February 2009 Tip

When to hunt ground scrapes

(Hunting Big Whitetail Bucks)

by Dr. Ken Nordberg

Tip: While the two-week period of breeding is in progress in November, it is usually a waste of time to sit (stand hunt) near a buck ground scrape. While accompanying does in heat, dominant bucks have little or no time to renew scrapes.

Big Buck with Doe-in-Heat

Big Buck with Doe-in-Heat

Occasionally, however, I do find a big, freshly-pawed scrape during this period, likely renewed by a dominant buck during a brief period when no doe within its breeding area was in heat.

Big Buck urinating on tarsal glands while making a ground scrape.

Big Buck making a Ground Scrape
(Here it is urinating on its hind dorsal glands
—inside its rear knees—in order to leave its scent.)

If the scrape is more than two feet in diameter, if dirt is pawed far to one side and the scrape appears to have been pawed very recently, I get excited. Real excited.

A Buck's Fresh Ground Scrape in the Snow

Fresh Ground Scrape in Snow

For some reason a scrape made at this time is treated as if it is "very special." Unless the weather is unfavorable (too warm, too windy or stormy) or a human hunter is discovered to be near, the buck that made the scrape will return to renew it at least once or twice during the next 12-24 hours. It may even return again the following day. Whenever you discover such a scrape, waste no time finding a hiding spot (make no obvious changes) from which you can watch that scrape unseen, unheard and unsmelled, and plan to sit there 2-3 consequtive half-days. Twice in the past two hunting seasons doing this has paid off for me—the first time within thirty minutes; the second time within six hours.

Three beautiful does. One is in heat.

Your Big Buck is more interested in these than in checking his ground scrapes.

Just remember, the best lure for a big buck is a doe in heat.

Good luck hunting!


Dr. Ken Nordberg: Good Luck Hunting

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