Do Elk Make Scrapes?

Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter, and OutdoorsmanOpens in a new tab..

Scrapes are one of the best possible signs of deer activity that hunters often look for. Being similar to deer, Elk are often tried to be hunted in many of the same ways. This leads to many hunters asking the question: do elk make scrapes?

Elk, similar to deer, make scrapes in order to help mark their territories and signal to other elk in the area. An elk scrape, however, does have some key differences when you compare them to traditional deer scrapes that most hunters are familiar with. 

Looking for and finding elk scrapes can be a great way to scout or hunt an area for elk; to correctly identify and use these scrapes to your advantage, keep on reading for the best tips and strategies for using elk scrapes.

Do Elk Make Scrapes

Why Do Elk Make Scrapes?

Elk scrapes look remarkably similar to deer scrapes, except for being much larger. Elk are much bigger animals, so it only makes sense that the scrapes that they make with their hooves and bodies would be larger as well. But why do elk and deer make scrapes at all? What purpose do they serve?

Scrapes allow animals such as elk and deer to better disperse their scent in an area. It gives them a place to make their presence known and drop their scent in order to communicate with other elk or deer in the area.

In many cases, these animals will either urinate or place scent from their glands (usually a combination of both) in a scrape to keep their scent strong in an area to mark their territory.

What Do Elk Scrapes Look Like?

Elk scrapes appear much larger than deer scrapes. They make scrapes by taking their hooves or sometimes even their antlers and tearing up the ground beneath them. Once they have revealed the fresh soil underneath, they will then urinate or mark the ground with their scent.

If you are looking for an elk scrape, this is the first indication that one is nearby, as a strong smell will be in the area.

After a better look, you may see a section of ground that reveals bare soil. It may look like a gardener with a shovel has been digging around the area. While the actual size of a scrape may vary, an elk scrape will typically be at least a few feet in diameter.

Another sign of an obvious scrape in the area is a rub on a nearby tree. A rub is a tree that elk use to rub their antlers on. They are very easy to see, as all of the bark and branches will usually be stripped away. 

A few key indicators that will tell you an area that you are looking at is an elk scrape will be things such as:

  • Large disrupted area of soil.
  • Wet area in the soil.
  • A strong scent of elk in the area.
  • Potentially a rubbed tree or two in the immediate area. 

Rubs serve the same purpose as a scrape. Elk will use a rub in order to mark their territory and disperse their scent. Elk have scent glands near their eyes, and as they use their antlers to tear apart the tree, they are also rubbing their scent all over it.

In the elk woods, rubs are much more common than scrapes, but many times they go hand in hand. It is not uncommon to see an elk rub with a scrape right below it. 

Deer Vs. Elk Scrapes

There are some key differences between deer and elk scrapes that hunters should be aware of before deciding if hunting over or near one is a good idea. Many hunters will place treestands or ground blinds near a deer scrape as they expect the buck who made it to come back and refresh it at some point.

This can be a very effective method of deer hunting, especially during the heat of the rut. 

On the other hand, elk do not return to refreshen their scrapes. Instead, they continue to make new ones wherever they go. So while scrapes can be a great indicator of elk in the surrounding area, they are not the best places to set up and wait for them to come back.

Elk are very nomadic creatures, meaning that they roam around frequently and have very few set patterns. This is especially true during the rut when scrapes are made even more frequently.

As a bull elk follow his cows and moves between water and feeding areas, he will make many different scrapes along the way. If you are in an area with many scrapes, you are sure to be close to them. But, it may not be a good idea to sit and wait at a scrape for the elk to return, as it could potentially be days or even weeks before they do.

Sometimes, they may not ever return to that specific spot. Instead, it’s better to find an area to sit and wait for elk to show up, such as wallows, watering holes, or feeding areas that tend to frequent much more often. 

Final Thoughts

Finding good elk sign is one of the best ways of scouting and hunting elk to kill one. While there are many signs to watch, such as tracks, scat, and bedding areas, one of the best things to look for and find is elk scrapes.

Elk make scrapes very frequently during the breeding season, showing you how recently they have been in an area. If you see a fresh scrape, you know that you are not very far behind a group of elk with a mature bull in it! 

Steven Lines hunter pic 1

Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since he was a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of outdoor experience. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channelOpens in a new tab. dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.


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Hi, I'm Sam! I used to work as a caregiver, and now I'm in medical school. My blog is about helping people get healthier through fun activities like archery, hunting, and powerlifting. If you like one of my articles, please share it with your friends and family so they can be healthy too!

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