By: Heath Wood
Don’t Touch That Camera
During October and November, many hunters use game cameras to monitor scrapes. The scrapes may be natural initially made from a nearby buck or a mock scrape. Either way, both make for great scouting tools when used in conjunction with a game camera.
The end of October is the period when scrapes began seeing increased activity from bucks and does. As November begins, so does the scrape activity until bucks begin desperately seeking does to breed. When bucks begin the seeking phase of the rut, it is as if the scrape activity gets turned off like that of a light switch. When scrape activity decreases, hunters often elect to take their cameras and move on to another area. However, if hunters leave cameras going on scrapes throughout the rut, bucks will return afterward, making a great scouting tool again for the late season.
Eight Bucks and One Kill
For the past two years, I have monitored scrapes with Muddy cellular cameras. I have recently been using the Muddy Manifest camera to know when and who is visiting scrapes. On October 20th of 2021, I accidentally fell into the perfect game camera setup on a natural scrape. I had placed my Muddy Manifest on the edge of a CRP field, facing towards a barbed wire fence where deer often entered the field. On November 2nd, 2021, I got a text on my phone saying I had a new photo available that had been taken on that camera setup. When I opened my command app to see what the picture would reveal, I was surprised to see a buck making a scrape; he was leaving his scent on the overhead licking branch in the left corner of the picture frame. That day, eight different bucks visited the same scrape, along with multiple does. The Manifest camera captured great photos for the next three days, showing bucks and does using the scrape. As predicted, a week or two later, the deer stopped using the scrape, and I began seeing more rut activity on other places of the farm.
One of the last pictures that I received from the Manifest camera was of a mature eight-pointer who was nose-down, trailing a doe in the photo. On November 18th, 2021, I was in a Hawk Down & Out Blind when after encountering several different deer that morning, I caught the movement of a buck coming out of the timber at one hundred and eighty yards. After a glance through the binoculars, I knew this was potentially a shooter buck. I placed my 6.5 Creedmoor rifle into position, resting on the frame of the blind window. After finding the buck in my scope, I quickly made confirmation that the buck was the same buck that I had witnessed on camera a couple of weeks prior while chasing a doe. When the mature ten-pointer walked into a clear opening at one hundred and fifty yards, I grunted with my natural voice to get the buck to stop. I squeezed the trigger when the buck stopped, making a great shot on one of my targeted bucks.
The Second Rut
Although I was out of buck tags for my home state of Missouri, I left the Manifest camera in position over the same scrape from weeks prior. My curiosity wanted to see when deer would begin revisiting the scrape and if any other mature bucks would visit. Like clockwork, the day after Thanksgiving, does begin coming to the scrape, soon followed by two or three different bucks. I am anxious to see how long the scrape will be active during the second round of scrape usage.
Some may ask why does and bucks begin using the same scrapes for the second time. The first to the second week of December bucks and does go into what is referred to as the second rut. The second rut is when younger does who didn’t go into estrus during the November rut or does that didn’t get bred will come into heat. It is essential to note that the second rut that occurs later in the season is not as action-packed as the November rut. However, the second rut can be a great time to score on a mature buck if one still has an unfilled tag. When does do not get bred, they begin leaving their scent when they go into estrus again. At the same time, bucks often revisit scrapes to check in on those does who did not get bred. If one keeps their game cameras running in-between time, they will know the exact moment when the chase commences the second time. When scrape activity begins to spark interest again, it is vital to be in the stand hunting. Remember, only a few does did not get bred the first time. The action won’t last long, be in the stand and ready, and you could fill that buck tag before it expires for the year.