2. Make Challengers Scrapes
To get inside a local bruiser buck’s head, create mock scrapes to make him think there’s a challenger tearing up his home turf. Not only will this get him riled up, it will also entice him to stay in the area. I begin making challenger scrapes in mid-September and continue until my tag is notched, however long that takes.
I typically make the scrapes a week before I plan to hunt a particular area, although they can still draw deer into range on the same day they’re created. The best locations are along habitat transition zones within 100 yards of bedding areas, in places with the least undergrowth, such as fields or orchard edges. Use a sturdy stick or pruning shears—not your hands—to clear away three square feet of leaves to expose the soil.
For long-term appeal, it’s crucial to position a licking branch four feet directly above the scape. This is as simple as bending a branch into place, screwing a branch to a tree trunk or attaching a limb with a zip-tie to another branch, all the while wearing gloves. And two licking branches above each scrape are better than one—I’ve found that bucks become more engaged when there’s more than one branch for them to nibble and rub against their pre-orbital glands. And if one branch happens to snap off, the second one will continue to help keep the scrape active.
Adding an attractant scent is an option, but if the area is already hot with deer activity, delay dousing the scrape for the first week to see whether an actual buck activates it on his own. That’s the best way to turn the scrape into a pit stop on the big buck’s circuit. If you do try an artificial scrape attractant, test two or three different brands in front of your trail cams to see how well they work before banking on one for your dream megabuck.
In all, make three or four scrapes within a 100-yard area, then set up your stand or blind 30 to 40 yards downwind of whichever one ends up with the largest buck tracks. Also place a trail cam 20 yards downwind from the scrape to help determine if your boss buck is the one making the tracks; I only use no-glow, black infrared models for my big-buck reconnaissance. If I capture photos of him on two or three occasions, the odds are he’s the local monarch.