-By Randy Cooper
For the past couple of months leading up to hunting season I've literally been preaching, "If you can't do something the right way, don't do it at all." I recently found a huge scrape a week ago in an area right outside my feeder and food plot. I have picture after picture taken with my Moultrie digital game camera of a 20-inch wide 9-pointer and a huge 10-point coming into this spot.
I'd like to make an observation that I've noticed since I started using my trail camera in December of last year. Some people think that deer are afraid of the camera’s flash. I have mine set to take two shots back to back within the same minute. The reason I do this is because one deer could come across the path of the camera directly followed by another one. I want to catch them both. It is extremely useful in the rut when bucks are following does in estrous. The photos I’ve been getting of deer are mostly night pictures. These deer don't seem to be alarmed at all by the flash. In every case they just continue feeding as if nothing has happened. I've thought about it a lot. The only thing I've been able to come up with is that in nature they see lightning all the time and probably think that is what just happened. I don't know of any research that has been done on the subject but it seems to make sense.
Anyway, when I found the scrape last Saturday I put my camera out overlooking it. I didn't get to check it at all until the following Friday. It only had 22 pictures, but I knew even before viewing them that every one of them would be of deer checking the scrape. I was excited. What I found was that this scrape has become a "COMMUNITY SCRAPE." Believe it or not, there is such a thing. During the rest of the year, bucks and does will tend the LICKING BRANCH above the scrape but won't paw the ground. When it starts getting close to the rut bucks will open the scrape and continue working the overhanging branches of the tree. Talk about blown away! There were a total of five different bucks in a week’s time that checked that scrape. Two of the five were the bucks I'm after. They are beautiful. You can tell that they are both mature bucks with that distinct sway back of an older age class buck. Their racks are dark and their coats are shiny and smooth.
Even as tired as I was, I could hardly sleep because of thinking about those pictures. What a fantastic tool these cameras are. It takes so much of the guesswork out of wondering where you should hunt with the information as well as the pictures it gives you of what's in your area. My Moultrie model GameSpy 200 gives me the time, date, moon phase and temperature. You could write a journal based on the information the camera gives you. No more wasting your time in the wrong place.
I woke up at 6 a.m. this Saturday after seeing the pictures. I stumbled through the dark house and continued to fight with myself about whether or not to get ready and go. This went on for about 30 minutes. I finally made my way to the coffee pot. I started getting ready and after a quick bite, I headed out the door. I finally made it to the woods with bow in hand at about 7:30. What a mistake!! As soon as I started down the trail to my stand, which is within sight of the scrape, two deer took off that were AT THE SCRAPE!! It was full light by now. I took another couple of steps and two more took off to my left. By now that sinking feeling that I've just blown it came over me. I was kicking myself big time for being late. I couldn’t get it out of my head that any of the deer that just ran off could have been the bucks I'm after. You don't get second chances with bucks like that very often. I continued on and got into my stand. By now I was so keyed up and tense that I didn't sit down the entire time except the last 15 minutes of the hunt. I stood holding my bow, scared to put it down. The woods were just damp enough that the deer were able to walk in almost complete silence.
At about 8:30 I saw a doe come down the trail the scrape is on and she didn't react at all when she came across my entry trail. My scent elimination strategy worked again. A few minutes later I once again heard walking and saw her two fawns, now without spots, following her. They met up and began feeding on acorns under a white oak. The morning was beautiful with a temp about 49 degrees. I'm still kicking myself about being late. That might have been my one and only chance at the big bucks this season. Many times after an encounter like that, a big buck will not vacate the area but will skirt you just far enough to be comfortable again. It's over for your chance at him from that stand though. You'll have to do some very careful scouting and see if you can find him and set up again. I've learned my lesson. Maybe, hopefully, I'll have another chance. I know one thing. I won't be late again!