By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Signs of the Times
Marsh Musings

This is the time of year to look for signs. The political signs are interesting – several people have spent some significant money on these signs. What do you do with them if you win or lose? Weather signs are valuable – that lets you choose to snuggle in or man up and go get some ducks or deer.  

Deer scrapes are interesting signs. I have read several articles over the years and have talked to several excellent deer hunters about utilizing deer scrapes. A “scrape” is an area where a buck digs with his feet to loosen the soil and then mixes his urine with the tarsal glands to mark that spot with his particular scent. They seem to prefer the area under a low-hanging branch which can be reached to rub facial glands to mark that area. Bucks do not defend or claim particular priority to a scrape. Deer of all ages make scrapes and visit other scrapes. Most scrapes are visited at night, according to the experts that study these things. They prefer to make a scrape between bedding and feeding areas, and during daylight hours they can move downwind and know exactly what has been happening at the scrape. Scrapes can be from about a foot in diameter to 6-8 feet in size.

Years ago it was thought that scrapes attracted females in heat, but that hasn’t panned out. Good hunters find scrapes, and set up in that area. It either helps, or it doesn’t, but it always makes us feel really smart when we find one. I personally have never harvested a deer off a scrape, but that can be said about a lot of great locations that I have messed up. Do your own research.

The other aspect of signs is scent. Never underestimate a deer’s nose. There is a ton of money spent covering or eliminating human scent. I used to keep my bow-hunting clothes in a box with evergreen limbs and had a ritual of putting them on. Air purifiers, scent covers (I had skunk scent that I applied to my boots on purpose and other areas not on purpose) that probably was as easy to follow as my human scent. I eventually decided to hunt into the wind and haven’t had too much trouble since then. You tend to get very pragmatic and conservative as you mature. I’ve matured almost too much. But it really is fun to be able to walk into the café after changing into your day clothes and say “yeah – I found a couple of scrapes but the big guy just didn’t stop by,” if you can do it with sort of a smug presentation. 

There are Whooping Cranes and Sandhill Cranes out and about. Seems like the Whoopers like Quivira better than the Bottoms. They don’t seem to be sticking around or staying in one spot very long. Brian found one south of the silo on 159 the other day and I never could find it. The ducks are beautiful, and so are the geese that are piling in with this cold front.

Everyone be safe and make sure of your target and what’s in front of and behind it. We have already had reports of hunters shooting each other by mistake. Go see those cranes—they are beautiful!


Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.