A hunter couldn't ask for a better feature for trail cam pictures than a scrape. Morning, night, mid-day, name your time, and you'll probably find one that’s active at a time you'd suspect. Of course, you'll need to learn about the deer in your area and the scrapes that make them tick to find unmatched success.
The good news is, if you put a camera on a scrape, you'll get pictures of bucks. They are almost always productive and can reveal a piece of the hunting puzzle. The bad news is, some scrapes are fairly sensitive to intrusion both from humans and trail cameras so you need to pay attention to the details.
The best part of running a camera on a scrape is they naturally entice deer. You could find one almost anywhere and have confidence that it will capture pictures. But to get better intel, there are a few details you won't want to miss.
Establish the Objective
Almost any scrape will do if you're seeking a general idea of the size of the deer herd in a new area. But, not all scrapes are created equal. The best type of scrape to gain a comprehension of the herd is one that you can easily see in summer cover. This may sound like a no-brainer, but current sign of use is important.
Check the scrapes you found during your post-season scouting efforts. Does the scrape have a moist appearance with blackened soil? Are there fresh tracks? If so, the scrape can provide you with good summer data.
Of course, you'll probably find an active scrape like this along field edges. But will they be worth your time? They might not be, so look further before you hang a trail camera.
When hanging a camera on a scrape, the most important thing to consider is to determine its relation to cover. The more secure, the better your chance of capturing good bucks in addition to herd numbers. In season scrape trail camera locations should be focused around these types of primary or community scrape adjacent to security IF you have any interest in hunting the location. This type of scrape is a no brainer for a reliable cell camera set.
If field edge scrapes or secondary scrapes is all you have to work with, they still do serve the purpose of inventory, make sure your efforts are maximized. If you must hang your camera on a field edge, hang them in places like the inside edges of corn fields.
Keep in mind the power of annual trail camera data around scrapes. Year over year you will find patterns of when specific bucks spend time in certain areas that allow for precise hunting opportunities. With this being said, it's important that you consider long term trail camera setups with a proper power source to last months.
As Cameron Derr said in a previous article I wrote, "...use a backdrop!"
Deer visit scrapes all year long, but their peak daylight movement is captured best in mid-October through early November.
Summer bucks and early fall bucks will often check scrapes during cooler hours. Maybe the coolest time of day is the middle of the night. But when the thermal currents start to sink, conditions are much more comfortable for a buck to move. That often means during a grey light setting shortly after dusk. Without a backdrop to reflect the camera's flash those images will be less than stellar.If your specific camera has the ability to program the flash intensity you'll want to be sure that is correctly set for the location to help optimize photo and video quality.
Expect many pre-dawn and dusk photos in hot weather. Use that back drop and don’t miss a pattern.
Use a Scrape Pattern
I'm not talking about a buck’s pattern. I'm referring to a scrape pattern. A single scrape in the middle of the woods is what it appears to be; just random. That doesn't mean you won't get pictures on a random scrape. But scrapes that relate to each other signify a deer on a mission.
When I find a lone scrape, I usually pass over that scrape. If there aren’t better features around, I might circle back to that single scrape. But most often, if I can’t find a scrape that’s part of a pattern, a travel route or bedding area is a better option for a cam setup.
Scrape patterns that use different stages of terrain are the best. First, find that field edge scrape or one on a main food source. Next, seek the scrapes in the next two stages of terrain or security cover. Finally, follow that line to presumed bedding.
If you've got enough cameras, use three on the scrapes in that pattern. Hunt the scrape that allows you to push limits of pressure without spooking deer.
Public land hunters, be aggressive! The first deer you spook won't be your last. When you've botched a couple of setups, you'll know what you can get away with much better.
A deer on a scrape will spend enough time in front of the camera for plenty of good pictures. A two-shot burst with a 15 to 20-second delay will do in the summer months. But as you close in on fall months and want the best pictures, a three-shot burst with a 10-second delay is a good idea. The short bursts may be excessive. But if you’re running a cell cam, you’ll want the latest intel.
I run a cell cam on a scrape that heats up between October 14th-16th. One picture of a buck with his antlers blurred in the licking branch isn’t helping me learn much. Without solid data, I won't have the info I need to tell me it's go-time. Picture bursts and video bring better understanding to what’s going on in the woods.
A few days before this scrape see the most mature bucks, a bunch of small bucks visit daily. When a big buck starts using it, I'll have about a 5-day window to hunt that scrape. After that, movement on the scrape remains, but the activity is spread throughout the rut.
Also, don't forget about video mode. For those who are seeking additional information on a buck...his personality, entry and exit to the scrape location, etc video mode nails down some of those question marks.
Review the Intel
Start to build a hunting plan after your last camera pull of the preseason. Each feature you're hunting should have a it’s own approach. For scrapes, consider the wind, what the deer are using it for, and when they are using it.
Playing it safe until the middle of October is a good bet for sensitive areas. But for lingering daylight photos in September, you might want to use that scrape as part of an early-season plan.
Scrapes rely heavily on timing. Get the timing right for the area you hunt, and scrapes will bring you success far more often.
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member