Hunting Rubs and Scrapes

If you ask any experienced deer hunter what signs he looks for most when hunting during the fall season, he will inevitably answer “rubs and scrapes”.

In fact, I too most often look for these signs because, not only are they obvious sign posts that there are deer in the area I am hunting, they are indicators that there is a mature buck in the area. Consequently, finding and hunting over these obvious sign posts is a very wise strategy for bagging that large buck.

In fact, whenever possible, I try to do most of my scouting immediately after the close of deer season because the pre-rut and rutting signs are still fresh at that time. In addition, it is also a good idea to scout during the spring turkey season and during late summer as the bucks are starting to lose their velvet because the deer seem to be far less wary of humans in their territory during this time. But, even when scouting during the spring and later summer, I still look for old rubs since these signs often remain visible for a couple of years after they were initially made.

Consequently, when I see an old rub, I immediately know that the area that I am scouting has the potential habitat necessary to support a resident deer population.

In addition, rubs can be divided into two different categories: inactive rubs and active rubs. Inactive rubs are most often made when the velvet is peeling from a deer’s antlers and thus, they are not often revisited.

However, active rubs are found along travel corridors and they tend to be part of a “rub line” and thus, you will find several of them in a row and they are often reused year after year. Consequently active rubs tend to display deep scarring of the underlying wood and not just the bark. In addition, when a buck uses and active rub, he is not only rubbing with his antlers but also with the scent glands located on his forehead thus he is advertising his presence to any does in the area as well as marking his territory as a warning to other bucks. However, it is important to be aware that hunting rub lines is only an effective strategy during the pre-rut and post rut periods since a mature buck’s movements during the actual rut are very erratic.

     Scrapes are another obvious and excellent sign that there are mature bucks in the area you are hunting.

However, contrary to conventional wisdom, observation has shown that scrapes are not made and used by only one buck. In fact, they are often visited by numerous bucks and, on rare occasions, does who will also paw the ground and dribble urine in the scrape just like a mature buck! In addition, scrapes, like rubs, can be classified as either active or inactive. In fact, although wildlife biologist have no idea why bucks display this behavior, some bucks will make scrapes early in the season even though they have no intention of returning to them. Also like rubs, scrapes tend to occur most often along travel corridors to and from bedding and feeding areas and they tend to form a “scrape line” just like a rub line. In addition, they can vary in size from one foot to eight feet in diameter and from a lightly scraped surface to a deep depression. Plus, scrapes are often accompanied by an overhanging branch that the buck either rubs his forehead against or chews on in order to leave additional scent as an advertisement of his presence to any does in the area. Last, hunting scrapes or scrape lines is best done during the pre-rut and post rut periods because a buck may or may not return to a scrape during the rut.

Consequently, whenever you are scouting unfamiliar territory, looking for and noting the location of any rubs and scrapes in the area is absolutely vital to your hunting success because these sings are obvious indicators that there are not only deer in the area you are hunting, there are mature bucks in the area. Thus, hunting near these signs is an excellent strategy for harvesting a mature buck as long as you are hunting either prior to or after the actual rutting period.

Written by guest writer

Bill Bernhardt

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