, you need to adjust your stand setup accordingly. 

Six Best Stand Sites for Early Season Deer Hunting

1. Agricultural Fields: Deer are attracted to agricultural fields, especially in the early season when these fields are full of crops. However, it’s important to avoid spooking the deer when entering and exiting your stand. Consider setting up your stand at the edge of the field, where you can observe the deer without disturbing them. If you haven’t read my article on thermals be sure to give it a read. Deer will often come from the low side of a field where thermals tend to fall.

2. Food Plots: If you’ve created food plots, these can be excellent stand sites. Deer are likely to visit these plots regularly, providing you with plenty of opportunities for a shot. Try to position your stand near cover, so you can approach and leave without being detected.

3. Bedding-Area Funnels: These are areas where the landscape naturally funnels deer movement, often between bedding areas and food sources. Setting up a stand in these areas can be highly effective, but it’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy. You need to be very careful not to disturb the deer and ruin the spot.

4. Stands of Oaks:As we’ve discussed, acorns are a major food source for deer in the early season. Setting up a stand in an area with plenty of oak trees can be very productive. However, you need to be ready to move your stand as the availability of acorns changes.

5. Soft Mast: Areas with soft mast trees (like apple, pear, or persimmon trees) can also be excellent stand sites. Deer love these fruits and will often visit these areas regularly. However, keep in mind that soft mast generally doesn’t last long once it hits the forest floor. When the fruit is gone, it’s time to move your stand.

6. Scrape Lines: These are areas where bucks have scraped the ground and nearby trees with their antlers, often along their travel routes. Setting up a stand near a scrape line can be a good strategy, especially if the scrape line is fresh. However, keep in mind that deer generally visit early-season scrapes after dark.

The best stand setup for early season deer hunting depends on a variety of factors, including the available food sources, the deer’s travel routes, and the changing conditions. By being observant, adaptable, and strategic in your stand placement, you can increase your chances of a successful hunt.

Strategies for Hunting on Private Land: Keeping Bucks Calm and Avoiding Unnecessary Pressure

Hunting on private land offers a unique set of opportunities and challenges. The strategies you employ on private land can significantly differ from those used on public land, particularly in terms of managing pressure on the deer. Let’s look into the importance of keeping targeted bucks calm and relaxed and share some tips from experienced hunters on how to avoid unnecessary pressure.

Keeping Targeted Bucks Calm and Relaxed

One of the key strategies when hunting on private land is to keep targeted bucks as calm and relaxed as possible. Unlike public lands, where deer are often accustomed to human activity, deer on private lands can be more sensitive to disturbances. Any unusual activity, such as the scent or noise of a hunter, can put them on high alert and make them more elusive and turn nocturnal.

To keep bucks calm, it’s crucial to minimize your presence in their habitat. This means limiting the amount of time you spend in the hunting area before and during the hunting season. When you do need to enter the area, for instance, to set up stands or check trail cameras, try to do so quietly and quickly to minimize disturbance. Take your scent free routine seriously. I always leave all my camo in a bin covered with pine needles in my car. I never wear my hunting clothes until I get out of my truck and it’s time to hunt.

Avoiding Unnecessary Pressure

Experienced hunters understand that applying too much pressure can drastically reduce their chances of success. Here are some tips to avoid unnecessary pressure:

1. Smart Scouting: Use cellular trail cameras to monitor deer activity without physically being in the area. When you do need to scout in person, try to leave as little trace as possible. Avoid walking through bedding areas or prime feeding spots where you might leave your scent.

2. Careful Stand Placement: Place your stands in locations that allow you to enter and exit without disturbing the deer. This often means setting up along the edges of the deer’s core area, rather than in the middle of it.

3. Playing the Wind: Always consider the wind direction when hunting. You want to approach your stand from downwind to prevent your scent from reaching the deer. 

4. Limiting Hunting Pressure: Resist the urge to hunt every day. Overhunting an area can make deer wary and change their patterns. Instead, hunt strategically, focusing on the best weather conditions and times of day.

5. Silence is Golden: Be as quiet as possible when you’re in the hunting area. Noise can alert deer to your presence and make them more cautious. Use quiet gear, move slowly and deliberately, and avoid unnecessary talking or noise.

Hunting on private land requires a careful, strategic approach that prioritizes keeping deer calm and relaxed. By minimizing your presence, avoiding unnecessary pressure, and using smart hunting strategies, you have increased odds of killing that deer you’re after.

Strategies for Hunting on Public Land: A Different Approach for Rewarding Results

Hunting on public land is a different game altogether compared to private land hunting. It presents its own set of challenges, but also unique rewards. The thrill of harvesting a mature buck on public land, where the pressure is high and the odds are often stacked against you, is unmatched. Let’s discuss the different approach needed for hunting on public land and share some tips on how to hunt aggressively and effectively.

A Different Approach for Public Land Hunting

Public land hunting requires a different mindset and strategy. Unlike private lands, public lands are accessible to everyone, which means the deer there are usually more pressured and wary. They’re accustomed to human activity and have adapted to avoid it. This requires hunters to be more aggressive and proactive in their strategies.

On public land, deer are less likely to follow predictable patterns, especially mature bucks. They often take advantage of thick cover and rugged terrain to avoid hunters. Therefore, successful public land hunting often involves going deeper and hunting harder than others are willing to.

Hunting Aggressively and Effectively on Public Land

Here are some tips from experienced hunters on how to hunt aggressively and effectively on public land:

1. Scout Thoroughly: Spend as much time as you can scouting. Look for signs of deer activity, such as tracks, droppings, rubs, and scrapes. Use topographic maps and aerial imagery to identify potential bedding areas, feeding areas, and travel corridors. 

2. Go Deep: Don’t be afraid to venture into the more remote, hard-to-reach areas of public land. These areas often receive less hunting pressure and can be a refuge for mature bucks. 

3. Hunt the Thick Stuff: Mature bucks on public land often take refuge in thick cover. Don’t shy away from these areas. Instead, learn how to hunt them effectively. This might involve still-hunting or setting up a stand or ground blind near the edge of the thick cover.

4. Be Mobile: Being able to move quickly and adapt to changing conditions is crucial on public land. Using a tree saddle and staying mobile is the best advice I can give you. If a location isn’t producing results, don’t hesitate to move.

5. Play the Wind: As with any type of deer hunting, always consider the wind direction. Try to approach your hunting area and set up your stand or blind with the wind in your favor.

6. Hunt During Off-Peak Times: Hunting during the week or during inclement weather can increase your chances of success, as there will likely be fewer hunters on public land during these times. With my schedule hunting Mon-Fri isn’t an issue and that’s when I find less hunters to be in the woods.

Top Tips for Early Season Deer Hunting: Patience, Stalking, and Strategic Positioning

Here are some practical tips for successful early season deer hunting, emphasizing the importance of patience, stalking, and strategic positioning.

1. Patience is Key: Deer hunting, especially in the early season, is a game of patience. Deer are not as active during the early season as they are during the rut, so it may take longer for them to appear. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see deer right away. Stay patient and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of movement. They are not being highly pressured yet so their guard still may be down.

2. Master the Art of Stalking: Stalking involves slowly and quietly moving through the hunting area in search of deer. This can be an effective strategy in the early season when deer are often feeding in open areas. Practice moving quietly and staying low to avoid detection.

3. Strategic Positioning: Where you position yourself can have a significant impact on your hunting success. Try to set up near food sources, water sources, and travel corridors that deer are likely to use. Use the wind to your advantage by positioning yourself downwind of the deer’s expected location.

4. Scout Ahead of Time: Scouting before the season starts can give you valuable information about deer movement patterns, preferred food sources, and potential stand locations. Use trail cameras, look for signs of deer activity, and observe from a distance to avoid disturbing the area.

5. Be Ready to Adapt: Conditions can change quickly in the early season, and successful hunters are those who can adapt. Be ready to change your strategy based on the weather, deer activity, and hunting pressure.

6. Practice Good Scent Control: Deer have an excellent sense of smell, and if they catch your scent, they’re likely to avoid the area. Use scent control products and play the wind to prevent deer from detecting your presence.

7. Use the Right Equipment: Having the right equipment can make a big difference in your hunting success. This includes a reliable weapon, appropriate clothing for the weather, and comfortable and quiet footwear for stalking.

8. Take Advantage of the Weather: Deer activity can increase dramatically after a cold front or a rainstorm. If the weather changes, consider heading out to your stand, as the deer are likely to be on the move.

Embrace the Challenge and Thrive in the Early Season

As we bring this article to a close, it’s important to reflect on the key points we’ve discussed and how they can shape your early season deer hunting experience. The early season is a unique period that presents both challenges and opportunities. It’s a time of transition for deer, marked by shifts in their behavior, diet, and movement patterns.

We’ve explored the importance of pre-season preparation, including patterning bucks, effectively using trail cameras, interpreting their pictures, and creating food plots. We’ve talked about the dietary transition of deer from high-protein plants to high-calorie carbohydrates, highlighting the significance of acorns, crops, soft mast, and water sources in their diet.

We’ve discussed the best stand setups for early season deer hunting, emphasizing the need to adapt to changing conditions and identifying the six best stand sites. We’ve also shared strategies for hunting on both private and public lands, underscoring the importance of keeping targeted bucks calm and relaxed on private lands and the need for a more aggressive approach on public lands.

Finally, we’ve shared practical tips for successful early season deer hunting, focusing on the importance of patience, stalking, and strategic positioning. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in your hunting success, and mastering them can significantly enhance your early season deer hunting experience.

However, the most important takeaway from this guide is the need for adaptability. The early season is a dynamic period, and the most successful hunters are those who can adapt to the changing conditions and deer behavior.

As you prepare for the early season, we encourage you to apply these strategies and tips. Remember, every hunting experience is a learning opportunity. So, embrace the challenge, learn from each hunt, and continually refine your strategies. The thrill of harvesting a mature buck in the early season is well worth the effort, and with these tips in your arsenal, you’re well on your way to a successful hunt.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through early season deer hunting. We hope this guide has been informative and inspiring. Now, it’s time to put these strategies into action. Happy hunting!

Join the Conversation and Stay Connected

Now that we’ve shared our insights and strategies for early season deer hunting, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have your own tips or experiences you’d like to share? What strategies have worked for you in the early season? Your insights could be invaluable to other hunters in our community. Let’s learn from each other and continue to grow as a community of passionate and dedicated hunters. Join us on Facebook or at

If you found this guide helpful and want to stay updated with the latest hunting tips and guides, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter. By subscribing, you’ll receive regular updates and insights directly to your inbox, helping you stay informed and prepared for every hunting season.

Remember, hunting is not just about the harvest. It’s about the thrill of the chase, the connection with nature, and the continual learning and growth. So, let’s embark on this journey together. Subscribe today, join the conversation, and let’s make every hunting season a memorable one. Happy hunting!

Posted on 1 Comment

Ultimate Guide to Mock Scrapes: Attract Mature Bucks Effectively

making a mock scrape, how to create a mock scrape, making a licking branch

Understanding the Science Behind Mock Scrapes

Mock scrapes, a hunter’s subtle tool to lure mature bucks, work by tapping into the intricate deer communication system. Deer, particularly bucks, use scrapes as a method of communication to assert their presence and dominance, and to signify their readiness for breeding. They form these natural scrapes primarily during the pre-rut phase, when they are marking their territory and inviting does to visit. By understanding and replicating these signals, hunters can attract, influence, and anticipate the movements of mature bucks.

Deer employ a multi-sensory approach in their communication. A scrape typically comprises two main components: a ground disturbance where the deer paw the earth to expose the soil, and an overhanging ‘licking branch’ at about deer’s head height. The ground exposes fresh earth, while the licking branch is usually a twig or branch that deer manipulate with their mouths and rub with their foreheads to deposit scent from glands located there.

The Importance of Scent in Deer Communication

Scent plays an essential role in the deer’s communication system. Deer possess an incredibly acute sense of smell, allowing them to pick up the subtlest of scents. When a buck makes a scrape, he leaves behind a potent combination of smells from urine, gland secretions, and the disrupted earth. These smells can convey an array of information to other deer, such as the buck’s size, health, dominance status, and readiness to breed.

Hunters can exploit this reliance on scent by using vines in their mock scrapes. By using these vines with doe estrous or buck urine, hunters can create a potent array of scents to signal a deer to the scrape.

Visual Cues in Deer Communication

Alongside scent, visual cues also play a significant role in deer communication. When a buck creates a scrape, the disturbed ground and the positioned overhanging branch serve as visible markers to other deer in the area. These visual signs signify a buck’s territory and indicate his regular presence.

In creating mock scrapes, hunters should aim to mimic these visual signals as closely as possible. This includes carefully choosing a location with an overhanging branch and disturbing the ground in a manner similar to that of a natural scrape. This creates a believable visual cue that can attract deer to the location.

In essence, the science behind mock scrapes is deeply rooted in understanding deer behavior and communication. By accurately replicating these natural signals, hunters can create an effective hunting tool that lures in mature bucks, significantly increasing their hunting success.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Mock Scrape

The construction of a successful mock scrape requires detailed knowledge of deer habits and behaviors, and a thoughtful execution of the process. It’s not merely about mimicking the physical appearance of a scrape, but about creating an authentic-seeming signal to a deer that another buck is in the vicinity. Here’s how you can create an effective mock scrape:

Here is a quick demonstration from my YouTube channel showing how I make my mock scrapes. After years of using them I find this to be the most successful way in making a mock scrape.


1. Choosing the Right Location

The location of your mock scrape is critical to its success. Deer are creatures of habit, tending to follow established paths between bedding and feeding areas. Mock scrapes should ideally be located along these paths or near a food source, maximizing the chances of a deer discovering it.

Look for signs of deer activity such as tracks, droppings, or existing scrapes. A good mock scrape location should be in an area that is naturally appealing to a deer, with sufficient cover and access to food and water.

However, it’s crucial to maintain a balance. If the mock scrape is placed too close to high-traffic human areas, the deer may get spooked and avoid the area. Seclusion and tranquility are key attributes of an ideal mock scrape location.

2. Proper Timing for Mock Scrapes

Understanding the deer’s behavioral patterns is crucial for timing the creation of your mock scrape. The most effective time is right before the rut, usually in the late summer or early fall. During this period, bucks are marking territories and signaling their readiness to breed, hence they are more likely to engage with a mock scrape.


3. Reducing Human Scent

Deer have an exceptionally acute sense of smell, and any trace of human scent can be a red flag, causing them to steer clear of the area. When creating a mock scrape, it is vital to minimize any human scent transferred to the environment.

Wear gloves to prevent your scent from contaminating the mock scrape. Rubber boots are also recommended as they don’t absorb human scent as readily as other materials. Use a scent eliminator on your boots and tools to mask any human odors. Some hunters even go a step further and use deer scents or cover scents on their clothing to blend into the environment.

4. Using the Right Stimuli in Your Mock Scrape

A natural scrape typically consists of a ground disturbance and an overhanging ‘licking branch’. When creating a mock scrape, it’s essential to mimic these components closely.

Choose a location with an overhanging branch at about deer’s head height, usually 4-5 feet from the ground. This will serve as the ‘licking branch’. Bucks will often rub their antlers and forehead against the branch, depositing scent from their glands. Using your gloves, manually manipulate the branch to mimic this behavior.

For the ground disturbance, use a stick to paw the earth, mimicking the action of a buck. The ground disturbance should be roughly three feet in diameter, exposing fresh soil.

To further attract deer, consider adding scent to your mock scrape. Using a scent dripper filled with doe estrous or buck urine can stimulate the interest of bucks. This scent simulates the presence of a buck or a doe in estrus, and can be a potent attractant.

Remember, the goal is to create an environment that mimics the natural signals a buck would leave. Patience, precision, and attention to detail will serve you well in creating an effective mock scrape.

My Successful Journey with Mock Scrapes: A Testament to Adaptability and Strategy

Over the years, I’ve honed various hunting strategies and techniques, but one method that’s stood out for its effectiveness is the use of mock scrapes. It was several years ago when I first dabbled in this approach, and since then, it has remained an integral part of my deer hunting strategy, yielding great success.

When I first started, I understood the core premise – that mock scrapes tap into the communication system of deer, particularly bucks. By replicating their signaling method, I could subtly guide their movements to advantageous locations. This not only improved my chances of a successful hunt but also offered a fascinating insight into the behavior and habits of the bucks.

Year-Round Mock Scrape Management

Unlike some hunters who only utilize this strategy during the hunting season, I run my mock scrapes throughout the year. This year-round engagement has several benefits. Firstly, it maintains a consistent communication channel with the deer, mimicking their natural behavior. Deer interact with scrapes year-round, albeit more intensely during the rut, so my mock scrapes serve as a familiar and continuous signpost in their environment.

Running the mock scrapes all year also allows me to constantly gather information about deer movement and behavior in different seasons. This long-term monitoring provides invaluable insights that shape my hunting strategies. By using trail cameras alongside the mock scrapes, I can monitor which deer frequent the scrapes, their times of activity, and how they react to different stimuli.

Constantly Adapting Hunting Strategy

This year-round engagement with mock scrapes has demanded a fluid hunting strategy. I’ve learned that the approach is not a ‘set it and forget it’ tactic. It requires constant monitoring, adjusting, and refining to match the changing habits and behaviors of the deer.

One critical lesson has been the importance of location. Over time, I have had to adjust the positioning of my mock scrapes, often based on changes in deer movement patterns, food source locations, and general environmental changes. The aim is always to place the scrapes in areas that not only see regular deer traffic but also offer a strategic advantage for hunting.

I have also learned the value of subtlety. Early on, I found that any strong evidence of human intervention could be a deterrent to the deer. Over time, I refined my techniques to minimize human scent and any signs of disturbance. This meant using scent-free boots, gloves, and tools when creating and maintaining the scrapes. I also began using scent eliminators and deer attractants more strategically to further disguise any human presence and lure in the deer.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, creating the perfect mock scrape is a blend of art and science that, when done right, can significantly elevate your hunting success. It requires careful planning, constant adjustment, and a keen understanding of the deer’s behavior. But, with patience and dedication, mastering the art of mock scrapes can provide a fascinating insight into the world of deer and offer a strategic advantage in your hunting pursuits. So, keep honing your craft, keep learning, and most importantly, keep enjoying the thrill of the hunt.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mock Scrapes

What is a mock scrape?

A mock scrape is a tool that hunters use to imitate the natural scraping behavior of bucks. It is designed to simulate deer communication, influencing their movement and attracting them to a specific location.

How does a mock scrape work?

Mock scrapes work by mimicking deer communication cues. Bucks use scrapes to announce their presence and status to other deer. By creating a mock scrape that closely resembles a real one, hunters can attract bucks to the location and potentially manipulate their movements.

When is the best time to make a mock scrape?

The best time to create a mock scrape is right before the deer rutting period, usually in the fall. This is when bucks are the most active and likely to encounter your mock scrape.

How can I reduce my scent when making a mock scrape?

Wear gloves and use scent eliminators on your boots and tools when creating the scrape. This helps to reduce human scent that could deter deer from approaching the mock scrape.

What should I use in my mock scrape to attract deer?

Use an overhanging branch, or a ‘licking branch’, at deer’s head height. Consider using a scent dripper filled with doe estrous or buck urine to make the scrape more attractive to the deer.

Can mock scrapes be used throughout the year?

While the most common time to use mock scrapes is right before the rut, maintaining and adjusting them throughout the year can provide continuous insights into deer behavior and movements.

How can I make my mock scrape more successful?

To increase the effectiveness of your mock scrape, ensure it is placed in an area frequently used by deer, use the right stimuli, time its creation appropriately, and minimize your scent.

 How has the use of mock scrapes evolved over time?

Over the years, the use of mock scrapes has evolved from a simple hunting tactic to a sophisticated strategy based on an in-depth understanding of deer behavior and communication. This shift has transformed the way hunters approach the deer environment, enabling more successful hunting experiences.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Fascinating World of Deer Hunting: Unveiling the Power of Mock Scrapes

Hello, and welcome back fellow hunting enthusiasts! One of my passions is understanding and leveraging the complex world of deer communication to improve my hunting strategy. It’s this interest that led me to dive deep into the realm of mock scrapes, an intriguing aspect of deer behavior that offers invaluable insights for hunters.

Mock scrapes, or as some call them, fake or hunter-made scrapes, have been a game-changer in my hunting strategy. They have helped me significantly increase my success rates during the hunting season. The ability to mimic natural whitetail scrapes and communicate with deer in their ‘language’ has undoubtedly revolutionized my hunting experiences.

But why are mock scrapes so important? What role do they play in deer communication, and how can we, as hunters, use them to our advantage? If you’ve found yourself asking these questions, then you’re in the right place. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about mock scrapes and how to hunt them effectively. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of deer communication and unveil the power of mock scrapes!

What are Mock Scrapes?

As an avid hunter, one of my favorite hunting strategies involves the use of mock scrapes. In the world of whitetail hunting, mock scrapes, play a crucial role. But what are they exactly?

Mock scrapes are artificial deer scrapes that hunters create to attract bucks. Think of them as a communication board for deer – they’re an imitation of the natural scrapes made by bucks during the rutting season. Bucks use natural scrapes to mark their territory and signal their presence to does, often choosing high-traffic areas under a licking branch.

These mock scrapes aim to trigger the same buck behavior, drawing them into your hunting area and within range of your stand or tree saddle. Mock scrapes tap into the deer’s keen sense of smell – a significant aspect of deer communication.

What is a Community Scrape?

When deer hunting, you might stumble upon a goldmine, the community scrape. These are natural scrapes, usually larger and more frequented than regular scrapes. A community scrape serves as a ‘social hub’ for deer, with multiple bucks and does contributing to it over the entire season. They are typically found under a well-defined licking branch – a branch that deer will sniff or lick, adding their scent  from their preorbital glands to the communal mix.

This communication hub is a prime spot for game cameras and hunting strategies involving mock scrapes. Capturing the scent profile of a community scrape can be highly effective when creating your mock scrapes. In fact, harnessing the power of community scrapes in your hunting approach can significantly improve your chances of a successful hunt. You can do this by adding manufactured mock scrape scents to the community scrape and taking it over and challenging the mature buck that’s using the community scrape.

This provides an overview of what mock scrapes and community scrapes are and their role in deer hunting. We’ll further explore how and when to make mock scrapes, their effectiveness, and many more aspects in the following sections. Remember, hunting is not just about the thrill; it’s a part of our outdoor life, a bond with nature and a commitment to wildlife conservation.

making a mock scrape, how to create a mock scrape, making a licking branch

When Should You Make Mock Scrapes?

Timing is a critical factor when it comes to creating mock scrapes. The goal is to mimic natural deer behavior during the rutting season, when bucks are most active and marking their territory. Typically, the ideal time to make mock scrapes is during the pre-rut and rut periods when deer activity is at its peak. Although I do regularly run some mock scrapes all year round to try and keep an eye on deer in the area and see how they are using the scrapes throughout the season.

The exact timing may vary depending on your geographical location and the specific breeding season of the local deer population. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the hunting season and the rutting patterns in your area. Local hunting associations and wildlife management organizations like the Deer Association (NDA) can provide valuable insights into the peak rutting periods.

By aligning your mock scrape creation with the natural breeding behavior of deer, you increase the chances of attracting bucks to your hunting area. This strategic timing can significantly enhance your hunting experience and improve the effectiveness of your mock scrapes.

Do Mock Scrapes Really Work?

The effectiveness of mock scrapes is a topic of much debate among hunters. Some swear by their success, while others remain skeptical. From my personal experience and the experiences shared by other hunters, mock scrapes can indeed be effective in attracting deer and influencing their behavior.

The key to the effectiveness of mock scrapes lies in their presentation and the use of enticing scents. When creating a mock scrape, it’s essential to make it as realistic as possible. This includes selecting the right location, mimicking natural scraping patterns, and using appropriate scents that mimic deer urine or gland secretions.

Additionally, placing trail cameras near mock scrapes allows you to monitor deer activity and gain valuable insights into the local buck population. These cameras can capture valuable footage and help you refine your hunting strategies.

While mock scrapes may not guarantee a successful hunt every time, they can certainly improve your odds and contribute to a more productive hunting experience. It’s important to experiment, adapt, and fine-tune your approach based on your specific hunting area and the behavior of the deer population.

What is the Best Thing to Put in a Mock Scrape?

When it comes to creating a mock scrape, the choice of scent is a crucial factor. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for communication and detecting potential threats. Using the right scent can enhance the authenticity of your mock scrape and make it more appealing to deer.

Common options for scent include deer urine, both buck and doe urine, as well as synthetic scents that mimic natural deer gland secretions. These scents can be applied to the scrape itself, the surrounding area, and the licking branch.

It’s important to check the hunting regulations in your area regarding the use of scents. In some regions, there may be restrictions or specific guidelines for using scents in hunting. Always ensure you are in compliance with local laws and regulations.

By incorporating the right scents into your mock scrape, you create an enticing and realistic environment that appeals to deer. This increases the likelihood of attracting bucks and enhancing your hunting success.

How Many Mock Scrapes Should I Make?

The number of mock scrapes you should make depends on several factors, including the size of your hunting area, the deer population, and the specific hunting strategy you’re employing. While there is no definitive answer, creating multiple mock scrapes can increase your chances of attracting deer and maximizing your hunting opportunities.

Strategic placement is key when determining the number of mock scrapes to make. It’s recommended to start with a few well-placed mock scrapes and monitor their activity. If you observe increased deer traffic and interactions, it indicates that your mock scrapes are effective.

As you gain more insights into the behavior of deer in your hunting area, you can expand the number of mock scrapes accordingly. It’s important to create a balance between having enough mock scrapes to cover different areas and not overwhelming the deer with an excessive number of scrapes.

Monitoring the activity around each mock scrape is essential. Trail cameras, such as the ones discussed in the section on trail cameras, can provide valuable data on deer movement and help you assess the effectiveness of each mock scrape.

Remember, the goal is to create mock scrapes that effectively simulate natural deer behavior and attract bucks. By strategically placing and monitoring multiple mock scrapes, you increase your chances of luring in deer and optimizing your hunting experience.

Why Aren’t Deer Hitting My Mock Scrape?

If you find that deer are not interacting with your mock scrape as expected, there could be several reasons for this. It’s important to assess and troubleshoot the situation to improve the effectiveness of your mock scrape.

  1. Location: The location of your mock scrape plays a crucial role. Ensure that it is placed in an area frequented by deer, such as near food sources, bedding areas, or along travel routes.
  2. Timing: The timing of your mock scrape creation is important. If the scrape is made too early or too late in the season, deer may not be actively engaging with it. Align the creation of your mock scrape with the peak rutting periods in your area.
  3. Scent: The scent you use in your mock scrape is another critical factor. Ensure that you are using the right scents, such as deer urine or synthetic scents, to make the mock scrape appealing to deer. Avoid using excessive amounts of scent, as it may deter deer.
  4. Maintenance: Regular maintenance of your mock scrape is essential. Refresh the scrape with fresh scent and soil periodically to keep it appealing to deer. Remove any debris or excess vegetation that may hinder deer interaction.
  5. Competing Scrapes: If there are existing natural scrapes in the area, deer may prefer those over your mock scrape. Consider placing your mock scrape near heavily worked, natural scrapes to increase its effectiveness.

By evaluating these factors and making necessary adjustments, you can improve the attractiveness of your mock scrape and increase the chances of deer interacting with it during your hunts.

How Do You Attract Deer to Mock Scrapes?

Attracting deer to your mock scrapes requires careful consideration of various factors that can entice their curiosity and draw them in. Here are some tips and techniques to increase the effectiveness of your mock scrapes in attracting deer:

  1. Strategic Placement: Choose locations for your mock scrapes that are frequented by deer. Look for areas with high deer traffic, such as near food sources, bedding areas, or along known travel routes like pinch points or funnels. By placing your mock scrape in these strategic locations, you increase the likelihood of deer encountering and investigating it.
  2. Scent Attractants: Scent plays a crucial role in attracting deer to mock scrapes. Consider using deer urine or synthetic scents that mimic natural deer scents. Apply the scent attractant to the mock scrape itself and on the licking branch above the scrape. This creates a realistic scent profile that entices deer to investigate the area.
  3. Licking Branch: A key component of a mock scrape is the presence of a licking branch. Choose a sturdy branch that hangs approximately 4-5 feet above the ground and extends over the mock scrape. This branch serves as a visual cue for deer and encourages them to interact with the scrape.
  4. Visual Presentation: Make your mock scrape visually appealing to deer by roughing up the ground around the scrape. Use a stick or rake to create disturbance and mimic the activity of multiple bucks. This gives the impression that the scrape has been worked over time, making it more attractive to deer.
  5. Trail Cameras: Placing trail cameras near your mock scrapes allows you to monitor deer activity and assess the effectiveness of your setup. Trail cameras provide valuable insights into the types of deer visiting the scrape, their behavior, and the times they are most active. This information can help you make adjustments to your hunting strategy accordingly.
  6. Timing: Consider the timing of your hunts in relation to deer activity. Early morning and late afternoon are typically when deer are most active. Plan your hunting sessions accordingly, maximizing your chances of encountering deer near your mock scrape.

By employing these techniques and adapting to the specific conditions of your hunting area, you can enhance the attractiveness of your mock scrapes and increase the likelihood of deer interaction. Remember to be patient and allow time for deer to discover and establish a pattern of visiting your mock scrapes. Persistence and careful attention to detail will pay off in improving your hunting success.

Do Deer Check Scrapes in Morning or Evening?

The timing of when deer check scrapes can vary, but there are general patterns that can guide your hunting strategy. While deer are known to visit scrapes throughout the day, there are certain tendencies to keep in mind:

  1. Nighttime Activity: Most scraping activity occurs at night when deer feel more secure and less susceptible to predation. Bucks, in particular, are known to be active at night, visiting scrapes to leave their scent and gather information about other deer in the area.
  2. Evening Visits: Bucks may also visit scrapes in the evening hours, especially as they move from bedding areas to feeding areas. During this time, they may check scrapes for any recent activity or leave their own scent as a communication signal.
  3. Morning Movements: Deer, including bucks, often move toward their bedding areas in the morning after a night of foraging. While they may not actively check scrapes during this time, their movements can provide valuable insight into their patterns and potential bedding areas.
  4. Pre-Rut and Rut Phases: During the pre-rut and rut phases of the breeding season, bucks are more likely to check scrapes throughout the day, including morning and evening. These periods are characterized by increased deer activity and communication, making it an opportune time to hunt over mock scrapes.

To optimize your hunting strategy based on deer scrape checking behavior, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Morning Hunts: If you plan to hunt over a scrape line, it’s best to do so during the morning hours. Most bucks will work their scrapes during the night and move towards their bedding areas in the morning. Position yourself strategically along their likely travel routes, increasing your chances of encountering a buck near the scrape.
  2. Evening Hunts: Hunting over scrapes in the evening can also be productive, especially during the pre-rut and rut phases when bucks are actively checking scrapes. Set up in locations where deer move from feeding areas to bedding areas, intersecting their travel paths near scrapes.
  3. Trail Camera Insights: Utilize trail cameras to gather data on scrape activity during different times of the day. By analyzing the images and timestamps, you can identify patterns of deer visits and adjust your hunting schedule accordingly.
  4. Scouting and Observation: Spend time scouting and observing deer behavior in your hunting area. Look for signs of fresh scrape activity, such as pawed-up ground and fresh scent markings. This on-the-ground knowledge will help you determine the most suitable times to hunt near mock scrapes.

It’s important to note that while there are general trends in deer behavior around scrapes, individual deer may exhibit variations in their visiting patterns. Factors such as weather conditions, hunting pressure, and deer population density can influence their behavior. As an experienced hunter, it’s crucial to remain adaptable and responsive to the specific conditions in your hunting area.

By understanding the typical time frames when deer check scrapes and aligning your hunting efforts accordingly, you can increase your chances of encountering deer near your mock scrapes and maximizing your hunting success.


Mock scrapes are valuable tools in a hunter’s arsenal, offering opportunities to attract and monitor deer activity. By understanding what mock scrapes are, how to create them effectively, and how to optimize their use in your hunting strategy, you can enhance your chances of a successful hunt.

Throughout this article, we have explored the concept of mock scrapes, including their purpose and importance in deer communication. We have discussed various factors to consider, such as timing, scent attractants, visual presentation, and strategic placement, to increase the effectiveness of mock scrapes.

Additionally, we have addressed common questions and concerns related to mock scrapes, including their efficacy, the best materials to use, the number of mock scrapes to create, and ways to troubleshoot if deer aren’t interacting with them as expected.

By incorporating these insights and techniques into your hunting approach, you can improve your understanding of deer behavior, increase your chances of attracting deer to your hunting area, and ultimately enhance your overall hunting success.

Remember, hunting is a dynamic and ever-evolving pursuit. Continual observation, adaptation, and honing of your skills will further refine your ability to effectively utilize mock scrapes and engage in a fulfilling and rewarding hunting experience. So, embrace the art of mock scrapes, explore new strategies, and let your passion for deer hunting guide you in the pursuit of memorable hunting moments.


  1. What are mock scrapes?
    • Mock scrapes are artificial imitations of natural scrapes made by deer hunters to attract deer to a specific location.
  2. How do mock scrapes differ from natural scrapes?
    • Mock scrapes are created by hunters, while natural scrapes are made by deer. However, hunters try to mimic the behavior and appearance of natural scrapes to make their mock scrapes more enticing to deer.
  3. What role does scent play in deer communication through mock scrapes?
    • Scent is a crucial component in deer communication through mock scrapes. Deer use scent to communicate their presence, reproductive status, and territorial boundaries. Hunters can use deer urine or synthetic scents to enhance the authenticity of the mock scrape.
  4. How do mock scrapes contribute to a hunting strategy?
    • Mock scrapes serve as attractants and communication hubs for deer, making them valuable tools in a hunting strategy. By strategically placing mock scrapes in areas frequented by deer, hunters can increase their chances of attracting and encountering deer during the hunting season.
  5. What is a community scrape?
    • A community scrape is a type of scrape used by multiple deer in an area to communicate with each other. It serves as a signpost where deer share their scent and engage in social interaction.
  6. How important are community scrapes in deer communication and hunting?
    • Community scrapes play a significant role in deer communication and can be a major factor in successful deer breeding. They provide valuable information about the presence and activity of multiple deer in an area, making them attractive locations for hunters.