Most communication between mature deer is through the use of scent. Every hunter knows about scrapes and some even understand their importance in buck hierarchy. While scrapes are important, they don’t start showing up until immediately before the rut. This leaves us wondering where the bucks are the rest of the year.
While all scrapes are used to communicate a bucks presence to other bucks, all scrapes are not equal. The scrapes which are most important are the ones with a well used "licking branch" above them. These are the scrapes which will be visited by several bucks.
The most important roll of scrapes to a hunter is in helping him to locate these "licking branches".
To a deer, a licking branch has more meaning than a scrape. Bucks use "licking branches" throughout the entire year. Licking branches hold scent better than scrapes. Urine deposited in scrapes dissipates quickly. Pre-orbital scent on licking branches stays considerably longer.
One way to really get the a buck’s attention is to remove a licking branch from one area and place it over a scrape in an area where you plan to hunt. It won't take long for the bucks to notice an intruder is in their area.
Licking branches get way more attention than scrapes.
I feel very fortunate to have been raised in a rural community nestled in the rugged mountains of Idaho. In my youth, the locals paid little attention to game laws and seasons. Back then everyone hunted for meat. There was a certain amount of red meat that was needed be brought in to get everyone through the winter and we hunted until that supply was met. Hunting wasn’t for sport. It was for survival. We killed a lot deer. Those were the run, gun, and grin days of hunting here in Idaho. I loved every minute of it.
Times have changed. Those days are gone. But I would like to thank all the old-timers who so freely shared their hunting lore and secret spots with me. The lessons have not been forgotten. Thank you all.