"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Deer Scrapes and Rubs
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Last Saturday night’s round of storms through most of Indiana brought down a good part of the high foliage in trees, but leaves of the under story of woodlands still will be a fly in the soup of deer hunters when the firearm season opens Saturday (November 12).

For the records, Dr. Jim Mitchell, deer biologist for the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), expects the harvest for all seasons to be much like that of last year when the total bag of 123,000 deer consisted of 54,768 antlered deer (bucks), and 68,290 antlerless deer (does and fawns). 

High winds and rain that plagued the state in the wee hours last Sunday were sufficient to bring down foliage that was high in trees, but the leaves of under story plants still are alive and much of this foliage still is green.

With leaves on the ground, most of the scrapes hunters will find will be fresh. Old scrapes (spots in the earth pawed up by bucks as a “calling card” for their lady friends) will be covered by leaves unless Mr. Amorous returns to freshen his work of art.

Buck rubs, the skinned bark on small trees or shrubs--even low-hanging tree limbs at times--will tell a hunter plenty about whether there are bucks in an area. But this normally occurs earlier in late summer or very early fall. Still, rubs (created by bucks removing their summer velvet from antlers) speak volumes about deer, even if they were a better measuring stick earlier in the fall.

Deer are nocturnal animals, so it only logical that bucks probably make most of their scrapes between sunset and sunrise. They may also check their scrapes most often at night. But hunting over scrapes during opening and closing hours of the day offers greater chances of success, especially on days when weather and wind velocity bring uncomfortable conditions for hunters, that setting up on trails, stream or fence crossings, or other spots.

However, when there are good numbers of hunters in the field, a deer spooked by other hunters can bring action anywhere.

Still, scrapes are most often located on lanes usually followed by deer, so hunting a scrape can be a good place to be if deer are being moved by hunters or other disturbances.

My most interesting scrape hunt came on the last day of the season a few years back. I found this active scrape at the top edge of a wooded hillside, and kept it under surveillance every day to check activity.

I noted fresh disturbances often but never saw a deer there. 

I watched the scrape either morning and/or evening until the lateness of the season seemed to tell me my efforts would be fruitless.

Still, on the last day of the shotgun/late-bow season, I thought it would offer as good a chance as I would have anywhere else. I made a bad technical error by hunting on the ground (behind a hickory tree) rather than getting off the ground.

It was a miserable, half-rain, half-snow day, complete with howling wind. More than once through the long, cold afternoon I told myself I should give it up. But I stayed, and as darkness approached I saw this buck some two hundred yards down the hillside. He was walking, but that didn’t seem to be fast enough, so he came at me in a long, graceful lope.

Unfortunately, I had climbed the hill from below, then moved down the hillside at the tree line to the spot behind the hickory tree that offered a good view of the scrape.

I was at full draw and waiting, but when the buck crossed my path, he put on the air brakes and stared intently in my direction for more than a minute. Then backtracking a few yards to a well used trail, the eight-pointer jumped a creek and bounded in long, graceful leaps across a harvested cornfield to safety in a big thicket.

There was no shot, but it still was a memorable end of a deer hunt and a season.               

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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