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Whitetail hunting: Scrapes

A whitetail buck scent checks a scrape from a distance before approaching.
A whitetail buck scent checks a scrape from a distance before approaching.
N & M.J. Mishler/USFWS

Tracks and rubs are the first two signs to look for when scouting for whitetails. Scrapes are the third sign to look for.

Scrapes are made during breeding season and serve as a whitetail’s version of a singles bar. Bucks and does will both visit scrapes and leave scent announcing that they’re ready to breed.

Whitetail bucks will scrape the ground cover away from an area up to five feet in diameter. They then urinate over their tarsal glands (on the back of their legs) to mark their territory, similar to a dog lifting it's leg on everything in sight. Most scrapes are under an overhanging limb. This allows the buck to leave scent from it's forehead and saliva above the ground where the wind can carry it to other deer passing by.

This announces the buck's presence to any other bucks in the area as well as to the does that are ready to breed.

Scrapes are the most difficult kind of whitetail sign to find because other animals disturb the forest floor for various reasons, but several clues can give away a scrape.

First, the area will be fairly large, up to five feet in diameter. Then there will be deer tracks around. You might even find a few perfect prints in the scrape.

Finally, there will be a branch or limb over the scraped earth four to five feet high. It may look like it's been chewed on.



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