a Rub - by James L. Bruner
Years ago I took a promising look at a small
log cabin with 40 acres of property in the hopes
of purchasing the real estate. As I inspected
the cabin it was obvious that it would suit my
needs but what really caught my attention was
the rub on a small poplar tree at the edge of
the yard. My inspection quickly turned into a
scouting trip as I wandered the property in search
of deer sign. After all, the hunting was one of
the main reasons I was here. A friend and I kept
a tally of the sign as we split up and ventured
further into the property that had just been cut
a couple years earlier. No more than a half hour
later we had counted 162 rubs on a small section
of the parcel! I was smiles ear to ear and ready
to visit the bank in the morning. Could I ask
for a much better combination? Probably so but
this was heaven to me and has provided many years
of deer observation throughout the year.
What Is A Rub?
Rubs take on many roles throughout different times
of the year. Early in the season rubs are made
primarily to remove velvet from their antlers.
As the season progresses bucks continue to rub
mainly on smaller trees and begin to feel the
effects of growing testosterone levels. The building
aggression is taken out on trees by making rubs,
sometimes a very numerous amount of rubs, while
at the same time the activity helps to strengthen
neck muscles. The double-duty of rubbing trees
and strengthening muscles will all be necessary
for the upcoming rut both visually and physically.
As the season begins to reach a fevered pitch
bucks making more demanding rubs on larger trees.
A rub doesn't only present a visual sign but
also a social hierarchy amongst the herd by leaving
scent on each rub. Dominant bucks release a stronger
scent than younger bucks and therefore leaver
their rank or social status on each rub through
way of the Forehead Gland. More can be read about
this attribute of a rub by visiting our Deer Glands
And Functions section.
A debate of sort has always rumored that big
bucks rub big trees and small buck rub smaller
trees. Although I would agree that the majority
of bucks rubbing on bigger trees are actually
larger, more dominant deer, I have witnessed these
same big bucks rub smaller trees. Some of these
were saplings as small as a broom handle. On that
same note I have encountered only several small
bucks rubbing on larger trees. Years ago I found
a rub on a cedar tree the size of my thigh in
diameter. Of course I envisioned a huge buck to
go along with that rub that was right out in the
open for the subordinate bucks in the area to
plainly view from a distance. A typical signpost
that bore visible signs of previous years rubbing
activity revealed by deep scarring but never did
give up it's source in 3 years that I hunted the
area even though a new rub would appear each season.
We have all noticed many times that rubs can appear
very concentrated in areas while at other times
seemingly scarce. A few terms used for identifying
cluster rubs, signposts, and rublines. Although
a large grouping of rubs will catch your eye,
most hunters seem to put most of their faith in
a rubline while clusters are generally regarding
as from smaller bucks and given less attention
by most hunters.
The first thing I look for in a rub, besides
the size of the tree it was made on, is if the
surrounding trees also show signs of rubbing.
In particular if there is a cluster of trees,
check the trees behind the main initial rub. Carefully
inspect them for tine marks. Larger bucks with
tall tines will often leave evidence on the trees
behind the main rub giving you an idea of the
rack he is carrying.
As mentioned earlier the main emphasis is usually
related to rublines and with good reason. Finding
a rubline will routinely mark the preferred travel
of a buck between bedding and feeding and most
times, appear on a well used trail. This provides
a lot of opportunities for lesser bucks to view
and scent the dominant bucks presence. A travel
corridor with repeated rubs popping up is a good
place to hang a stand. Typically you can gain
an advantage if the majority of rubs appear on
one side of the trees along the rubline. This
gives you a definite direction of travel.
If I had to put my money on any source of rubs
it would be clusters of concentrated rubs. As
smaller bucks make fewer rubs you can judge, by
the number of rubs, whether or not more than one
small buck, or possibly one dominant buck is frequenting
the area. Older bucks tend to make more rubs in
an area where they prefer to bed and generally
feel more relaxed. A line or swath of clustered
rubs dictates a high percentage area for connecting
with a buck and a good place to hang a stand.
The Tree Debate
I wont go much into which trees deer rub on because
a deer will rub on any tree or even fences, telephone
poles, or simply tear through a small brush pile.
After all, most people aren't targeting a specific
type of tree when searching for rubs. You are
searching for the rubs themselves. Most deer in
the northern regions prefer the thinner bark of
trees such as aspens, poplars, and young maples.
Typically they try to avoid trees with many low
hanging branches. Further to the south it has
been noted that bucks tend to rub more aromatic
trees such as cedars, junipers, and cherry. One
attribute that most rubs share is the type of
tree used for the rub usually has a light colored
inner skin or woody area. This makes for a more
striking contrast which is easily spotted by both
humans and other deer.
When searching directly for rubs a good area
to target is a recent clear-cut area where the
saplings have risen from the ground once again.
These young saplings have a lot of spring to them
while their bark is tender and easily stripped.
Consequently these areas also provide a lot of
new legume growth and attract a lot of deer into
the area. You will more than likely find the dominant
buck of the area frequenting the clear-cut staking
claim to this new buffet of easily accessible
food source. An area like this will typically
hold deer for several years to come until the
trees begin to choke out the undergrowth. Check
the area for previous years of rubbing activity
by looking for scarring on trees and any type
of repeated concentrations. This may well be all
the evidence you need to confirm that a big buck
has once again survived the hunting season due
to other hunters inability to read the signs of
Article by James L. Bruner
Syndicated with express permission
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