Scrapes are areas on the ground where bucks paw the soil away with their hooves. They can vary in size from as small as a foot and a half wide to sometimes seven or eight feet. They are most often made and maintained prior to the rut. Deer make and maintain scrapes as a way to communicate with other deer. They leave their scent by urinating over their back legs onto the tarsal glands. Then they rub their tarsal glands together and squeeze urine over the scrape. This leaves a strong distinct smell of that buck in the scrape.
Most scrapes also have a low hanging branch that the deer lick and rub their head on to leave additional scent. A scrape may be used only the first time it was made or visited numerous times by many different deer. A scrape is not always used by just one buck. I’ve seen numerous trail cam photos of different aged bucks working one single scrape. From what I’ve observed most scrapes are maintained under the cover of darkness. I believe when scrapes are checked in the daylight hours they are done so from a location downwind of the scrape. From a distance a deer can smell what kind of activity the scrape has seen since it last visited. When you’re hunting around the rutting time of year you should notice scrapes in your area. Generally bucks like to make scrapes between their favorite feeding and bedding areas.
We will probably never know all the benefits a scrape can provide to whitetail deer. Research on the subject has changed dramatically over the years. Twenty years ago research claimed that scrapes were used for bucks to be able to find out when a doe was in estrous or getting close to estrous. Recent research that I have studied claims that this is not the case at all. No matter what research you agree with or what your thoughts on the subject are there is one thing for certain: if you find scrapes, you’ve found bucks.