Ben Koerth and James Kroll know as much about the behavior of rutting whitetails as any two biologists in the country. They conducted a fascinating study looking at what scents attract deer to scrapes. Some of the results are you would expect. Most visits to scrapes occurred two to three weeks prior to the rut. Marking the overhead branch almost always occurred on visits to scrapes. And, of course we all know that bucks come to buck urine and hot doe urine right? Consider what these researchers found in the first year of the study.
In 1998 they put hot doe urine, buck urine, human urine, and nothing in mock scrapes placed in typical scrape locations on their Texas study sites. They then followed these scrapes via cameras from October 11 to December 5. The results were rather amazing.
Sixty-five bucks, 33 does and 26 fawns visited the areas. Seventeen of the bucks were 1.5-years old (estimated from the photos), 27 were 2.5-years old, 12 were 3.5-years old, and nine were over 4.5-years old.
The highest visitation was at 3 a.m., but many visits took place one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after. Bucks visited scrapes with buck urine the most, but almost the same number of bucks came to the human urine scrapes. That's right bucks came to human urine! Third in visits were scrapes with nothing in them, and a very close fourth was hot doe urine.
In order to get a better idea of what was happening, in 1999 the researchers modified their approach a bit. This time they used scrapes with rutting buck urine, hot doe urine, nothing in the scrape, and new car scent (comes in a spray can). I'm not kidding, they sprayed new car scent on some mock scrapes. If anything would scare bucks in the woods it would be new car scent.
But look at the results. The buck urine got the most visits, hot doe urine was a very close second, and no scent in the scrape was a very close third. However, the new car scent also had bucks visit the scrape. It's true, bucks came to scrapes that sprayed with new car scent!
With bucks coming to scrapes with no scent in them, and some coming to new car scent, what is going on here? Apparently the bucks are coming to mock scrapes out of curiosity. Since most any scent seems to work, the researchers concluded that attraction to those scrapes has little to do with sexual activity.
One thought I immediately had after hearing those results was that those curiosity scents some folks sell may work best in mock scrapes. Or maybe one should just kick off some leaves in a spot where you want to shoot, before getting to a stand, because no scent scrapes also attracted deer. Based on this study, bucks walking by such scrapes will sometimes visit, even with no urine odor in the area. And just maybe we shouldn't be so concerned about the odor of human urine in the woods. One obvious conclusion from this study; buck urine worked best to attract bucks to scrapes.
This research is interesting for sure, and just maybe it will give you some ideas that will increase your success this fall.