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Sitting for days without seeing deer is incredibly frustrating. But as a bowhunter, seeing deer but not getting them to close the distance to within range is even more frustrating.
Moving the stand is probably the best way to go if it happens often. Decoys and calling can also be effective. However, one of my favorite ways to put a deer under my stand is by using mock scrapes.
Serious bowhunters won’t walk in the woods without wearing rubber boots and using scent control. When building or tending to mock scrapes you need to be increasingly aware of your scent.
When bucks encounter scrapes they are focusing on their sense of smell to determine what other deer are using the scrape. What you don’t want is them being spooked by smelling you.
There are a number of products on the market designed to fool bucks into believing other deer are using a scrape. If you want to use one of these products, you’re not alone. Personally, I feel they do more harm than good. The best way to get realistic scent on a scrape is to use real scent only.
Once I make the scrape, I leave it alone. Let deer naturally add scent for you. If you make the scrape well and put it in the right place, you’ll have no shortage of visits from deer. I’ve also seen hunters shovel dirt out of real scrapes and dump it into their mock scrapes. Again, scent control on your tools is a must.
When making a mock scrape, I first find a nice trail near one of my favorite stand sites. I rarely see scrapes right on a trail. They’re almost always just off the trail. Look for a sturdy branch about four feet off the ground. A good scrape needs a licking branch. Once you find your potential mock scrape site, look up at your stand. Do you have a clear shot? What if the deer isn’t quite in the scrape. Will the mock scrape typically be upwind of your stand? Again, a buck will have his nose on overdrive when he checks a scrape. Any scent mistakes will be amplified.
Once you’ve found your spot, kick up the earth with your rubber boots. It should almost look as though the soil has been plowed. Once you have the soil roughed up, you’re done. Some hunters like to scratch up the licking stick with a pocket knife or hand saw. Not a bad idea, but be conscious of your scent. Rubber gloves cleaned with scent eliminating spray will help.
This is the point when most hunters hang a dripper or apply artificial scent. As previously mentioned, I’m not a believer. The sight of the licking branch hanging over roughed up soil is more than enough to capture a deer’s attention. Using a commercial scent might work… but it might spook a wary buck. Let deer do the scent work for you.