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T.R.'s Tips: White-tailed Deer Biology & Behavior

Photo courtesy US FWS

Understanding Deer Hunting Scents

Attracting with Scents

When you are using food, scents, calls, rattling or decoys to attract animals there are two things to remember:

1. The best way to get an animal to come to you is by being in a place it is used to, comfortable with and going to. It's much easier to get the animal to come to you if it routinely uses the area. If you are not in a regularly used area then the animal should feel secure in the area, which should provide concealment or nearby escape cover. If neither one of these apply then you should be in a travel lane, or in a feeding area the animal is going to. Why should the deer come to you if it knows what it wants is in another location? 2. Using the best hunting techniques won't help if you produce or leave a sight, scent or sound that alarms the animals, or alerts them of your presence. Be careful to take precautions to avoid detection and go completely unnoticed when you hunt. Attracting With Scents

Scents are one of the most widely used methods of attracting deer. Manufacturers have responded to demand by providing a wide range of products in different forms; sprays, liquids, gels and solids. There are buck, buck in rut, doe, and doe in estrus urine scents; forehead, tarsal, metatarsal and interdigital scents; food, curiosity and secret formula scents. Many hunters use fox, coyote, mink, raccoon and skunk scents, as either cover or curiosity lures. Others use unnatural or human scents to block deer from using escape trails. This vast array of scents can be confusing if you don't know which scents to use, or when to use them.


Types of Scents

Deer scents fall into different categories based on how they are used and how deer respond to them. These categories are; Recognition/Trailing, Sex, Territorial/Dominance, Food, Curiosity, and Blocking. Recognition/Trailing scents are present all year long and can be used all year. Sex scents are most prominent during the rut and can be used during any part of it. Territorial and Dominance scents are most prevalent during the rut and should be used then to be most effective. Food, Curiosity and Blocker scents can be used all year long. Many of these scents fall into more than one category and can be used for different purposes. They can all be used effectively to hunt deer, if used properly and at the right time.

Deer Pheromones

Deer pheromones, the scents given off by deer, are used as a means of communication. Pheromones serve to stimulate a behavioral response in another animal. Whitetail deer pheromones are present in the forehead, interdigital, tarsal and metatarsal glands, while estrogen and testosterone are found in the urine. There may also be pheromones associated with the nasal, pre-orbital, Preputial and salivary glands. Many of these scents are used in combination during self impregnation (rub-urination), and sign post marking (rubs, scrapes) and are interpreted by individual sexes and age classes differently. When used by themselves these scents may be interpreted differently than when they are used in combination with another scent or scents.

Recognition/Trailing Scents

Tarsal scent is used in combination with urine as the primary recognition scent in whitetails. This scent is both sex and age specific, which means that deer encountering tarsal scent from another deer can determine the sex and the age of the animal by the scent. Tarsal is used in combination with urine during rub-urination all year long. All deer rub-urinate, often just after rising from their beds. Bucks rub-urinate more frequently during the rut while making scrapes. Rub-urination is used by moose (possibly elk) in response to danger, probably as an alarm signal. Deer often sniff and lick each other's tarsal area during social grooming, for identification, and to reinforce the social hierarchy. Because of this the deer know the smell of all the animals in their areas.

The Metatarsal gland is largest in mule deer, next largest in blacktails and smallest in whitetails. It's been suggested that blacktails and possibly mule deer use it when alarmed to express danger. It's not totally understood in whitetails.

Interdigital scent is how deer track other deer. Does use it to locate their fawns, bucks use it to track does. The scent of each deer is so specific that an animal can track one individual deer, no matter how many others are in the area. Because scent molecules evaporate at different rates, an animal can also determine which direction the other is traveling.

Forehead scent is used as a recognition and dominance scent. Bucks take part in social grooming prior to the rut, sniffing and licking the forehead and tarsal area. Once the sparring and fighting begins dominance is established, and the bucks recognize each other by scent and associate the scent with the social level of the buck that it came from. They also recognize the scent of other bucks once signpost marking begins, and they know which rubs and which overhanging branches at scrapes are used by which bucks. After being threatened or attacked subdominant bucks soon realize they should not be in area’s near a dominant buck and its rubs and scrapes.


Because recognition and trailing scents are present all year they can be used any time during the rut, or any time of the year, without fear of alarming deer. However, forehead scent is most prevalent during the rut and is more effective at that time. Because deer are curious about their home range and often exert dominance (even does) in their core area, they investigate any new scent to find out which deer is leaving it.

Sex Scents

High amounts of testosterone in urine signals a buck's sexual readiness to does. Estrogen in the urine of a doe signals sexual readiness to bucks. Both buck testosterone and doe estrogen levels rise during the rut. Bucks readily respond to estrus urine, or doe in heat scents, soon after they shed their velvet through the second and possibly the third estrus, which may occur in January, even in northern latitudes. Because bucks are curious, estrogen can be used anytime of the year to attract them.

Does move a lot when they are in heat, sometimes traveling outside their core areas, possibly in search of healthy dominant bucks to breed with. It has been suggested that does can determine the physical health of the buck by the amount of protein in its urine. The doe may choose the buck it breeds with by the combination of the protein, testosterone and tarsal from rub-urination. Testosterone scents may attract does to a particular area, in turn attracting bucks because the does are there. Bucks may respond to testosterone out of curiosity, dominance or territoriality.

Urine Based Scents

Urine based scents are used because it is thought that bucks determine if a doe is ready to breed through the Flehmen sniff, which introduces urine to the vomeronasal organ. But, the vomeronasal organ accesses a part of the brain that regulates reproductive physiology, and does not elicit the immediate response needed to ensure successful breeding. In contrast, the nose accesses parts of the brain associated with immediate behavioral responses.

So, using urine may not be the way to go about attracting a buck. It has been suggested by several researchers that bucks detect pheromones through stimulation of the nose (rather than the vomeronasal organ), and that the stimulation of the nose is what elicits approach and copulation by the buck. Urine may not need to be present for a buck to detect an estrous doe; the buck is probably able to determine the readiness of a doe by the chemicals in vaginal secretions. If this is true, the best way to attract a buck is by using the vaginal secretions of a doe in estrous, not urine or urine based scents.

Dominance/Territorial Scents

Both the signposts of rubs and scrapes are "dominance areas" of mature bucks. These signposts signify areas used by the buck. The rub route is the path the buck travels as it goes through an area. The area along the rub route and the nearby areas are often patrolled by the buck during the rut. Each rub on the route contains scents from the forehead glands of the buck. In addition, bucks often lick their rubs, and because they sometimes lick their own tarsal after rub-urinating there may be urine, testosterone, tarsal and saliva on the rub. This combination of scents is a territorial sign proclaiming dominance by mature bucks.

These same scents may also occur on the overhanging branch at a scrape (forehead, urine, tarsal, testosterone, saliva, possibly pre-orbital) because the buck sniffs, licks, rubs and chews the branch with its forehead and antlers. Urine, testosterone and tarsal are also deposited in the scrape during rub-urination. The buck also leaves interdigital scent on the trail of its rub route and in the scrape as it paws the ground. This combination of scents is again a dominance and territorial signal to other bucks, and the sign of a mature dominant, breeding buck to does.

The complex combination of scents left on signposts occurs primarily during the rut. The scents of the rub occur as soon as bucks begin to shed their velvet. The scents of the scrapes begin shortly after rubbing begins, but become most evident from one to two months later. These scents can be used anytime once the rubbing phase occurs to attract bucks, but they become less effective after the primary breeding phase. Because a dominant buck makes rubs and scrapes as a prelude to breeding (to express dominance) it is impelled to check out the smell of any unknown buck intruding on the area, therefore these scents work especially well during the pre-primary breeding/scraping phase.

Food Scents

Food scents can be used anytime and anywhere. Because these scents do not contain pheromones they usually do not alarm deer. The deer in my area of southern Minnesota eat corn, apples, acorns, squash, grapes, vegetable greens, and many other hard to find foods that I leave out in the winter, spring, summer and fall. They also take advantage of foods in areas where they don't normally occur. Whitetails, mule deer and elk readily eat apples in the mountains where few apples occur. Once they are accustomed to finding these foods in an area, you can attract them by using similar scents, even if baiting is not allowed.


Curiosity Scents

Because deer need to be familiar with their home range, they want to know about anything new. Many of the responses of deer to pheromones, urine, sex and food scents can be attributed to curiosity. In that respect all these scents attract deer out of curiosity. Deer have been known to investigate WD 40, gun oil, mink oil and several secret formula deer scents. Deer, elk and moose will investigate urine and pheromone scents of fox, coyote, raccoon, skunk and other animals, as long as the concentration is not so high as to alarm them. While most of these scents are used as cover scents to avoid detection, they can also be used to attract deer. I once watched a doe trail me by the fox scent I had on my boots. She followed along about ten minutes behind, just like a dog with its nose to the ground.

Blocking Scents

A few knowledgeable hunters use blocking scents to move deer to their position. While this is not actually attracting deer it is a means of getting deer to come to you by blocking all trails but the one you choose. By strategically placing human scent; predatory scents from dogs, coyote or wolf; or large amounts of metatarsal scents associated with alarm, on the trails you don't want deer to use, you can direct them to you. Blocking works especially well in areas with numerous parallel trails near core areas, or in heavy cover. You can also keep deer from using normal escape routes and avoiding you, by blocking the trails you don't want them to use. Blocking Scents can be used anytime of the year.

This article is an excerpt from the Whitetail Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.

If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.


Understanding Whitetail Scrapes

As early as 1974 Larry Marchinton and Karl Miller began to research the role of whitetail rubs and scrapes during the rutting season. While much of the research on scrapes centered around the mechanics of scrape making (chewing on the overhead branch and marking it with the forehead, pawing the ground, and urinating into the scrape), the researchers also studied the type of habitat where scrapes were found; the size of the scrapes; the mutilation of the overhanging branch; how many scrapes there were in a given area; when scraping began, peaked and ended; and how scraping corresponded to rubbing and breeding.

Since that time many other researchers have studied scrape activity to determine the possible visual and olfactory functions of a scrape; and how age and dominance affect scraping activity. While some of this information has been passed on to hunters through articles and seminars, a lot of it is unknown to the hunting public, because it may be difficult for the average hunter to understand due to the scientific nature of the information, and because it has more to do with whitetail biology and management than it does to hunting. However, some of this relatively unknown research on scraping behavior can help hunters, because it can tell them which scrapes to hunt, where to hunt, what time of day to hunt, what rut phase to hunt, whether more than one buck is using a scrape, and whether or not there is a dominant buck in the area.

After reading several of the research papers sent to me by Larry Marchinton, and because I wanted to find out when fall scraping began and peaked in my area, I began monitoring the scrapes on the properties I hunt on a daily basis. As a hunter and a guide I wanted to find out which scrapes were most likely to be used during the day; which scrapes were used during the different phases of the rut; how often individual scrapes would be used; which scrapes would be used most frequently; which scrapes were most likely to be used by trophy class bucks; and most importantly, to try to determine if there was a way to predict which scrapes would be used, and when they would be used.

In the years since 1994 I have monitored scrape activity on six different deer herds in three widely separated locations. In that time I have checked over 200 scrapes, and documented over 300 uses at those scrapes. Because I wanted to find out what makes deer tick, particularly dominant bucks, I kept track of anything that might affect deer activity; weather conditions, lunar factors, hunting pressure, breeding activity, and particularly the progression of the rut.

Every day I would get up before dawn, check the weather conditions for temperature, humidity, dewpoint, wind speed and direction, wind-chill, barometric pressure, cloud cover and precipitation. I would also consult all of the known game predictor tables I could find; Solunar Table, Feeding and Fishing Times, Vektor Fish and Game Activity Tables, Moon Guide, Deer Activity Index and the Rut Guide. I would then place all this data on graphs. For the first three years I watched the deer from an hour before sunrise to three to four hours after, and from three hours before sunset until I could no longer see. I wrote down everything I saw; what time I saw the deer, where they were, how many deer there were, what age and sex class they were, what they were doing, which way they moved, how they reacted to each other, and when rubbing, scraping and breeding occurred. Between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM I would check every scrape I could find, and write down its location, the type of terrain it was in, the type of tree it was under, which days it was used, during which rut phase it was used, and how often it was used.

As a result of my research I realized that I could predict when and where to find deer, and predict when rubbing and scraping would occur, based on the current weather conditions. I found that the timing of the rut, and breeding, has a lot to do with scraping activity. I also found that the current meteorological conditions can affect whether or not bucks are likely to scrape on any particular day. (That information is included in the Daily Deer Movement Indicator in the Trinity Mountain Outdoors catalog.) I also found that scraping in different habitats occurred at particular times of the day, and that most scraping occurred just prior to peak breeding. But, I found no way to accurately predict which scrapes would be used at any particular time, which was what I really wanted to do.

For the next three years I limited my research to scrape activity only. The results of my research showed that scraping begins a lot earlier than most hunters realize; that most scrapes are used at night; that scraping falls off significantly during certain phases of the rut; that the areas where bucks scrape change during the rut; that some scrapes are used only once and others up to twenty or more times; that some scrapes are used so infrequently that they are probably not good hunting sites; that scrapes maybe able to tell you whether or not there is a dominant buck in the area; and that scraping can help you predict when peak breeding is occurring in your area.

During the last two years of my research I found a way to predict which scrapes are most likely to be used during the different phases; and, in many areas, which scrapes are most likely to be used during the different phases of the rut. But, I still did not find a way to predict which scrapes would be used on any particular day. However, I believe I did find a way to predict when peak scraping should occur.

Scrape Basics

Before we go further let’s go over some scrape basics. A scrape is a combination visual (sight) and olfactory (scent) sign left primarily for other deer. The mutilated overhanging branch, and the bareness of the ground, can be seen by other deer, and the complex set of scents at a scrape are are easily smelled by all deer. The scents at scrapes help does identify the social status and health of the bucks using the scrape, and which bucks that are using the scrape. These scents are also a signal to other bucks in the area.


Scrape making by dominant bucks involves two different signposts and four different actions: 1. the overhanging branch; a. rubbing the branch with antlers and forehead and, b. rubbing and licking or chewing the branch with the nose and mouth. 2. the scrape, a. pawing the ground and, b. urinating or rub-urinating into or behind the pawed area. The usual sequence of scrape making is; 1a. the buck rubs a low hanging branch over an open area with its' antlers and forehead, leaving forehead scent from its' sudoriferous glands on the branch. It may also rub the area near its' eyes on the branch, possibly leaving scent from the preorbital gland. 1b. it usually rubs the branch with its' nose and mouth and licks or pulls on the branch with its' mouth. Because the buck may have previously rub-urinated, then licked its' own tarsal, it may leave urine, testosterone and tarsal scent on the branch. It may also leave scent from the nasal glands, and saliva on the branch. 2a. the buck then paws the ground with both hooves, using three to five strokes with each hoof, leaving interdigital scent on the torn up ground litter and dirt. 2b. the buck then urinates or rub-urinates, leaving urine, testosterone and tarsal scent in or behind the scrape.


When bucks rub a tree or overhanging branch with their antlers and forehead they leave behind chemical compounds produced by their forehead (sudoriferous) glands, and possibly compounds from their pre-orbital glands. When they lick, chew or rub an overhanging branch, they leave behind chemical compounds from their salivary glands, and possibly from their nasal glands. When bucks rub-urinate they leave behind chemical compounds from their urine, testosterone and their tarsal glands on the ground. These actions create a complex set of scent signals for other deer in the area. Some deer researchers believe that these chemical compounds may serve as priming pheromones that are used to bring does into estrous, and are also used to help synchronize breeding behavior between the bucks and does. These pheromones may also tell subdominants that a dominant is using the area.

Scrape Location

In a study conducted by Larry Marchinton et al. scrapes were associated with game trails, old roads and small openings. In my own studies I found that scrapes often occur along fence lines; along ridges, benches and river bottoms; and at the edges between wooded areas and openings, such as fields and meadows. These are all high use areas where whitetails normally travel, and where frequently used or "primary" scrapes are often found. When clusters of rubs and scrapes occur in one area, hunters often refer to the area as a buck "dominance area."

Dominance Areas

Dominance areas are often found near staging areas, downwind of food sources and also within individual doe use areas. Staging areas are places where deer gather (usually in the evening) before entering feeding areas at duck. If bucks want to attract does then staging areas are one of the best places to leave signposts. This suggests that a scrape found in a doe use area was probably made by a dominant buck, and that there should be a rub route nearby. If the rub route is near a trail, road, stream or river bottom, it may be in a travel corridor. If there is a nearby food source the rub route and scrape may be in a staging area. If other signs confirm that the scrape is in a high use area you should see deer on a regular basis, provided there is still nearby food.

Travel Direction

The hoof marks in the scrape; direction of the scrape marks; and where the dirt, snow or leaves are piled, tell you the direction the buck was facing when it made the scrape. However, these signs will not tell you the direction the buck came from, because it may have had to face a different direction than it was traveling in order to use a particular scrape. The direction of the rub route helps you determine which way the buck is traveling.

Tree Preference

In Georgia, Marchinton et al. found that bucks use sweet gum, loblolly pine, greenbriar and dogwood as scrape sites. In the Midwest bucks use pine, cedar, apple, plum, ash, red and white oak, cottonwood, box elder and maple. Many of these trees have few lower limbs, but often have one of suitable height to use as a licking branch. Individual bucks often have a preference for particular trees; a 12 point buck on one of my study sites used red oak, mulberry, ash and pine; a big 10 point used red oak almost exclusively; and one 8 point preferred apple and plum trees.


Hunters often find several scrapes in a fairly small area. I have found as many as eight scrapes under two trees that were within ten yards of each other. During my research I found that numerous scrapes in the same area can be caused by different circumstances. There may be more than one buck using the area, but using several different trees, or even different branches on the same tree being used. Several scrapes may occur in a small area when a buck uses the same tree, but not always under the same branch. These scrapes may eventually be connected, creating what looks like one very large scrape. Several fresh scrapes together may only be the result of rutting urge, and they may never be used again. One of my hunters watched a buck make five scrapes in a half and hour; those scrapes were never used again. Several small scrapes may be made by one or more dominant bucks as a threat to subdominant bucks, especially if the dominants are with a doe. Several frequently used scrapes indicate a high use area, often in a staging area near a food source, or along travel corridor.

If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is an excerpt from the Scrape Hunter's Manual ($9.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.

For more Deer Hunting Tips click here 


T.R. Michels with 8 pt buck

The Moon; Lunar Factors and Deer Activity

There have been a number of studies and articles recently by researchers and outdoor writers who are trying to determine whether or not there is a correlation between lunar conditions and deer activity. The articles have stirred the interest of whitetail hunters who would like to be able to predict when deer will be seen during the hunting season. Interest in lunar conditions is not new however, because hunters and fisherman have been using the moon to predict game activity for years. This interest in lunar activity and game movement has led to a variety of Sun and moon related animal activity predictors/tables for hunters and fisherman, and there are more on the way.

Lunar Confusion

The problem with the research, theories, predictors and tables is that there are so many of them; and there are so many lunar factors that may or may not influence deer activity. To compound the problem different researchers use different lunar factors, and combinations of factors, while doing their research and making their predictions, which causes mass confusion among hunters. For example: several popular game predictor tables predict the times of day fish and game are expected to be active or feed. At least one outdoor writer claims to have found a correlation between daytime deer activity during specific times of the day and the position of the moon. One researcher claims to have found a correlation between nighttime deer activity and moon phase. Another researcher claims to have found a correlation between monthly daytime deer activity and a combination of lunar factors; which may or may not include the position, amount of light, declination, distance and gravitational pull of the moon. Some of these researchers and writers are currently trying to correlate estrus cycles of white-tailed deer and peak rut activity with moon phase.

Daytime activity, nighttime activity, monthly activity, estrus cycles, peak of the rut, moon phase, moon position, declination, distance, gravity. No wonder it's confusing, and most of it is theory. Even the researchers admit that although they may find correlation's between lunar conditions and deer activity, they are not sure what the causes are.

If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is an excerpt from the Deer Addict's Manual Volume 4: Lunar Factors, The Real Truth ($9.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.

For more Deer Hunting Tips click here 

Does The Moon Affect Daily Deer Activity?

Several popular game charts claim to be able to predict DAILY deer activity (not monthly activity, which I'll talk about later) based on the position of the moon in relation to a given spot on earth. We know that the gravitational pull of the moon is strongest when the moon is directly overhead and underfoot, with the greatest gravitational pull often occurring when the moon is directly overhead. This is evidenced by the daily tides, with the highest tide usually occurring when the moon is overhead. Because the earth revolves as it moves around the sun, the moon will be directly overhead or underfoot at different times each day. The game charts take this into account, and predict that deer will be most active/feed when the moon is either directly overhead or underfoot of the animals current position because of this gravitational pull, with predicted major times often coinciding with the overhead position of the moon and minor times coinciding with the underfoot position of the moon.

Game Predictors

The Solunar Table, Vektor Fish and Game Activity Tables, and Feeding Times and Moon Guide all rely on the position of the moon, and claim to be able to predict game movement from a half hour before and after to two hours before and after the predicted times. One of them predicts poor, fair good and best days of the month. I placed all these predictor/tables on a graph and found that, because they all rely on lunar orbit, they paralleled each other within hours. However, I noticed that many of the times that they predicted were during the hours of dawn and dusk. One of the reasons hunters report seeing deer during the times predicted is because the tables predict up to four hours each day as the best times to hunt; and they often predict morning and evening times. In November, when there are only about ten hours of daylight, the chances of seeing deer are obviously fairly high during the predicted times. Because deer are most active in the morning and evening during the fall, and these are the times when most hunters see deer, I decided to check the accuracy of the tables during the predicted midday hours.

Do Game Predictors Work?

In my own efforts to correlate deer movement with weather and moon factors I kept precise daily records from October 1, 1994 through January 8, 1995. To check the accuracy of these tables I chose the month of November, which coincides with the gun season and the rut in many areas. Then I compared the tables with the deer sightings of myself, and four other hunters. Upon checking the results I found very little correlation between the predictors and deer movement other than during the normal movement times of dawn and dusk. Between 10 AM and 3 PM there was very little deer movement at the times predicted by these tables. On several occasions I watched deer lay down and get up, but could not correlate their movement with any of the tables.

All the tables predicted game activity during normal morning and evening movement times on five days in November, and above normal deer activity did occur on two of those days. But, the tables were accurate only 17 percent of the time, and only when they predicted activity during normal deer movement times, in the morning and evening, when most deer are seen by hunters anyhow. There were also four days when above normal activity occurred when it was not predicted by the tables. Overall the tables did a poor job of accurately predicting HOURLY deer movement, outside of the normal daily deer movement hours of dawn and dusk.

The problem with the tables, even when they are correct, and if they work, is that they don't agree on which days or times are best to hunt. So, which table should you use? Is one better than the others? What if the select days don't coincide with the hunting season, or coincide with the days you have available to hunt? What if the select times don't coincide with the hours you can hunt? Then the tables do you no good. By the way, if you choose to use all the tables available you end up hunting almost the whole day for the entire month.

The Deer Activity Index and The Moon Guide

Because I did not know about the Deer Activity Index or the Moon Guide until 1995 I did not check their accuracy that year. But, when I received their 1994 predictions I decided to check their accuracy against my 1994 data. To my surprise I found both the DAI and Moon Guide to be quite accurate. But, there are obvious reasons for their accuracy.

Jeff Murray's Moon Guide predicts not only the time of day, but predicts where to expect deer at that time. Deer activity during the day is fairly predictable. At dawn and dusk deer can usually be found near food sources. During early evening hours deer usually move through travel corridors (what Murray calls "transition areas") on the way to their nighttime feeding sources. During late morning hours deer usually move through those "transition areas" on the way to their daytime bedding areas. At midday deer are generally found in bedding areas. Murray's Moon Guide suggests hunting these areas at those times, which makes it quite accurate. I did find deer in the suggested areas at the times predicted on a regular basis. BUT, that's where I would expect the deer to be at those times of the day anyhow. In other words: you don't need the Moon Guide to tell you when and where to hunt.

Meteorological Conditions, The Rut, Food Availability and Hunting Pressure

The reason why these tables are not more accurate is because they do not take into account the other factors that affect daily deer movement: specifically daily meteorological conditions, food availability, the rut, predatory behavior, distance to and from limited/preferred food sources, and hunting pressure. Some weather conditions cause a decrease in daytime deer movement, while other weather conditions cause an increase in daytime deer movement. Abundant food sources often decrease daytime deer movement, while limited food sources often increase daytime deer movement. The rut inevitably increases daytime deer movement. Predatory behavior and hunting pressure reduces daytime deer movement.

When you use lunar predictors without taking into account the other factors, which may cause an increase in daytime deer activity, you will inevitably miss some excellent hunting opportunities when above normal daytime deer activity occurs. If you don't take into account the other factors that decrease, and in some cases completely override lunar influence on daytime deer movement, you may hunt several days without seeing a deer. The purpose of a deer movement chart should be to help hunters reliably predict the days when deer will be most active, so they can hunt on those days, and then decide whether or not to hunt the days when deer are not active. And there is a way to do that.

Daily Deer Movement Indicator

As a result of my four-year study on deer movement, I devised the Daily Deer Movement Indicator (DDMI) which predicts above normal deer movement based on the time of day, the current weather conditions, moon conditions, the rut and the available food sources. During the same 1994 deer study as mentioned above, the DDMI predicted daytime deer movement on thirty-five of sixty days. There was above normal deer movement on thirty of the thirty-five days predicted, for an accuracy rate of 86 percent. But, there were two days when above normal deer movement occurred when it was not predicted.

The DDMI can also be used in conjunction with other predictors. By using the DDMI in combination with the DAI, or with my own Moon Indicator, their accuracy rate could be increased to 95 percent, almost double their individual accuracy rate. But, there were still those two days when above normal deer movement occurred when it was not predicted. This only goes to show that there will be times when none of the tables will be accurate in predicting daytime deer activity.

This article is an excerpt from the Deer Addict's Manual Volume 4; Lunar Factors, The Real Truth, by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.

 For more Deer Hunting Tips click here


How Seasonal Changes Affect Fall Deer Movement 3/29/04

There are several factors that determine when and where deer move during the fall. An understanding of these factors can explain the reduced sightings of bucks during the hunting season. These factors fall into seven different categories; Comfort, Security, Predatory Behavior (natural predators and hunting), Food Availability, Travel Distance, Breeding Behavior and Lunar Forces.

Fall signals an increase in white-tailed deer activity, which is brought on by changing food supplies and the rut. In study by Kammermeyer and Marchinton deer traveled greater average distances per day during the fall than they did in the summer. Deer also traveled greater distances per hour during both dawn and dusk in the fall than they did during the summer. There was also a shift in daytime deer activity: during the day in the summer the deer were most active at dusk, from 6 PM to 10 PM; during the day in the fall they were most active at dawn, from 4 AM to 10 AM, with movement continuing until noon. Overall, the deer moved more during darkness in the fall than they did in the summer. This increase in deer movement during darkness in the fall can be attributed to decreasing hours of daylight (in some areas from 14 to 8 hours), decreasing foliage as leaves fell (leaving deer more exposed during daylight hours) and changing food sources.

During the summer deer can feed securely in wooded areas where there is abundant forage. In the fall deer often feed more heavily on agricultural crops, and browse in more open areas, which causes them to feed more at nigh for security reasons. The change in feeding patterns from summer wooded areas to open fall food sources forces the deer to travel farther in search of food. I refer to deer movement from bedding sites to food sources as the "Distance Factor."

In most areas inhabited by whitetails fall brings significant changes in weather patterns. Barometric pressure and temperatures fluctuate more, there is more cloud cover, more precipitation and stronger winds. These changes often combine to create low temperatures, changes in dewpoints, lower wind-chill factors and storms. These meteorological changes create a reduction in plant chlorophyll production, causing some plant food sources to die or become dormant, leaves to fall, and other food sources to ripen.

As fall approaches and deer begin growing their heavy winter coats the temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, dewpoint, wind-chill, and amount of vegetation and cloud cover all have the ability to affect the comfort of the deer. I refer to these meteorological changes as "Comfort Factors." In extreme conditions meteorological changes may also affect the health of the deer, and as such they can also be considered as "Security Factors."

This article is an excerpt from the Whitetail Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels. It is available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.


T.R.'s Tips: Fall Deer Pattern Shifts

Pre-Rut/Rubbing Phase

1. Deer shift from summer foods to available mast, fruit and agricultural crops and browse more. Locate food sources as areas to hunt.

Dispersal Phase/Home Range Shift

2. Buck bachelor groups begin to break up and bucks become more aggressive. Bucks may move to new core areas where they can bed by themselves. Find fresh rubs in secure areas to locate buck core areas. All deer may move from summer home ranges to fall home ranges. Find the areas where the does have moved to in the fall.

Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase

3. Bucks begin to travel rub routes, making scrapes two to three weeks before the primary breeding phase. Locate buck rub routes and groups of scrapes.

4. As the rut approaches bucks shift from their own travel routes to those used by the does. Locate both buck rub routes and doe trails for areas to hunt.

Shorter Daylight Hours, Colder Temperatures and Falling Leaves (Defoliation)

5. Deer move deeper into cover as leaves fall. Move hunting sites deeper into woods or to current travel routes.

6. With less daylight and fewer leaves deer shift their from movement times from daylight hours, to dusk, dawn and nighttime hours, and from covered daytime trails to more open night trails. Scout to find areas deer use during daylight.

Primary Breeding Phase

7. As does come into estrus bucks abandon rub routes to chase does. Spend all day on rub routes near buck and doe core areas or doe use areas with scrapes.

8. Bucks begin to use open trails at night. Locate daytime use areas or bedding sites to hunt.

9. Doe groups begin traveling together. Be aware that there may be many deer in the area.

Rest Phase

10. Bucks may return to their core areas and feed heavily. Hunt buck core areas and travel routes leading to and from food sources.

Post Primary Breeding Phase

11. Bucks begin to travel together. More than one buck may appear, wait for the big one.

12. Bucks begin to travel with the does. Locate doe feeding areas to locate bucks.

Pre-Late Breeding and Late Breeding Phases

13. Bucks begin chasing does before and during the late breeding phase. Hunt near buck bedrooms, rub routes, and doe use areas.

Post Rut

14. Bucks may again return to their core areas. They may also migrate to winter ranges. Locate buck core areas/winter ranges to hunt.

This article is an excerpt from the Whitetail Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels. It is available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.

 For more Deer Hunting Tips click here

T.R.'s Tips: White-tailed Deer Hunting

T.R. Michels with 10 point 168 1/2 " whitetail.

November: Hunting The Rut

During the summer whitetail bucks don’t associate much with the does, and they usually stay near their summer core areas. When they do travel they rarely use the same trails the does do. But, as summer turns to fall, and preferred food sources become available, the bucks will begin to use the same food sources as the does, and they may be seen in the late evening and early morning hours. After the bucks shed their velvet and begin rubbing and scraping they become more security conscious and they may move less during daylight hours. They travel more at night, use secluded areas and keep more to the security of woods and brush where they can’t be easily discovered by predators and hunters. Once the breeding urge hits the bucks will begin to travel in search of does, leaving rubs and scrapes as evidence of their passing so that any receptive doe knows where to find them. They may begin to travel more during daylight hours and use the same trails as the does, so that they come in contact with the does more often. The bucks also begin frequenting the same feeding areas as the does for the same reason. This is when bucks are the most predictable in their movements, and when they are most susceptible to hunting.

Find The Does

One of the easiest ways to find a whitetail buck during the rut is to find the does. If the deer population is healthy and close to balanced the bucks will find the does during the rut. If you know where the prime food sources are, then you will know where to find the does. Once you find the does you should be able to find their home ranges. Once you find the doe home range you should be able to find a buck’s rub route, rubs and scrapes. And once you find the rub route it is a matter of time and effort before you find the buck.

There are two times during the year when locating does is easy. One is obviously during the fall when the deer are in meadows and agricultural crops taking advantage of the abundant forage. They can also be found in woods where they search for mast crops, but they are often harder to see in this environment. The other time of year to locate does is in the spring when the leaves are still off the trees and the deer begin to look for new green growth and leftover mast from the year before. I prefer spring scouting for does because I like to devote the fall to locating the rub, rublines and scrapes that bucks make. Then I locate the bucks themselves.


After the long winter I always get spring fever, so I begin glassing (using binoculars to look for deer) in April. I drive around the country, checking farm fields at dusk looking for does. Once I find where they are feeding I watch to see where they come from so I can locate their bedding area. Every once in a while I get lucky and see one of the bucks too, like I did April 28 one year. I was out looking for the does near the railroad tracks where I knew they locate to feed. As I drove across the tracks I saw deer about a quarter mile away. I got out of the truck, took my binoculars and got as close as I could. There where four deer; it looked like one doe and two yearlings but I couldn’t tell what the other deer was. As they got closer I could see two inch velvet on the head of the other deer, and knew it was the big eight point buck I had watched all fall. I could also see small bumps on the head of the bigger yearling. As I watched the male yearling got too close to the bigger buck, and the eight point kicked the yearling on the top of it’s back with both front hoofs already exerting dominance over the one year old buck. I keep watching the deer all summer long, so I know where to find them in the fall. .


After I find the does in the fall I start scouting, looking for evidence of bucks passing through. Rubs and scrapes are very evident in the spring and it’s easy to locate the bucks rub route. Once I find the rub route I backtrack it to find the buck’s bedroom. More often than not I will go into the bedroom and spook the buck out but I don’t worry about it. By the time hunting season rolls around the buck will have forgotten about my intrusion and I know right where to find him in the fall.

When I look for does in the fall I use the same technique. By this time I know where the mast crops are and which crops the does will be using. I check the food sources, find the does and then I begin to watch them to see which foods they use and what time they use them. If I can, I sit in a treestand, or get on a high point where I can see a lot of territory. I sit and watch the deer for the next week during both the morning and evening to see when they are most active. Then I choose my hunting sites based on the knowledge of where the does travel, where they will be feeding and the added knowledge of where I found the bucks rub route. I also make a point of looking for the bucks near their bedding areas, to see what their racks look like and which ones made it through the winter. Once I know where the does are, what food sources they use, where the buck rub routes are, and which bucks are still around, I know where to find the bucks when the rut begins. By watching the bucks from an observation point for a few days I know what time to expect them at certain points along their rub route. Then I choose which stand site to use at what time of the day for the best chance at the buck.

Hunting Sight Setups

Many hunters use scents to attract bucks. If you are using scents remember that adult bucks responding to scent invariably try to get downwind to check the scent and detect danger. You should also remember that adult bucks try to remain in cover. When you setup, give the buck the cover, while you hunt in a more open area nearby. Try to position yourself crosswind of the buck's travel route to avoid detection. If there is nearby cover the buck will use and a more open area crosswind of the cover, setup in the open area. Give the buck the cover while you wait in the area it won't use and where you won't be detected.

You can also setup downwind of the buck's approach while luring the buck to a position upwind of you. Be sure to place the scent close enough for a shot. If you have to setup upwind of the buck's approach take extreme precautions to avoid detection. Don't put your stand in a direct line with the buck's line of travel, you may be seen. For the same reason you should keep your stand site a comfortable distance from the trail itself, far enough to avoid detection, but close enough for a shot.

If I am hunting an area I have not hunted before, I prefer to hunt in the evenings when most scent marking activity occurs. If I find a rub route I backtrack it until I think I am near the bedding area and then setup as close as I can without alarming the buck. If I cannot locate the rub route or bedding area I look for staging areas near food sources.

Once you have chosen an area to hunt and a where to put your stand, decide where to place the scent. It can be hung from trees on felt pads, film canisters or other dispensers, and in drippers. I place the scent crosswind or upwind of my position, about fifteen yards from my stand and fifteen yards apart, near the rub or scrape and wait for the buck to come by.

We have some excellent Stoney-Wolf videos on techniques for hunting the rut. Why not check them out?

If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is an excerpt from the Whitetail Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.


Dispersal Rut Phase / Fall Home Range Shift Hunting

October: A Time of Transition & Dispersal

In many areas October is a time of transition, for both the deer and the habitat. As summer rains decrease some food sources become dry and unpalatable to deer, and other food sources (such as nuts berries and agricultural crops) start to ripen, making them more palatable. October is also when temperatures may begin to drop and the wind speed increases, which means the deer may begin to look for core areas more suitable to colder, windier weather. The result of these seasonal forage availability and weather pattern changes is that the deer may have from one to four seasonal home ranges; spring summer, fall, and winter. In many areas the deer begin to shift from their summer home ranges to their fall home ranges from early September and late October. Sometimes the deer (both bucks and does) will use the same core areas for different seasonal home ranges, but they use different portions of their home ranges for different seasons.

To be successful as a deer hunter you need to find out where the core areas of the deer are during the time frame you are hunting them, what the deer are eating at that time, and determine when and where the preferred foods become available. Since the weather affects both the suitability of daytime core/bedding areas and the availability of preferred forage, you need to scout regularly to determine where the deer spend the day, where they forage at night, and which travel routes they use between those two areas, in both the morning, and in the evening.

T.R. Michels photo of buck at October scrape, using Photo Hunter by Trail Timer

October is also the time when the deer are preparing for the rut. During late August and early September bucks often hang out in bachelor groups. Shortly before and after the bucks shed their velvet you may see them traveling or feeding together, and participating in sparring matches in preparation for the rut. But, within weeks of shedding their velvet the buck's testosterone levels rise to the point where they will no longer put up with each other. Once this occurs the older bucks will start to become solitary, and begin moving to and/or establishing their fall breeding ranges. Depending on forage availability, whether or not deer use the same core areas in late summer as they use in the fall, and the distance between summer home ranges and fall home ranges, it may take a week or more for the bucks to move onto and establish their fall breeding ranges.

If the deer in your area regularly breed from early to late November, the bucks often begin to break up from summer bachelor groups sometime between mid-September and mid-October. In many areas above the 36th parallel the bucks will be on their fall breeding ranges two to three weeks before the peak of the rut. If you want to know when peak breeding occurs in the area you hunt check the Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

You can usually tell when the bucks have moved onto their fall breeding ranges by the appearance of new or fresh rubs and scrapes, in areas where they have not previously occurred that year. Once you start seeing new rubs and scrapes after mid-October you can begin watching the area to see which bucks have moved into the area, which bucks are traveling near the rubs and scrapes you've found, and what time of day they are near them.

Johnny on the Spot Hunting

Since October is often a time of transition, the key to deer hunting in October is to know where the deer are during the days or weeks that you hunt. Because the deer may be using one area in the early part of the month, and another area during the later part of the month, you need to scout often to locate high-use deer areas, and be willing and able to move to new locations at a moment's notice. To do this you need to be able to read deer sign, determine what time of the day the deer are using particular areas, and have the ability to quickly and easily move to areas where you are most likely to see deer. This means you should use lightweight compact equipment that you can take with you as you scout. For most hunters that means either hunting from the ground, using natural terrain, vegetation or a compact, portable blind for cover, and tree seat or hunting stool to sit on; or hunting with a portable tree stand. You want to be able to hunt the same day you scout.

What you are looking for when you are hunting bucks in October is fresh deer sign, particularly fresh rubs and scrapes; although fresh doe sign can tell you where you might find bucks once the does come into estrus. (And research shows that does in many areas start coming into estrus in mid-October.) Fresh rubs and scrapes along lightly used trails that parallel or bisect the more heavily used doe trails are an indication of buck trails; and if you want to take a buck, buck trails are where you should setup.

I like to hunt along buck rub routes (indicated by 1 1/2 -2 inch rubs on or near lightly used trails) or near traditional scrapes (scrapes used 3+ years in a row), that are in secluded locations (heavy cover or low-lying areas) where bucks feel secure when they travel during daylight hours. When I find these signs while I'm scouting, I determine what time of day the bucks use the areas, and setup in the best locations for the time of day I'm hunting. Generally speaking I like to hunt along a travel corridor the bucks use between their daytime core/bedding areas and their night-time feeding areas, where they often find does.

T.R.’s Tips: Stand Sites

Evening Stands

If you are hunting late in the afternoon, when the deer are just leaving their core areas in heavy cover, you can set up along travel lanes leading from the core areas to daytime food sources. Small openings in the woods, mast sites, and swamp or creek edges in heavy cover, are all good places to set up. If you are hunting just before sundown, the transition zones of tall grass, heavy brush, swamps and gullies are good place to set up. Trails leading to staging areas, downwind of open food sources, are excellent hunting sites at sundown, especially for bucks.

If you are hunting at or just after sundown, and the deer are feeding in the open, your stand should be along trails leading to the fields. Bucks move later than does and often come into the transition zones after sundown, preferring to stay in cover until sundown (when they feel secure). If you don't see bucks in open feeding areas you should move farther into the woods along the buck travel routes. Since the deer generally move late in the afternoon you have plenty of time to get to transition zones, staging areas and food sources before the deer arrive.

Morning Stands

In the early morning, when the deer are still feeding in the open, you should not hunt from stands near the food sources, unless you are sure there are no deer near your stand, or you are sure you can approach you stand undetected. Because of the darkness you probably won't know if there are deer in the area until it's too late, and if you spook a deer it will alert all the other deer in the area. In the morning you can hunt transition zones and heavy cover (where deer travel on their way from feeding areas), or you can hunt the trails leading to the core areas. You should be at your stand before the deer arrive, and ambush them as they go back to their core areas.

Prior to the primary breeding phase bucks usually return to cover well before daylight. This is a good time to hunt the early morning along rub routes leading to the buck's bedrooms; getting there before the bucks do. Once the rut begins the bucks may return to their core areas later than normal in the morning, because they are either chasing or looking for does. Early in the morning you may catch bucks along their rub routes near transition zones leading back to their core areas. If the bucks are not in their core areas, you can hunt the core areas from first light until noon; I've seen bucks drag themselves back to their core areas at 11:00 in the morning. If you've previously observed or patterned a buck you will know when and where the best setup is.

Scrape Hunting

After seven years of whitetail scrape research I have to admit that I'm a firm believe in using scrapes to determine which rut phase the deer are in, to determine where the bucks are most active throughout the day and night, and to determine what time of the day the bucks are most active. Once I have determined which rut phase the bucks are in (so I know how active they may be during daylight hours) determined that scrapes in particular areas are getting hit on a regular basis; and determined which scrapes are getting hit most often during daylight hours, I have a pretty good idea of where I should setup to hunt for bucks.

One of the best times to hunt bucks is during the scraping phase (which often occurs from mid to late October in states above the 40th parallel), because it is when buck are often most active and predictable in where and when they move during daylight hours. But, you can use the information you gain from checking scrapes regularly to hunt bucks during the entire hunting season.

Hunting the different Rut Phases

Bucks begin traveling their rub routes, working licking branches, and using some scrapes during the Pre-Rut/Rubbing and Dispersal Phases, as much as two months before peak breeding. Even though these Pre-Rut/Rubbing and Dispersal Phase scrapes may not be used regularly they can be productive as hunting sites when they first appear in September or October. If these early scrapes are traditional they may also be used during the Primary Breeding Phase, and again during the Post Primary Breeding Phase of the rut.

The best time to see bucks at scrapes is during the Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase, the two to three weeks just before peak breeding activity. Because of their strong rutting urge buck's leave their beds earlier than normal at this time, and they may check the scrapes near their bedding area before sunset as they make their nightly rounds. They may also return to their beds later than normal in the morning after looking for does all night, and they may check the scrapes along their route near their bedding area after sunrise.

Although bucks may not regularly visit scrapes during the Primary Breeding Phase they often travel the areas where both traditional and non-traditional scrapes occur (in travel corridors leading to and from bedding areas and food sources; in staging areas near food sources; and near doe core areas), as they look for or tend does. This is why you should pay close attention to all scrapes, especially those near food sources and doe areas.

During the Post Primary Breeding Phase the dominant bucks that are not worn out, and some aggressive subdominants, may start traveling rub routes and making new scrapes, or re-using previous scrapes. Most of this scraping activity will occur near doe use areas, and at staging areas near food sources. When the bucks no longer find evidence of estrous does they usually return to the security of their core areas to rest and put on weight for the remainder of the rut and the winter. During the six years of my study I seldom saw dominant bucks outside their core areas in daylight hours during the Rest Phase.

Does that were not bred (or did not conceive) during the Primary Breeding Phase may come into another estrous about a month later. Older does, and some yearling and unhealthy does, may come into their first estrous at this time. This is when bucks start traveling rub routes and making scrapes again as they search for these estrous does. The bucks are not as aggressive during this late breeding phase as they were earlier, and they may travel together to and from food sources. I often see bucks moving during the early evening and late morning hours at this time, especially when there is cold weather and cloud cover.

Hunting Secluded Areas

Although bucks start to move more during daylight hours as the rut progresses, they are still security conscious. As I noted in an earlier chapter, the scrapes made in September and early October were often in open areas where the deer feed at night. Obviously, many of these open area/field edge scrapes are unproductive hunting sites, because the bucks usually visit them at night. But, as scraping activity increased in the last two weeks of October, more scrapes opened up in wooded areas, in brushy ravines, along creek and river bottoms, along over grown logging roads, and on wooded benches on the sides of hills; places where the bucks could move during the day, but where they felt safe. As the rut progressed more of these secluded area scrapes were used, and fewer of the open area scrapes were used. Many of these secluded area scrapes occurred along rub routes. This suggests that the best scrapes to hunt are those that are in secluded areas, where there is a rub route that the buck uses at it moves during the day.

Hunting the Right Scrapes

Which scrapes should you hunt? That depends on when and why the scrapes are used. Scrapes made early in the season may be made simply out of rutting urge, and they may not be used again. Scrapes made near early seasonal food sources may not be used after the food is gone and the does stop using the food source; this often occurs after the breeding period. Recently used scrapes made after the breeding period may be the scrapes of subdominants that begin scraping because the older bucks have quit checking their scrapes and exerting dominance over the younger bucks; the older bucks are busy chasing does.

Once you have found a secluded area scrape that looks like it is recently used try to determine whether or not it is being used frequently. The best way to do that is to check it daily, and if you have the opportunity you might as well hunt it while you are checking it. Frequently used scrapes that do not show recent use should be noted because they may be traditional scrapes, used at specific times during the season. Try to figure out why the scrape was used and when, then use the information to hunt the area next year.

If a scrape is near an all season food source (browse, clover) and a more preferred food source (acorns, corn) becomes available, the deer may abandon the area. A scrape in this area may be re-opened later if the food source is still there. Frequently used scrapes showing recent use should be watched closely and hunted. Frequently used scrapes of any type are often traditional; used year after year; used by subsequent dominant bucks; used by numerous bucks; and are possibly checked by all bucks in the area. Frequently used traditional scrapes in secluded areas may be used during the day and often occur in travel corridors and near doe use areas.

Scrape Lines

It is difficult to predict which scrapes to hunt, and when to hunt them; because most scraping occurs at night; because bucks begin to scrape more in the day during the Pre-Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase and Primary Breeding Phase; and because scraping by individual bucks does not occur on a regular schedule. Since there is no reliable way of predicting when or how often a buck will scrape, the best thing to do is choose the right area and hunt it when the conditions are right. Although hunting individual scrapes can be productive, you may be better off hunting near areas where numerous scrapes occur; areas referred to as scrape lines, especially if the area contains several traditional scrapes.

Scrape lines often occur in travel corridors connecting daytime bedding areas and nighttime food sources that are used by both does and bucks. These travel corridors may contain several traditional scrapes. Scrape lines may also occur in staging areas, often downwind of food sources. Scrape lines containing more than one traditional scrape should be your first choice as a hunting site. Remember, because of their semi-open location, many traditional scrapes are used at night, but they are likely to be used during the day in the Pre-Primary Breeding Phase.

Groups of Scrapes

Groups of scrapes often occur in staging areas that are near food sources. Although these may seem like good areas to hunt, they may not be. Bucks often scent check scrapes from downwind before they approach the scrape, and they may not even approach the scrape. This means that bucks are extremely wary near scrapes, particularly where there are numerous scrapes that numerous bucks may be using. The best way to hunt scrape lines and staging areas is to find the rub routes the bucks use as they approach the scrapes, and then set up crosswind or downwind of where you expect the bucks to check the scrapes from.


The farther a scrape is from the buck's bedding area, the more likely it is that the scrape is used during the night. This means that the scrapes that are most likely to be used during the day are: those in wooded or otherwise secludes areas; those near the buck's bedding site; those along its route as it leaves its bed in the afternoon; and those along its route as it returns to its bed in the morning. The best place and time to hunt scrape lines is during the Pre-Primary Breeding Phase in the morning and evening, as close to the bedding area as you can get without alarming the buck. You can also hunt scrapes during the Primary Breeding Phase and Post Primary Breeding Phase, because the bucks may travel all day in search of estrous does, and they often cruise scrape lines throughout the day; which is when you should be prepared to hunt all day.

If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is an excerpt from the Scrape Hunter's Manual ($9.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.

For more Deer Hunting Tips click here 


If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is an excerpt from the Whitetail Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.



I know it may seem early, but summer is a great time to start getting ready for the deer hunting season. It's a great time to begin looking for bucks in velvet from the roads, and, if it is a cool day, it a good time to look for deer trails, tracks, droppings, beds, and old rubs and scrapes that my help you figure out wher the deer were last year during the hunting season, and where they hopefully will be this year.

When you are getting ready for the deer season you should begin watching for deer at likely food sources in late summer. In the upper Midwest I usually begin looking for deer during late July and early August when I often see does and fawns feeding. I get pretty serious about locating bucks during the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September, when I often see bucks traveling together and sparring in preparation for the rut. Does, fawns and bucks will be loading up on succulent grasses, clovers, ripening grains, berries and sedges in late summer. But don't expect to regularly see the bucks using the same food sources as the does, because the bucks often stay closer to their bedding areas than the does. If the bucks do use the same food sources as the does they usually show up later than the does.


By cruising roads with a good set of binoculars near agricultural crops and meadows during the morning and evening you can find out which fields the bucks are using. If you are there early enough in the evening you may see the bucks arrive and be able to determine where they came from. If you stay late enough you may be able to see them go to either another food source or back toward the bedding area. Because buck's don't travel very far at this time of year their bedding area should be within about a half mile, probably closer to a quarter of a mile. When you see bucks at early morning food sources stay you should stay there long enough to see which way they leave. In the morning the deer usually work their way slowly from open areas, to high grass or brushy areas, and finally into heavy brush or woods, where they feed and bed intermittently throughout the day. Once you know the route the deer take back to their core areas you can setup along it during the hunting season.

Rub Routes

A buck's rub route leaving its core in the evening usually winds through several doe use areas before ending up at a night time food source. Then it leads through other doe use areas as the buck moves back toward its core area in the early morning, before daylight. You should be able to find several rubs along the evening rub route; and scrapes in the transition zones near food sources, along field edges, and near doe core areas. Following the buck's rub route back to its core area in the morning can be difficult, because buck often travel under the cover of darkness in the early morning, which makes them feel secure enough to travel in the open. Since the bucks are traveling in more areas during the night, there are very few trees, which means you may not find any rubs or scrapes along the route the buck's uses on the way back to its core in the morning, until the route goes back into a wooded area. I think part of the reason that bucks don't make rubs and scrapes along the trail back into their core areas is because they are in a hurry to get back, and they don't take much time to mark their trail until the peak of the rut. But, you can usually find their trails by their tracks, and the rubs left from previous years.

Buck Trails

Although the lesser used buck trails may not be as visible in the late summer as they are later on, last year's rubs and scrapes, and any new rubs and scrapes are clearly evident. Even if the buck that initially made the old rubs and scrapes may not still be around, other bucks will often use the same trails. The trails used by bucks are chosen because they offer security. They are usually the safest means of travel from the buck's core area, through adjacent doe use areas, to nighttime food sources. Remember that in the fall the buck isn't just going from his core area to nighttime food sources, it usually travels through all the adjacent doe use areas that it can get to in a night.

When you are looking for buck trails remember that they often parallel the more heavily used doe trails, intersecting the doe trails only at bottlenecks or near scraping, feeding and core areas. Buck trails, especially rub routes, may be traveled by only one buck, once a day, in one direction, therefore they show very little evidence of being used. If the trail you are following shows very little use, it may be a buck trail. Bucks also prefer to use their own trails, that are generally in more protected areas than the trails does use. If you find vague trails lower or higher on ridges than the doe trails; or trails that run through heavy cover, or follow creek bottoms, sloughs and forested lake shores, they may be buck trails. When you find a lightly used trail in a protected area, look for buck sign: large tracks, drag marks, rubs or large clumped droppings.

Locating Buck and Doe Core Areas

While you are doing your summer scouting you may also find doe use areas with old rubs and scrapes; take note of where you find them. Once you find the doe use areas, or a food source, and the rub route, it is a matter of back-tracking the rub route of the buck to find its core area. If you want to be sure of finding the buck's core area now is a good time to go into it, even though you may spook the buck. By the time hunting season rolls around the buck will have forgotten about your intrusion and it will begin using its preferred bedding areas on a regular basis again. If you don't see a deer in the area check for beds, and large droppings or piles of clumped droppings over and inch and a half in diameter. Although does may leave these large clumps I usually find them in buck bedding areas and in, or near, scrapes. If there are a lot of droppings in one area with, old or new rubs on adjacent trees, it's a good bet you have found the buck's core area.

If you are interested in more deer hunting tips click on T.R.'s Hunting Tips. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is an excerpt from the Whitetail Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 s&h), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog.