Deer hunting is a battle of wits between you and your prey. You do your best to create the perfect set of circumstances for your hunt, picking the right location for your stand, improving your accuracy, and watching the area with an eagle eye, but even then, the deer may still get the better of you.
Leaving your deer lease without a kill is humbling; however, you can increase your chances of victory next deer hunting season by taking these three steps. You’ll stay ahead of your prey and stack the deck in your favor.
1. Build a Mock Scrape
A scrape is a place on the ground where a buck has marked off a piece of territory with its hooves or antlers. Bucks use scrapes as a way to mark territory and communicate with each other, but you can use that information against them.
To build your scrape you need to create a clear space on the ground, usually a couple of feet wide and between 3 and 4 feet long. Place a branch with the diameter of approximately your index finger around the midpoint of the scrape. This is known as the “licking branch”, an area where bucks leave their scent. Above the branch, leave a slow dripping lure dispenser to mark the territory.
Your mock scrape will attract bucks, who feel challenged by a new scent in their midst and will be urged to mark it for themselves. If put in the right position, you may be able to create a community scrape, where multiple deer come together, allowing you your choice of the trophy.
2. Artificial Scent Trails
Scent trails, or drags, are highly effective tools to attract bucks during the height of the mating season. The bucks catch the scent and are naturally drawn to it, even over long distances.
A good scent trail involves a scent-free cloth, a good estrus, and a long string. Start about 200 yards from your stand and lightly spray scent onto the cloth. Drag the cloth on the ground for about ten yards, then stop and apply a slightly stronger dose of the scent. Animals expect the smell to get stronger when they get closer to the source, so it’s important that you feed into their expectations. End the trail in an open space with a clear shot from your deer stand.
3. Mechanical Decoys
Sometimes the best way to attract a buck when deer hunting is to feed him the illusion he wants to see: a comely doe. Mechanical decoys are a great tool in your arsenal to bring the big bucks into your range.
You want to look at mechanical decoys because they come covered with real deer hide and move just like a real animal. A plastic decoy that stands perfectly still is a surefire warning to any buck that something is amiss, and they are likely to turn away before you can take a shot. Couple your decoy with urine or estrus to mask any scents that you may have inadvertently added to it.
To achieve success while you’re deer hunting, you have to be one step ahead of the prey at all times. These simple hunting tips can help you score bigger game, and end more of your trips with a kill.