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Q: How often does a buck check his rub? Also, is it possible for another deer to use that same rub? The reason for my question is where I am going to hunt this year I have found a rub this weekend went back and checked it and it was grown over and rerubbed. Dennis

A: #1 Dennis: Just to make sure we're on the same page, I'm going to define a rub as a bare spot on a tree trunk, usually a sapling or young tree, which has had the bark removed by the action of a deer rubbing his antlers against it. A scrape is an area of ground, usually located under a low hanging branch to which a buck deposits his scent by way of urination over his feet and legs, thereby mixing the scents from the inter-digital gland on the feet, and the tarsal glands on the rear legs. The overhanging branch is licked and chewed by the deer and scent is deposited from both saliva and the orbital gland in front of the eye. Many people confuse rubs with scrapes and inadvertently or unknowingly interchange the words.

Now that we've established what a rub is, lets explore what it means. A rub is used by bucks for mainly three things. The first is to clean the velvet from the hardening antlers in late summer. The dying skin that once covered the growing bone on their heads is starting to come off and itch. Bucks rub the velvet covering off on small trees and use the sap and tanics in the bare trunk to color their horns.

Secondly, a buck will use small trees and shrubs as the rut approaches to spar and strengthen neck muscles. The larger the buck, the larger the tree and usually more damage is evident. It is not uncommon to find large saplings and young but stout hard wood trees snapped in half or severely raked and battered. Last, bucks use rubs to mark their territory. Often times, a mature buck will rub trees in a line along a travel corridor or trail which marks an area he feels comfortable in and feels safe traveling. It is not necessarily the boundary of his home turf, but rather a central location to his movements. Many times, rubs and scrapes will be found together or near each other in the same areas. In instances such as that, it is essential that you concentrate your hunting activities in those areas as you will likely find more than one mature buck using the same locations.

To answer you question directly, bucks don't really check their rubs, but they will work the same areas and sometimes rub the same trees over and over again. Rubs are a bi-product of pre-rut activity such as making scrapes and wind checking does. As a buck moves through his home area searching for receptive does to mate and leaving his own calling cards in the way of scrapes, he will create rubs during the course of his travels.

Often times, he will hit the same trees year after year and rub them over and over again. The reason for this is that deer also have a forehead gland on the top of their heads near the antlers which deposits a scent marking their area. Other bucks will mark over it, and does will check to see who has been there. So, it is uncertain how often a buck will check his own rubs, if at all, but other deer are likely to use it too.

What is more important is finding the scrapes and checking to see how often they have been refreshed. Look for fresh pawing marks where bucks have urinated in the scrape and dug the dirt up. Check to see that there are no leaves or rain marks in the scrape. Also check and see if does have been using it by leaving their hoof marks in it as well. As the rut approaches closer and closer and the does come nearer to being in peak estrous, activity will increase dramatically. Then all of a sudden, the fresh rubs and scrape sign will all but stop. Once that happens, the chase is on and the peak of the rut is taking place. It is at this point you are likely to see a deer at any time of the day trailing a doe.

Traditionally, the peak of the rut across much of the country is during November 9-16. But here in Florida, it can vary widely. The sign in your core area will give you clues as to how close you are to peak rutting activity. Remember that deer are very dependent upon their noses to keep them informed of their surroundings. Watch wind directions, try and keep as scent free as possible, and disturb the woods as little as you can and you might be fortunate enough to land one of those wily old bruisers cruising your hunting woods.

Remember, success is what happens when planning, hard work, desire and opportunity combine with luck to make the improbable a reality. Good luck making your own improbability a reality this season.

Chuck Echenique

A: #2

I certainly think more than one buck can and will use the same rub from time to time. It seems that some trees get rubbed every year in fact. I remember one big cedar tree on a lease in South Georgia that got skinned up every Fall and used by several different bucks.

Finding a "line" of rubs can sometimes indicate a particular buck's daily travel route. Of course when the rut kicks into full swing he won't stick to any predetermined route, so this is more of an early season/pre rut pattern at best.

Many times though a rub is just a situational thing and really doesn't do much in the way of helping you figure out a buck. Many of the bucks I have called in over the years have stopped along the way to spar with a tree. I can only guess that they were trying to show off for the phantom buck he heard moments earlier.

As far as the size of the rub is concerned, bigger is normally better....................but not always. I have seen big bucks destroy saplings no bigger than my index finger, but I have never witnessed a small buck shred a forearm sized tree.

To be honest I pay little attention to rubs. For my style of hunting they only serve to prove that a buck was there at some point in time. Don't get me wrong I like sitting in an area that is littered with torn up trees, but I also use other factors in determining a stand site.

Good luck and be sure to send us a picture of the buck when you get him...................................

Paul Kish

A: #3

I tell ya Dennis, you'll find a few different types of rubs. Some rubs are the result of bucks rubbing when it comes time to shed the velvet and put a little polish on the new antlers. Others are made on any tree of the individual buck's preference inside his territory when he's feeling those hormone juices beginning to flow. He'll begin to spar with the saplings to develop his neck muscles, preparing himself for the anticipated territorial disputes of the rut. And then you can find rubs used strictly as boundary markers which are made to tell the other bucks, especially the young stuff, to stay out!

Fresh rubs that you find this time of year, especially those made on a tree previously rubbed, are most likely territorial and a buck can return to that same sapling year after year. I find that a lot of bucks have preferences in not only size and location of their rubs, but types of saplings and bushes as well. I hunted a buck years ago who had a definite yearning to rub on maples about two inches wide and others would only rub young pines and a few I hunted rubbed on a variety. Thing is, if he's got a tree he likes in a location he likes, you bet he'll used it time and again.

As far as other bucks rubbing the same tree, sure they will. Especially the younger bucks when they come across a territorial rub, they'll take the time to rub the same tree. Could be they're matching up with the other buck to see if they want to take him on or move along, or it could be that they're miffed that another buck should infiltrate their area and gonna try to best the other buck by rubbing it better. I witnessed that in the Ocala WMA one cold morning several years ago.

A smallish buck arrived on a fire break and strutted over to pretty good sized rub I was watching and after awhile of just hanging out along the fire break, he dropped his head and began to tear away at the existing rub. He was a small spike, obviously not the deer that had made the rub, but he looked to me like he was trying to see if he matched up or not. Late morning, He was legal, I was cold...backstraps.

On a different hunt in the Citrus WMA I watched a nice basket rack buck following a rubline and I'm not sure if he was checking his own rubs or following another buck's, but he clearly was paying attention as he passed the two that were within my line of sight. Soon after he passed at fifteen yards and I skillfully sent an all white fletched arrow right over his back; distracting him from inspecting the rest of the line.

Best of luck on your hunts!

Toby Benoit, Heirloom Game Calls