So, you think you know rubs? Well, maybe you do. And, if so, that’s great! However, not all hunters are experts. And, as I always say, the more you know the more successful you will be. So, whether you are an expert who just enjoys reading everything you can, or you are a beginner trying to figure it all out, hopefully you will find this information to be useful.
First, it is true, that just like scrapes, rubs are a form of communication for whitetail deer. And, you might not be aware of it, but does also rub trees. However, it is not the doe that we are interested in. So, let’s move on to why bucks make rubs. Yes, they make rubs for more than one reason. And, it’s important to know the different types of rubs, because they are not all worth your time. So, here’s the rubdown on buck rubs.
Let’s start with the rubs that are not worth your time and effort, random rubs. These rubs are exactly what they sound like. They can be found anywhere, with no rhyme or reason as to why they exist. These random rubs will have no other sign of buck presence nearby. While they seem senseless, random rubs served a purpose at the time they were made. So, what was that purpose? Well, let’s take a closer look at the different types of random rubs.
- Velvet Rubs– During early season, bucks will randomly rub trees in order to remove velvet from their antlers. These rubs can be found anywhere, and often times, if you observe the rub more closely, you can see small shreds of velvet or blood left behind on the tree.
- Aggression Rubs– Bucks who have been challenged by another buck and lose the battle will often take their aggression out on random trees immediately after the fight.
- Dominance– Finally, young bucks will make random rubs in order to try and establish their dominance in a territory. These bucks have not quite reached the maturity to develop rub lines, so they just randomly mark trees giving the impression that a mature buck may be in the area.
So, as you can see, these random rubs did serve a purpose. However, they were a one-time only kind of rub. Bucks will not be returning to these random rubs. So, if you see a lone rub that seems strangely out of place, just move on; it’s not worth your time and effort. If you decide to set up over it anyway, you may be very disappointed.
Now, let’s take a look at another rub that may stand alone, but definitely is not random. I’m talking about the signpost rub. The signpost rub is also known as a community rub. This type of rub is typically created by a mature buck and is visited year after year. It is not only worked by the creator, but also by other bucks, and, yes, even does.
The signpost rub is easy to distinguish due to the years of rubbing. It is also normally found on a larger tree (or post) situated along a field edge or in more open spaces, usually along a travel corridor. But, the question is, should you hunt a signpost rub? Well, my answer is yes, but, not directly over the rub. While it does indicate that at least one mature buck may be in the area, remember, it is out in an open space. Therefore, it is less likely that it will be visited during daylight hours. So, the goal is to look for other signs of deer in the area, particularly other buck signs such as scrapes, tracks, or other rubs. These signs can be used to determine the travel route of the bucks in the area. Once you have determined the travel route, place your stand along the travel corridor downwind of the signpost rub. And, remember, it is used by several bucks, so don’t give up on it too soon!
Now, let’s take a look at rub lines. First of all, rub lines are territory markers; they usually appear on several trees within a given area, often in a line. This area can be thought of as the buck’s living room. One way to know for sure that you have found a rub line and not random rubs is by the size and height of the rubs; they should be the same from tree to tree, as these are the workings of a single buck. Also, the rubs will normally all be on the same side of the trees, as they are indicative of the buck’s travel route. These lines are made as the buck travels from his bedding area to food and water sources. Another important point, the size of the trees rubbed is usually an indication of the size of the buck. Big bucks typically like to work larger trees, and small bucks prefer small trees and saplings. As for hunting rub lines, I recommend hunting just outside the perimeter; hunting within the rub line could ultimately chase the buck out of his comfort zone, which defeats the whole purpose.
Last, let’s talk about cluster rubs. These rubs, again, are usually made by one buck and are normally located near the buck’s living room or in a staging area. Just like rub lines, the rubs should be of the same size and height. Unlike rub lines, though, these rubs are not indicative of the buck’s travel route, and they will not appear in a line. Instead, they will appear in a small area and may seem random. And, most importantly, these cluster rubs are an indicator of a place where the buck spends some significant time on his feet, perhaps waiting for it to get dark enough to move out of cover. With that said, cluster rubs may be of the most significance to hunters, as bucks are spending a significant amount of time in these areas. If given a choice, I would definitely choose cluster rubs over any other type.
Obviously, rubs are very important communication tools for whitetail deer, and if you know how to read them properly, they can be even more important tools for the whitetail hunter. So, head out there and scout out some rubs. Hunt smart, hunt safe, and as always, good luck!