buck under licking branch

Deer Scrapes | A Complete Guide

Deer are amazing animals, and they do some very unique things. One of these things is making scrapes throughout the woods.

Scrapes are one of the best ways that deer are able to communicate with each other through the scent that they leave behind, and it can also mean some amazing hunting for outdoorsmen and women who know how to find and identify a scrape. 

But, what exactly are scrapes, and how do you find them? How do deer make them and why do they even do it? Let’s take a deeper look into deer scrapes and answer all of these questions so that you can use them to your advantage this hunting season!

deer urinating in scrape

By learning about scrapes and how bucks use them, you can greatly increase your chances of harvesting a buck.

What are Deer Scrapes?

To start, it is important to understand exactly what a scrape is. A deer scrape is essentially a bare patch of ground that is usually in the shape of an oval or triangle and has an overhanging limb, called a licking branch, above it.

If you are not paying close attention, they can be very easy to miss.

In order to make a scrape, a deer will paw away the twigs, leaves, and vegetation to expose the bare soil, which is used for the scent that they then leave behind.

They will also rub their nose, mouth, and foreheads on the overhanging branch to leave some scent there as well. 

Whitetail will paw at leaves and vegetation and clear an area to urinate in (typically under an overhanging branch) and leave scent.

What Do Deer Scrapes look like?

Scrapes can come in all shapes and sizes depending on the deer and the terrain.

Some scrapes that are made quickly by a buck can be as small as a few inches across on the ground, while older, more established scrapes can be as large as several feet in diameter.

To the untrained eye, they will look like a simple spot or small indention on the ground, but to an experienced hunter, it is a gold mine of opportunity!

deer scrape on the ground

Watch where you walk… You might just walk right through a scrape if you’re not familiar with what they look like.

How Deer Make Scrapes and Why They Do It

Deer are able to communicate with each other through things like sound, body language, and of course, scent.

A scrape is one method that deer will use to communicate through scent and takes advantage of their incredibly powerful sense of smell.

Deer have several scent glands throughout their body in order to leave scent messages, including when they deposit them through a scrape. Their scent is put on the exposed soil as well as the overhanging branch so that other deer can smell it too. 

buck rubbing scent on a vine over a deer scrape

Bucks will use overhanging branches or vines to leave behind glandular scent. They will often lick and chew them as well.

When a buck goes to make a scrape, he will usually begin by rubbing his head and face on the branch. This allows his forehead, nasal, and preorbital glands to get their scent on the overhanging branch or vine.

It’s not uncommon to see them even lick and chew on the branch as well. This can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute or two. He will then start to paw at the ground to remove all of the fallen leaves and other debris underneath it. 

In this video clip, a young buck urinates and rubs his tarsal glands together while standing over a scrape.

Once the deer has unearthed enough fresh soil, he will then urinate in the small area he has dug up, leaving behind the freshly scented scrape for other deer in the area to find and smell.

The entire scraping process can take less than a few minutes, but a buck can leave behind an incredible amount of scent during this time.

Does will also use scrapes to leave urine and other glandular scents.

When Do Deer Use Scrapes

Bucks will make and use scrapes throughout the entire year, but almost 80% of the action surrounding scrapes will take place in the few weeks leading up to their breeding season and into the rut.

This is when bucks are especially conscious of other deer in their area, both does and rival bucks.

In addition to leaving preorbital scent, bucks mark their territory by urinating in scrapes.

By leaving their scent in the scrapes, bucks are essentially marking their territory and preparing for the upcoming or present breeding season. 

It is true that deer will work scrapes during the post-rut and even other times of the year, but this is only a small fraction compared to the weeks and days leading up to the rut and the rut itself.

If you want to catch a deer using an active scrape, focus on peak breeding season in the area that you are in. 

How to Hunt Scrapes

Scrapes are one of the best indicators that bucks are in the area, and they can be used to help increase your odds of successfully filling your tags during hunting season.

In addition to signs like tracks, rubs, droppings, and deer bedding, scrapes can tell you for certain that the deer are frequenting the area and how often.

hunter looking at a whitetail deer scrape

Finding a deer scrape may provide an opportunity for you to get a shot at a buck that you might not ever see otherwise.

If there is a fresh scrape nearby, you will know it is an active location that could potentially yield some excellent results. Of course, you can always confirm this by setting out a trail camera in the area or on the scrape itself. 

If you decide to place a trail camera on the scrape, make sure that it is facing the scrape and that there are no obstructions.

When the trail camera captures pictures, this should give you a good idea of what time of day the bucks are coming by and what direction they are traveling. Using this information, you can decide if you should hunt near or over the scrape. 

Scrapes are also excellent at getting deer to pose for a trail camera, as they will almost always stop to smell a scrape. This can mean a great shot opportunity with a bow and arrow if you are hunting over one, as the buck should be standing still for you to shoot.

One of the biggest challenges with archery hunting is not only getting within range of a mature buck, but getting him to stand still long enough for an ethical shot. An active scrape could potentially help with both of these challenges! 

buck making a scrape

A buck working a scrape can provide some excellent shot placement opportunities for hunters, especially if bowhunting.

To best hunt over a scrape, try using a treestand that is within bow range of the scrape itself. This ensures that when a deer stops to smell everything, you can be in range and take advantage of the opportunity.

While ground blinds and box blinds can also work, treestands will conceal you much better and keep your own scent off the ground and away from the scrape. 

Find active scrapes during the right times of the year and you must might have some antlers for your wall!

Final Thoughts

There is no question that deer are amazing animals, and using their scent via scrapes is just one example of the many unique things that they do.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of deer scrapes, and can use them to your advantage this next hunting season

old tower deer stand

Types of deer hunting tree stands | Which Should You Choose?

The view from the top of a mountain is often worth the climb. But can the same be said about deer hunting tree stands?

If you love hunting whitetail deer, it’s worth the time to find out before you spend your hard-earned money on a new one.

But, how can you know which type of stand is right for you?

We’ve compiled a list of the different types of deer hunting tree stands and the pros and cons of each. We hope this will help you make the right decision on which tree stand to use on your next whitetail hunt.

Before you spend your money, learn about the various types of deer stands below…

You can click the links below to jump straight to specific tree stand types:

Ladder stands

Many whitetail hunters prefer ladder stands when they want entry into their hunting location to be as quiet as possible.

When set up ahead of time, ladder stands allow a hunter to walk quietly to their location without running the risk of metal clanging or of a sweaty setup that could leave unwanted scent on the ground and in the air.

ladder stand pic

Ladder stands with shooting rails can be extremely useful for rifle hunters.

Quiet Entry

Some hunters believe that when compared to climbing tree stands, ladder stands allow for not only a quiet entry into the woods, but a quieter climb.

Because the stand is already set up prior to the hunt, access can be made without worrying about about assembly. (No loud scraping or searching for pieces and parts of multi-part climbing or lock-on stands.)

Steady And Roomy

Some deer hunters also prefer ladder stands because they don’t feel as safe in climbing stands or fixed position stands like lock-ons. Or, they may simply be physically unable to use climbers or lock-ons.

Ladder stands tend to have large seats and side rails. If set up properly, they are typically secured well to a tree and very sturdy. Many come with the option of a shooting rail, which is a plus for rifle hunters. Ladder stands can also be used for bow hunting if shooting rail is removed.

There are also “buddy” type ladder stands which allow for more than one person to sit in the stand. This feature can be very useful for when you are teaching a child to hunt or hunting with a significant other.

Ladder Stands… Is The Setup Worth It?

Some hunters don’t like to use ladder stands for deer hunting because they can be cumbersome to set up and can be easy to spot if not concealed well.

If you have any problems on your hunting land with theft, you might not want to go with a ladder stand. While they can require some sweat to take down and haul out of the woods, a hard-working thief might be up for the challenge.

Ladder stands can also require a “cleaner” tree for setup, as opposed to lock-on tree stands, which can set up without having to cut as many limbs. Some hunters prefer lock-on or hang-on tree stands, as opposed to ladder stands, because ladder stands are typically 20 ft or shorter.

Ladder Stand Manufacturers

Some ladder stand manufacturers include:

  • Millenium Treestands
  • Muddy Outdoors
  • Rivers Edge
  • Big Game
  • Hawk Treestands
  • X-Stand
  • API

Ladder stand Pros:

  • No setup during hunt
  • Quiet entry and climb
  • Can be used for rifle hunting or bow hunting
  • Some ladder stands can accommodate multiple hunters
  • Less taxing physically to climb

Ladder stand Cons:

  • Setup can be cumbersome
  • Tree type can affect setup
  • Theft possible
  • Difficult to conceal
  • Limited stand height

Not wanting a ladder stand… how about “fixed position” tree stands?

Fixed Position Tree Stands

Fixed position tree stands include lock-on tree stands, sometimes referred to as hang-on tree stands. Lock-on tree stands are very useful when you know the exact location of where you want to have a stand.

For example, you may be hunting the edge of a food plot or attractant location that you know is traditionally well-traveled. Or you may  want to have multiple stand locations set up, so you can hunt a particular stand based on current wind direction or deer movement.

Quiet, Light And Incognito

Lock on tree stands (or hang-on stands) are typically able to be set up quickly. With the use of screw-in steps or stick ladders, they also are not as visibly disruptive to the hunting location as ladder stands can be.

While it’s not necessarily recommended to leave lock-on tree stands up year-round, they can be left up for the full season, allowing for quiet entry without disruptive noises that some climbing stands can produce. They also allow for a higher platform height than most ladder stands.

lock on tree stand

Lock-on stands are ideal for bow hunters, but if you feel the need to have a lot of standing room, you will want to choose a stand with a larger platform.

Lock-on stands tend to be much lighter weight than ladder stands, allowing for portability, easier pack and travel, and quick setup. Because screw-in steps and stick ladders can be used with hang-on stands, they also do not usually require as much limb trimming for that portion of the stand to be set up.

While lock-on stands tend to be conducive to bow hunters, without the use of a shooting rail, these types of tree stands can be difficult for a rifle hunter. And, while most don’t have side rails and other movement restrictions, that can leave some hunters feeling unsafe in the tree. (It is important to always use a safety harness when climbing up and down any treestand.)

Unless the hang-on stand you choose specifically has a large platform, limited foot space can be a concern for some hunters. So, if you like to have a lot of room to move around when standing, you should choose a stand with a larger foot platform.

Like ladder stands, lock-on stands can be the target of thieves. There are locking mechanisms available to serve as a deterrent, but a thief who is bent on stealing could still walk off with your lock-on stand due to its portability.

Lock-On / Hang-On Stand Manufacturers

Some notable lock-on tree stand manufacturers include,

  • Lone Wolf
  • Millenium Treestands
  • Muddy Outdoors
  • X-stand Treestands

Lock-On Stand Pros:

  • No setup during the hunt
  • Lightweight
  • Compact and portable for packing and travel
  • Quiet entry and climb
  • Allows for better concealment
  • Great for bowhunters

Lock-On Stand Cons:

  • Can feel less safe
  • Theft possible
  • Some lock-ons have smaller foot platforms
  • Some not conducive to rifle hunting

Still looking for your ideal tree stand? Read about climbing stands below…

Climbing Stands

Some hunters consider climbing tree stands (climbers) to be the most difficult to use. However, with proper practice and safety precautions, climbing stands provide hunters with some advantages in certain hunting scenarios.

Climbing stands can be very useful when you are hunting land that you may not be very familiar with. Climbers give a hunter the ability to search for a hunting location that is has favorable wind and also provides the ability to climb to a higher point without the height limitations of ladder stands, for example.

climbing tree stands pic

Climbing stands are great for portable hunting, but require the tree you are wanting to hunt from to be free of limbs that would restrict climbing.

Climbing stands typically allow for easy setup and removal, meaning that you can enter the woods with your stand and leave with it at the end of the hunt. This prevents theft and also allows a hunter to be truly mobile and not be limited to predetermined deer stand locations.

Climbing stands can also pose some challenges in certain hunting situations. Unlike lock-on stands, climbers need trees with either no protruding limbs, or few enough so that they can be trimmed on the way up the tree.

Climbers also work best when the tree being climbed does not have a large discrepancy in diameter from the bottom of the tree to the height at which the stand will be secured for hunting. If the diameter changes drastically from bottom to top, the hunter may have to begin the climb with the foot platform at an uneven, and even steep angle. This can make climbing not only difficult, but dangerous as well. A properly fastened safety harness should always be used during climbing and at all times when in the deer stand.

To Cover Or Not To Cover…

When it comes to cover, climbers provide both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the hunting location.

For example, you might have plenty of trees on a piece of property that allow for easy climbing.  However, if there are no other trees near the tree you want to climb to provide some cover for you while in the tree stand, you could find yourself sticking out like a sore thumb. And, contrary to what some believe, deer can and do look up at times, especially if they hear or smell something suspicious. It’s a good idea to climb near cover, so if that buck of a lifetime comes, you are not left wishing you had stayed hidden.

Up, Up And Away…

Climbing stands can also be much more physically taxing than ladder stands or lock-on stands. And, the effort exerted can produce one of the most unwanted by-products during a whitetail hunt… sweat. A sweaty hunter is a smelly hunter. For this reason, some hunter choose other types of tree stands instead of a climber.

Because climbing stands have to be unpacked and attached to a tree, some hunters feel that the risk of metal clanging, and other unwanted noises, isn’t worth the mobility advantages they can provide. Once attached to the tree, climbing stands also will generate noise during a hunter’s  climb up the tree.

Climbing Stand Manufacturers

Some notable manufacturers of climbing stands include:

  • Summit Treestands
  • Lone Wolf
  • Muddy Outdoors
  • API
  • Ol’Man

Climbing Stand Pros:

  • Mobility
  • Easily removable to prevent theft
  • Climbers allow for adjustable hunting height

Climbing Stand Cons:

  • Climbable trees needed
  • Potential for noise / sweat
  • Limited cover
  • Physically taxing

Tree Saddles

Tree saddles are almost in a different category than other “treestands.” So, just how would you describe a tree saddle? Well, if you could imagine a cross between a harness for rock climbing and a hammock… that would be a hunting saddle.

Tree saddles provide the strength of a heavy duty harness but also are comfortable; like sitting in a hammock.

In many traditional tree stands, you sit facing away from the tree. However, with a tree saddle, you are sitting facing the tree, and therefore are able to use it for cover. 

hunter shooting bow from tree saddle

The ability to shoot in all directions is just one reason tree saddle hunters rave about them.

Are tree saddles safe?

Unfortunately, many hunters don’t use any type of safety device with their tree stands. But one of the major pluses of saddle hunting is that the hunter doesn’t have a choice but to be safe while using it. This is because a hunting saddle connects to the tree by way of a built-in safety device.

So, under normal conditions, and when used per manufacturer’s instructions, it’s almost impossible for a hunter to fall from the tree. Whereas, a typical safety harness is designed to catch you if you fall from a tree, a tree saddle is designed in such a way that prevents the fall from happening in the first place.

Are tree saddles comfortable?

If you’re going to be in a tree for an extended period of time, it’s normal to wonder, “am I going to be comfortable?”

The short answer is “yes,” tree saddles are in fact very comfortable.

main shooting bow at target from tree saddle

Once your body is “saddle ready,” tree saddles, like this one from Tethrd, can provide a very comfortable hunting experience.

Many users of tree saddles find that they are better the traditional tree stands. However, some can experience mild discomfort when using a tree saddle, such as “hip pinch,” or lower back discomfort, especially if they do not set up the saddle up correctly or if they use the wrong size.

Some users might experience discomfort simply due to pressure and angles that can be put on various parts of the body when hunting from a saddle. However, the more time you spend hunting from a saddle, the better your body will adapt to hunting from one. You will get in “saddle shape!”

Tree Saddle Manufacturers

Some notable tree saddle manufacturers:

Tree Saddle Pros:

  • Increased safety over traditional ladder, climbing and lock-on stands
  • The ability to use the tree as camo/cover
  • Portability and ability to shoot from 360 degrees
  • Lightweight

Tree Saddle Cons:

  • Soreness if not used to using tree saddle


If you are trying to determine which of these types of deer stands might be right for you, we hope you have found this post useful. Best of luck on your next hunt and please practice safe hunting and climbing!

If you want to read another type of hunting “stand,” check our our article on permanent hunting blinds.

heavy arrows and filed points for kinetic energy arrow testing

Arrow Spine Is Simple – “Yeah Right!”

At the core of the arrow spine conundrum, we have stiffness

First, The Basics | What Is Arrow Spine?

The archery world has set a standard for arrow spine. Most companies follow it in this order: 

  1. The higher the number (400 spine), the softer, or more flexible arrow. 
  2. The lower number (250 spine) is a stiffer, or less flexible arrow. 

I like to say one is “bendier” and the other is less “bendy.” I’m not sure that is even a word…. oh wait, I said it, so it IS a word, because I. AM. SPECIAL. Ha!!

arrow flexing in flight after being shot from bow

Every arrow shaft has a certain degree of “bendiness.” This is known as the arrow spine.

Anyhoo, here is a very high-level overview of arrow spine…

The standard is to press the center of each arrow shaft at 28” width with a gizmo. This “gizmo” (arrow spine tester) only pushes so far. The gizmo has a gauge showing pressure and it shows the amount the arrow flexes. If it’s a softer spine, it bends further. If it’s stiffer, it bends less. 

spine tester for arrows

This is an example of an arrow spine tester. What could be more “gizmo” than this!

The arrow companies try to build a mixture of carbon and wall thickness to achieve consistent results to hit their targeted spine offerings. 

Ok Class, Let’s Review!

So let’s review to be sure everyone is following the ‘ole Ranch Fairy’s tutelage…

Higher number = softer spine. 

Lower number = stiffer spine. 

Until you cut them. Then its tin foil hat time!

Arrows, PVC and gardening wives… Just stay with me here

Since I like simple ideas, I am going to use one moving forward.

KEEP THIS PICTURE IN YOUR HEAD… You have a wife who is a gardener. (Of note, I have intimate knowledge of the following scenario… The names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

So anyway, this wife of mine, AHEM, I mean of yours, loves to plant new plants and RELOCATE existing plants and trees, despite the previously planted forest of plants and relocated plants. 

flowers and sprinkler

Why the flowery springtime imagery? We’re supposed to be talking arrow spine here! Calm down, we’re getting there!

You also have a sprinkler system. 

This woman, to whom you are betrothed, is amazing at requiring a couple of her 10 plants to be planted right on top of a sprinkler line. Now, you suspect you’re going to hit a water line, but when, when, when????” (I mean, she doesn’t even have water witching sticks or anything to be considerate!!!)

As you dig hole number 6 of 10, you feel the crunch/crush of PVC.  

Your day just extended. 

But, since you know this was inevitable, you have extra PVC supplies. So, you go get a stick of ½” PVC. It’s 10 feet long.

You grab the PVC in the middle to relocate it to your new “project.” There’s a certain amount of sag on both ends. But when you cut it down to 6 feet….what happens to the stiffness?

Ok – keep that in your head. I’m gonna add one more thing… If you have a full stick of PVC and only cut 1” off, or 1 foot off, or 2 feet off, does it stiffen with each cut? 

man bending pvc pipe with n1 outdoors just pass'n through tee

If you cut a piece of PVC, what happens to the stiffness? Wonder what happens to arrow shaft spine when you cut it? Hmmmm.

PVC? I thought we were talking arrow shafts here!

When it comes to carbon arrows, it’s easy – there are only 4 spines… (RANCH FAIRY DISCLAIMER!! see caption below before you blow me up with your comments!)

Remember this… flying sticks change when you cut them! FACT.

arrow shafts showing spine number

If you are an archery nerd, you’re going to rat me out because there are in fact more than 4 spines. Some companies offer 600 and 500 spines, then much stiffer 200 and 150. A couple of the companies have their own way of doing things like: 320 / 260 / 140….oh I feel the love of being an individual! But, PRACTICALLY SPEAKING, there are 4 spines for the average yahoo trying to kill a deer, with a bow: (400/350/300/250). This is because 90% of us yahoos shoot 50-70#. So, those are the most common starting points to build a reasonable arrow for hunting from 400 grains and a flapper (skeet load) to 700 grains and a hammer (magnum).

The reality is that there are gazillions of spine charts and programs out there. The quality of the information is wide and varied, so I am not going to worry about that now. 

I want you to understand what happens to the flying stick, when you change the length of that flying stick.

I have tested everything from here forward so, let’s get something real straight. EVERY minor length change to the stick, changes the stick.

So, let’s say you snort the fairy dust and start with an arrow spine your bow shop may have selected. Or, you figured it out yourself.

Let’s say you require and tune up some 300 spine sticks. You’re shooting 60# at 29” draw and 225 grains up front. 

It’s flying great and you think this crazy Ranch Fairy guy might be onto something. So, you’re talking to your friend who shoots a twizzler and he’s been sad about bouncing arrows off animals.

ranch fairy logo

(If you need help with an arrow build email me [email protected] please include: draw weight, draw length, and point mass)

But, your buddy shoots 27” at 60#

I would still put him in a 300 spine. 

However, his arrow is 2” shorter. It started out at 300 spine but it’s cut shorter than 28” where the companies measure spine. ***Remember the PVC question?

So, this means that since you’re longer than 28”, where the spine is measured, (you are shooting at 29” long), your arrow now is roughly a 310 spine (softer).

But, your buddy is shooting a 290 spine (stiffer), because he is 1” shorter than 28” where the spine was originally measured by the arrow company.

So, you aren’t shooting the same spine (300 spine arrows), even though it started with a 300 spine arrow and it’s the correct arrow for both of you to start with.

Are you having fun yet?

(Of note, the 310 and 290 spine are guesstimates, this is an example. Practically speaking, the shorter arrow is incrementally stiffer and vice versa.)

I know it sounds like I am splitting atoms, but the more I do this, the more annoying this flying stick sport becomes. 

There are so many small (yet massive) details. 

So let’s say you spitball some arrows. You know 29” is the length that flies for you.

Life is dreamy!

BUT, you decide to cut a few down to 28.5” so they are .06 FPS faster.

Seriously, the spine changes a little bit.  

Or, even better, you get a “deal” on 30” long arrows and decide that’s close enough.

NOPE – it’s not.  

But I recommend you bare shaft and recheck everything, any change, for perfect arrow flight.  Heck – it might work….it might not. 

Oh, I don’t think it’s going to be doing loops. But, broadheads may be just that much different. They may wander 2” left or do some other annoying thing that changes a quick kill to a longer trail. 

There are more details… yup, super annoying! Yup, super massive! It would be a ton to digest all at once. 

sirius arrow shafts and heavy field points

Point weight, broadheads, lighted nocks, even fletching style (somewhat) and any amount of weight added (think wraps) to the back of the arrow messes with the flying stick. Even when the stick length doesn’t change. Isn’t that just wonderful?

Arrow Spine (Not So) Final Thoughts…

At the end of the day, remember this about any Ranch Fairy video or article… I am only concerned with one thing.  Maximum arrow lethality on impact

Targets are boring. Perfect arrow flight to get the flying stick there is required. I have multiple videos on arrow tuning.  But read this and ponder. 

“An arrow is always flying, in the air, or in hair, meat, and bone, it is always flying”

Dr. Ed Ashby

If that arrow is a little sideways in the air at TAC, 3-D tournaments or your local indoor range, who cares?

One inch of penetration on a target is the same score as 12” of penetration.

But, at impact on any target animal, “The arrow is always flying.” Flying that arrow just a little sideways erodes penetration, and lack of penetration reduces lethality. Your goal is maximum arrow lethality

Stay tuned.

ranch fairy wearing shoot adult arrows shirt
You can find Troy Fowler (AKA The Ranch Fairy) on YouTube HERE.