By: Melissa Bachman
As an avid whitetail hunter, I’ve always been mesmerized by big bucks. Since I was a little girl living in central Minnesota, I would dream of ways to maximize my hunt. Little by little I picked up tips and tricks from people around the country to improve my odds. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found ways to negate certain problems that many hunters face.
The first issue is time, or the lack thereof. I’m a firm believer that spending as much time as possible before season scouting and patterning your deer. This can pay dividends when opening day arrives, however life has a tendency to get in the way. One thing that can be done to overcome this is to deploy trail cameras. There are a few states that have made this illegal during hunting seasons, so always check your regulations. My favorite place to set these up is on water holes, a food plot, or a heavy trail intersection.
Next, we all know that there is a magical switch that is flipped causing our big bucks to go nocturnal as the season draws near. This can get downright frustrating but one thing I’ve found to combat this is to create mock scrapes. I usually start setting these up quite early in the season and allow their curiosity to get the best of them.
The idea with a mock scrape is to get the bucks to check it during daylight hours. I like to place the mock scrape in an ideal shooting position from my stand or blind where I have a comfortable shot should a buck come to check the scrape. Wildlife Research Center makes a Magnum Scrape Dripper that I’ve had tremendous results with. There is an internal balloon that expands and contracts to cause it to release the scent into the scrape during the daytime only.
When bucks come to check this scrape at night, they will realize there is a buck hitting it when they’re not there and usually their curiosity gets the best of them. After a while, they can’t take it anymore and they decide to break their nocturnal routine and check it during the day. If all goes well, you’ll be on stand patiently waiting and have a perfect shot.
Lastly, regardless of the size of your property, there are improvements anyone can make to keep and hold deer. This has been a game-changer for us in South Dakota. Although we can’t bait, we create a location where all the deer want to congregate and socialize in front of our stand. This setup not only brings in the big bucks, but it also brings in all the does and fawns too which in turn will bring in bucks when the rut begins to hit. To accomplish this, we do several things that need no equipment and is very economical.
We first dig a hole and put in a water source. Even if there is water nearby this can still be extremely effective. The key here is to set up your water source in a secluded area where big bucks will feel safe getting a drink. We put ours in heavy cover where the deer already passed through. Once the water hole was placed, we put up our blind in the perfect location for a shot. It’s important to put your blind up right away so the deer get accustomed to it being there.
Next, we put a cedar post next to the water hole. This is a rubbing post for the deer and to get things started I usually take a saw and rough up the edges some exposing the raw wood. After this has been placed about 18-inches deep in the ground and packed in really well the next step is to go cut a licking branch or two. Place these about head high and stick these through the holes and then screw them in. If you don’t screw them down the deer will rip them out with their antlers. This is the branch they will rub their glands on and also the branch you can hang your mock scrape from.
Lastly, I place the Magnum Scrape Dripper on the branch, create a nice sized mock scrape below and then place my Spypoint camera on a nearby tree to catch all the action. This method has drawn numerous bucks into our area and was the exact recipe we used to kill my largest South Dakota whitetail, 177 inches with my bow. The best part about the entire setup is you get to see the results for yourself and you’ll be amazed at the all-day activity that will begin taking place near your blind.