The best way to get an inventory of the bucks in your neighborhood is to make a mock scrape. Here is my approach.
I find a trail that leads out to a field where I know deer feed, or I’ll walk the edge of a field until you find a natural scrape and liven it up. Some hunters make a mock rub near their mock scrape as well, but I prefer to make my mock scrapes near a stand of saplings that are too small to make a rub on. Often times I will have bucks thrash these trees and break branches farther down the trail. I then make multiple mock scrapes about fifty yards away down the trail past the saplings to get the bucks walking a predictable trail. I find having multiple mock scrapes makes the scrape with the trail camera get hit more.
I like to make my mock scrapes very large so they are as obvious as possible. I make them two or three feet in diameter and scrape out any grass or leaves using a spade. I then throw the grass out of the way from the scrape. I like to have the scrape big and clean so I can tell right away whether deer have been visiting the scrape when I walk into a tree-stand. I also have a licking branch for every one as well. A licking branch is a branch overhanging the scrape for the bucks to rub their glands on. We have made scrapes without licking branches but they don’t get hit nearly as well. My final step is to pour out some urine on the branches above the scrape then drag a stick through the mud so it looks like a hoof has scraped through it.
I prefer to drive up to my trail cameras in a truck and then put my hunting boots on before I touch the ground. If I have to walk into my trail camera I prefer to hunt the spot the same night, or to have the wind perfectly and mix it in with a speed scouting session. I figure if I am going to walk in and leave all of that scent I either need to get more information from it or be very careful not to spook any deer. Early in the season before coyote hunters have started driving trucks through the fields deer are not too worried about truck and I believe this is the least invasive way to check your scrapes.
I set my trail camera so it captures both the scrape and the small saplings that the deer will walk to. This will capture some great action photos of the buck thrashing the saplings as well as more photos of the deer walking away. Also, it is good idea to try to get a buck at a few distances so you can gauge his size better. The other thing to keep in mind with scrapes is the buck will either have his head very low sniffing the scrape or very high for the licking branch, I set my mock-scrape trail cameras slightly higher than normal trail cameras because I like to get the photo of the buck with his head sniffing the branch.
If you make the scrape correctly you will get a quick inventory of bucks, but sometimes bucks skip mock scrapes so don’t feel that your hunting decision should be completely attached to what you see on camera. If a buck doesn’t think another buck is in the area or does aren’t in heat yet they are less likely to hit the mock scrape consistently. Deer will visit scrapes year-around, but Oct. 20-30 is your best chance at shooting a buck on a scrape when the bucks are still creating their territories and checking for the first hot doe.
Deer will visit your same scrape for years. So take some time to consider where the most likely location you would want a buck to be in the evening. Good luck.