To Rope a Buck

Recently I made a social media post about moving my game cameras from summer feeding areas to fall rutting locations. This is a process that I do every year in September as bucks shed velvet and many start shifting their range. I mentioned in my post that some of these cameras get moved to “rope scrapes” which led to a flood of emails, texts and private messages from deer hunters who had questions about rope scrapes.

Let me start by stating that the idea of rope scrapes is not mine. To the best of my knowledge the idea was conceived by whitetail legends Gene and Barry Wensel. In today’s social-media driven world I see too many situations where someone runs with someone else’s idea and promotes it as if it was theirs. I think it is important to give credit where credit is due and try to do so anytime I am sharing info that I learned from others. So while the idea of rope-scrapes is not mine, I have added a couple of my own twsists to it which I have detailed below.

Whitetail bucks have a habit of wanting to rub their faces and antlers on grapevines as well as branches that overhang traditional scrapes. They also will do the same thing to a rope hanging from a tree branch. In fact, they seem to almost find it irresistible. When the rope is hung in a location where a buck would typically scrape, they will readily work the rope. I have found that a single game camera facing a well-placed rope scrape will allow me to inventory every buck on a property during the fall. I don’t know of a better way to get more bucks in front of a single camera.

My process for making rope-scrapes –

I hang my ropes in the winter right after hunting season. I have tried hanging ropes right before and during season with very limited success. The ropes just have too many foreign odors that are too hard to get rid of. By hanging mine in January and February they have several months to weather and lose the foreign odors. That’s bad news for all the procrastinators and less passionate deer hunters or someone just now hearing about this tactic but it’s also an undeniable fact that you might as well hear about now so that you can be fully informed and so I don’t have to answer everyone’s questions about why their rope scrape didn’t work.

In the late spring or early summer I return to my ropes with a small spray bottle of weed-killer herbicide and spray a 4’ diameter circle under each rope. This will kill all the vegetation so that when I return in September to scent the ropes and hang cameras, I bring along a garden rake and can easily rake away the dead plant matter to create a bare spot under the rope. That’s it! It is very simple but it works!

Let’s move on by answering some of the questions I get regarding rope scrapes.

The Rope – I like to use a ¾” to 1” hemp rope. I put a plastic zip-tie about 6-8” from the end of the rope to keep it from totally unraveling and then fray the end. I hang the rope so that then end is about 3’ off the ground.

Location – Just like with real estate, location is everything. For best results you need to hang your rope in a location where you would expect a buck to make a natural scrape. Field edges are good although many of the photos you get will be at night. Keep in mind that I am using my cameras to inventory bucks on a property so I don’t care if the photo is taken at night.

Scent – I only scent my ropes one time each fall, the day I put my cameras on them. If they are in the right spot, the bucks will take them over and you won’t need to scent them again. In fact each time you mess with the rope you just leave more human scent so I just apply scent one time and then stay away from them. If they are in the right spot, that’s all you need. My favorite scent for my ropes is Smokeys. (do a search for Smokeys Deer Lures) I have used every different glandular scent that Smokey makes and they have all worked fine so it does not matter which one. When I scent my ropes I used an entire bottle of Smokeys lure on each rope.

I seldom have rope scrapes near my stands simply because when hunting mature bucks I want as little human disturbance near my stands as possible. I am probably the most low-impact hunter you will ever meet and I attribute my success to this fact. Again, I use rope scrapes to inventory a property or tell me what bucks are using it, not to attract bucks to my stand locations. Each year I will have cameras on roughly 20 properties scattered over 5 or 6 counties but during the course of an entire hunting season I will likely hunt less than half of those properties. I use the cameras to tell me which properties to focus on hunting. The rope scrapes help me find (not kill) target bucks. I am sure that bucks can be killed off of rope scrapes but the human pressure of going in to stand sites to mess with the scrapes and cameras will prevent one from killing more mature bucks as it helps them tag. Again, my approach is extremely low-impact and I am targeting the oldest and biggest bucks I can find. If you are content to kill nice 3 and 4 year-old bucks then rope-scrapes could very well prove to be beneficial.

Hopefully this blog post will give you another tool in your arsenal as you face the challenge of hunting mature bucks. I want to take this opportunity to announce that I will soon be releasing my first podcast called “Chasing Giants”. You can find more details by clicking the podcast tab on this site. You can also submit your questions to be answered on the podcast on that page. A new podcast will be released every two weeks and I will also be releasing a related blog post as well. To see these blogs and podcasts please like my Facebook page “Don Higgins/Higgins Outdoors” where they will be posted. Thank you!