Natural Selection


New member
Dec 19, 2000
Sulphur,IN U.S.A.
I have a theory.I thought I would toss this up for debate while we were on the topic of scrapes and rubs.Everyone thinks that bucks run scrapes at night because of hunting pressure.I agree that this plays a part to a certain extent,but could it be possible that the process of natural selection plays a part here to?Lets say we have 10 bucks.5 of them run their scrapes in the daytime,and the other 5 run theirs at night.
The 5 that run their scrapes in the daytime get killed off pretty quick come deer season.While 3 of the other 5 survive the season and breed most of the does in their area.Do you think,that after a few generations, the instict to go nocturnal will be enhanced due to the process of natural selection?
Back in the late '70's early '80's my dad was a pretty serious deer hunter.He would set up on a scrape line and kill a nice buck every year.But now it seems impossible to find a buck running a scrape line in the daytime.
So,what do you think?Increased hunting pressure,or the process of natural selection.
Engman99, That certainly makes sense. Deer are naturally nocturnal in areas where they encounter man during the day anyway. So the running of scrape lines during the day time, in areas where they don't normally encounter man, would seem to be a natural thing to do in the prerut. I know that mule deer are on the move constantly during the rut. I would presume that whitetails do the same. The only time a muley buck is still is when he has a doe or does that are almost ready. Then he will move off a little ways and wait and watch. Often times, I would guess, this is the only rest they get. :cool:
I think we influence predisposition of many species we hunt. I dont know if it is true or not but, I have heard the theory that elk have become more silent over time because of all the bugling ones getting killed off.

How the heck does a coon know not to look at the light??? :confused:

One thing I know for sure is that high hunting preassure does indeed effect the movements of whitetails year round not just during hunting season.
To my understanding, preconditioning requires a specific stimulus. If so, what is the stimulus that effects behaviour when that nasty man creature is not in the woods? Did Pavlovs dog drool without the bell? :cool:
I understand your point Dan, What I am getting at is that deer are no different than any other animal in that some are high strung and others are very easy going and unaffraid. In a high preassure area the later type are the first to be elliminated.
Over time the more anxious-high strung deer will be the ones passing their genes along.

I have absolutely nothing to back this up though......just my opinion ;)
The only way that natural selection could be the cause is if the behavior was able to be passed on genetically. If it is a learned response, then natural selection did not play a part in it being passed on. I for one wouldn't give natural selection as the reason. I feel that this is a learned behavior to avoid humans, which the young deer probably learned from their mother. The bucks make no contribution to raising the young.

BTW-Human men are 'programmed' the same way, but one thing overrides almost all programs!!!! :D
I beg to differ,1-pointer.I think going nocturnal is an instinct,and instincts can be passed on geneticly.
A hound will instinctivly run game by scent,it dont learn to do it from its mother.The instinct to run game has been enhanced through breeding.
engman99, if going nocturnal is genetic and passed on from generation to generation then why dont cative deer display this same behavior ????? or do they ???? i have seen deer in captivity and they didnt display the same characteristics as wild animals do!!! because of a learned environment vs. an imbred instinct!!!
It must be determined whether or not it is an instinct or a behavior. I don't know, but I believe it is a behavior. IMHO
I would agree with 1 pointer that it is definitely behavior and not instinct.

You can go into areas that are unpressured and see just as many deer in the daytime as you would at night with night optics.

Instict may play a role in when to "change behavior"......but being nocturnal or not is definetlt behavior.

And as far a running a scrape line, ...a big buck will do it as long as he is not interupted with human your scent, your physical presence or you otherwise bumping him. He will check it as often as he is getting responses, whether that is thrice daily or once every 3 days will depend on the interaction of the does at the scrape...the more they respond, the more frequent he will be there, regardless of daylight or dark. see, he sees just as well at either time, no difference to him at all, unless of course he is getting pressured during the there is your key to hunting scrapes..........find ACTIVE ones that are UNPRESSURED and you will then know the SECRET!...sorry Greeny! :D
O.K.,I am tired of debating the natural selection thing,but I do want to pursue the scrape hunting thing farther.
Deerslayer,I told what my ideal set up was and how I went about doing it.
What is yours?How do you determine which scrapes to hunt?Come on man,give us allthe juicy details!!!!!!!! my last it again......... it's right there.
A scarpe that a dominate buck is visiting at least daily, if not thrice daily........and these scaroe will make up only a very small portion of the toatal number......but you only need one! :D .....the key is knowing where to look, just as with any other key sign you choose to hunt. I have learned to "narrow" my search VERY quickly through many years of hunting the biggest bucks in my area. I would bet I could come to your arae, or any other and find a likely spot very quickly where you could set up on a bruiser........maybe not, but I believe I could........
I get the part about hunting an active scrape,but how do you determine which ones are active.Do you go in there and check them every day to see if the scrapes have been visited?If so then how do you keep from scaring off the buck with that much activity?
Do you use scrape drippers?
Are you going by size of scrape?
You said the key is knowing where to look,well,where do you look?
How do you "narrow" your search?
When you find a fresh scrape........aand I mean FRESH, as in a wet spot in it, or at least a strong odor representing the fact that he used it in the last 24 hours, hang a portable and hunt it RIGHT THEN! That is a big key.....everything is portable, it's the only way to consistently kill big bucks. You may get one occasionally from a permanent stand, but you will not consistently be hunting big bucks this way. You find it, lock on, and hunt it until the day you see no current sign of activity. I will not hunt one that has had not activity in two days You can tell this by the "wettness" and also by taking a limb and brushing out the tracks in the scrape,.......many deer tracks will be present.........but your looking for HIS.
Odor control is a MAJOR concern, but is with any stand site. That is why you isually will kill your buck withing a couple of days of moving to a new location, or you don't get him at all.......I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me.

Here is a perfect scenario........

I was scouting a remote part of the 2000 acres
that made up my property and the land I leased.......when I found a fresh scrape near a really thick bedding area. The big problem was, it took me over 30 minutes of walking to access it, and I mean trhough some nasty, NOISY stuff. So I noted it and knew I had to move on it soon, or it would not workout fot me. Well, the wind was wrong for the next few days, and I didn't want to "burn" the spot by constantly going in, so I decide to wait another 2 or 3 weeks until the "second rut"...knowing the buck was not killed and he should be running the same line. So I took a chance the day after christmas, knowing the second rut was paeking, and the area was "un-tainted".

In an effort to reduce noise, I waited for daylight so I could see well, them inched my way in so slowly, I arrived an hour after daylight. It was 7 o clock when I climbed up, the first day I had ever hunted the location, but I did notice the fresh scrapr in the exact spot it was a month prior,.......he continued using this location because it was in his safe zone. I knew from the track he was a real "cruiser weight" and I was right.

At 7:30, a friend I let hunt with me that day fired a shot across my property, over where a lot of the sign and activity was. He had taken a 6 point the day before from the same stand, and a spike the day before that. He was in an area where you could kill deer, but I preferred less sightings, but a higher chance at a magnum.

After a couple of hours, I was axious to go see what he got, but made myself stay up until was now 10:45.......only 15 more minutes and I could get down and stretch;)........aand then it appeared, a shadow moving in the distant brush, to most probably nothing, but I knew, I expected it, and sure enough, he was doing his midday "run". He was closing ground , then did a half circle around me from up wind, but luckily, the thermals had long since carried my scent away from where I walked in.

He began closing quickly, and at 70 yards I told myself to let him come as close as he would, but I instantly squezzed off at 50 yards without so much as a thought........caught up somewhere in between not wanting something to go wrong by waiting longer and just plain panic at the sight of such a big buck! :eek:

At the shot, he exploded from the opening and into the dense cover, and it sounded as though he ran a mile til he went out of hearing. After a few minutes I got down, beginning to wonder had I pulled off in excitement? I went over to the spot where he stood, there was blood everywhere, and pink bubbly blood,...I knew I had lung at that point, and a smile came over my face, which only moments before had a sense of panic. The short blood trail led me only 30 yards inside the thicket,...not the mile my mind had played tricks on me.
He was a big beautiful 9 point with a kicker that weighed in excess of 240 pounds.....the biggest deer ever killed in a dozen years of hunting that place. @00 to 220 were generally our bruiser bucks, but this guy had a little extra. He was battled scars and had cuts over both eyes that were scabbed over, and all he wanted was to find his lady.........oh well.

A side note to that story...........that was in 96'.......and for many different reasons, mainly some cutting in the area, I never hunted that spot again until this last season, at which time at 4 o'clock in the afternnon, I killed another bruiser in the exact spot, a big 10 pointer that now takes his place on my "wall of honor" right next to his buddy.

Engmann, on how to narrow the has to be a scarpe either near or in a VERY thick area, such as a bedding area or thick travel corridor. They will not visit scapes in the open as much in the daylight, nor will they kepp them active in the open as much in a "security zone" where they feel the most comfortable. Once you know what to look for, it is not hard to find.

I went last year to Wolfeman and Timbermans lease 100 miles from my home to hunt, not knowing anything about the place at all.........after a few hours of scouting, I picked a likely spot, and at 4 pm, killed a massive 10 pointer, the biggest taken out there ever by any of them.............lucky, yes, ............but I put myself in the right spot, while my buddy Timberman was hunting all the tracks out near the road, and he took a spike on the same hunt.

They say I am the lucliest hunter they know after a couple decades of hunting with me.........I just grin :D

Hope this helps
You made the comment that you had killed over 250 deer.How many of them were big bucks killed over scrapes?
I have always hunted scrapes,I have just never had it produce.It sounds like the areas I am hunting are ideal.I just need to look for fresher scrapes.
Engmann,............I guess that number would be a little hard to figure, but I'll try.

Roughly 10% of the bucks have been what most would call wallhangers, with me having 20 or so mounted. They range from your basic mature 8-pointer all the way up to non-typicals with as many as 28 points.

The number actually killed over scrapes escapes me, but I can tell you this,.........the vast majority of the nicer bucks were either kiledd over scrapes or at least killed while I was hunting a particular scrape line. The other interesting fact is, MOST of the big bucks were killed in the second rut in late Decenber, a time many don't even hunt where I'm from, but it probably the best chance at a big buck. Many don't believe in the magic of a second rut, but i swear by it.
If I had only one week to hunt whitetails in the deep south, it would be the week surrounding Christmas.

A sidenote to all this Engman,......I have owned my own construction company for the last 20 years, and when hunting season rolls around, my business goes dormant, and I go afield practically daily for the 4 month season in the south..........that makes a huge difference when hunting large bucks.......a fella has to be there to be successful. For every story like the one in the above post, I could tell a dozen that were uneventful and had no fairytale ending ;)
good luck
You know,its funny you mentioned the thing about the second rut.The second rut here falls during our muzzle loader season.
I am usually tagged out by then.
I have been thinking about skipping shotgun season here and just waiting for muzzle loader season.
My reasoning for wanting to do this is(as you know me)another theory.
Only a few does come in heat the second season right? So,wouldn't this up your buck to doe ratio,and therefor cause the bucks to move more due to competition?
You nailed it Engman!

Where I live, a mature buck usually will find a couple of hundred acres to spend most of his time, his safety zone, and will call about 2000 acres home. But during the second rut, they have to travel far and wide to find any receptive does, which is about 10-15% of the total doe population, the early yearlings from the early spring which come in their first year. Few adult does are left, because if a dominant buck is not available, even a small buck such as a spike will breed them, so the ones that come in the first time WILL get bred. So the second rut is comprised of the young does who were not physically ready the first go round. The big bucks will travel as much as a tem square mile radius at this time(proven with radio collars) and will do it quickly, as they only have a few days for their search.

Another great aspect of this time is it brings "new" bucks into your arae, who did not have to travel the first rut. And new bucks coming in is a good thing! ;)

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