Trail Cameras on Scrapes: Getting Pictures of Big Bucks

When, where and how to get mature buck pictures on scrapes.

By: Paul Annear

Let’s be honest, the anticipation of pulling trail cameras close to the rut is a feeling unlike any other. There is something about the scene of a large racked, heavy-necked buck stretching to a licking branch during late October that keeps us motivated to hunt through cold, slow mornings, hoping for the one magical moment when everything changes. Below are strategies to capture nearly every mature buck on your property via scrapes. 


Timing your camera placement over a scrape is perhaps the most critical element to collecting quantities of mature buck pictures. Placing cameras over scrapes too soon leaves you susceptible to wasting precious camera time when you would be better served to have your cameras over food or an Ag source. I have found the dates of October 20th through November 2nd to be my ‘can't-miss’ scrape days where I hunt in Southwestern Wisconsin. As a mature buck’s testosterone exponentially increase and cold mornings and evenings become more frequent, bucks will be on their feet at some point (not necessarily in daylight) to visit licking branches and begin the scraping period. Pinning down the heaviest scrape period on your land will ensure you aren’t wasting your camera time. 


Placing your camera on a primary scrape close to feeding and bedding is typically our best bet. Primary scrapes usually occur inside the timber and are often visited by multiple bucks. If you hunt a high pressured property, you might be wise to place your cameras on a major field edge scrape to avoid intrusion when you check this camera. Not all field edge scrapes are alike due to their locations. A scrape that is one of many along a fence row is not a high percentage location to capture lots of mature bucks. However, a field edge scrape on an inside corner leading to a major trail in the timber is most likely a prime location to capture quantities of mature bucks due to the concentrated movement at inside corner locations. For those hunting low-pressure grounds, you can get away with placing cameras a few hundred yards in the timber. Ridge lines and intersecting logging roads are obvious scrape locations for mature bucks. I have also found low, flat staging areas at the head of a ditch to be optimal camera locations in the timber. Also, pay attention to prevailing wind direction in relation to thick cover. While out cruising during late October, mature bucks will make massive circles around sections of timber catching other bucks’ scent and finding those prime scrapes. A well-used scrape consistently blowing scent into a bedding area will be a very hot scrape during this 12-day scrape period.


Timing and location of your camera are only useful if you know how to utilize your camera's features to get the best possible mature buck intel. I typically use a 10-15 second trigger delay and almost always utilize video mode over scrapes. Rarely is it possible to capture video of a mature buck standing in one spot for 30 seconds, so take advantage of the opportunity. Video mode helps you not only age the buck and gauge what caliber deer you have around, it can also tell you how a buck is traveling to and from the scrape. Picture mode is fine if you have it on short delay to capture a few different angles of the deer. The last thing you want is a long camera delay on picture mode because you run the risk of only getting one picture, and potentially a picture which provides you no valuable information about the deer’s age or rack characteristics. Proper distance and height are also critical for camera placement on a scrape. Keeping the camera well-hidden and a good distance (at least 15 feet) away from the scrape will usually keep deer comfortable at the location. If possible, elevating the camera can be a great low-impact strategy for highly pressured lands. 

Remembering these tips will set you up for success when attempting to collect camera information about mature bucks. Capturing mature bucks on a scrape isn’t always easy but once you find a honey hole location for a camera, typically the spot will produce great pictures year after year. Using a camera over a scrape is perhaps the best way to take inventory of your bucks just prior to the rut. Load up your cameras with fresh batteries and let them get to work for you.


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