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Rubs, Scrapes, and the Rut.

Archery season is here and so are dramatic changes in buck behavior. The most successful hunters take advantage of these changes to increase their chances for success. Rubs are one of the first early-fall indicators of bucks in an area. Most rubs are the result of bucks removing velvet from their antlers, as rutting activity.

Studies of deer behavior indicate that rubbing activity occurs from early September through December. However, this activity peaks in September for most of the country with 30 percent of the year's rubs being made during a week-long period in mid-September! Antler rubbing activity declines steadily from this mid-September peak until December. When it ceases is the time to scout for those rubs and locate the areas with the most bucks.


Some rubs are made in conjunction with scrapes; scrape activity does not begin until early October. The activity of creating scrapes increases until mid-November when it peaks. Research on buck behavior indicates that almost 50 percent of the scrapes for the year are done over a few days in the mid-November period. After the rut, scrape creating activity declines rapidly, and by the end of December is only one tenth of what it was at the peak. Thus, hunting over scrapes is less effective in the late winter after the rut peaks.

In summary: When scouting look for scrapes to begin in early October, but don't expect a peak until mid-November. Creating mock-scrapes to attract bucks or hunting over a buck's scrapes can work anytime from the early October period through late-December. Your best bet for relying on this technique is the mid-November period.

Rub Lines

When discovering a rub line, take careful note of what it can tell you. The typical rub line consists of three to six rubs that you can see from one spot, and are strung out in a line along a deer trail. By kneeling when looking along the rub line, you can position your head at approximately the same height as a deer. Using this posture, sight along the rub line and look for which side of the trees the rubs occur. The side on which the buck approaches a tree is the side where he will most likely leave a rub. Thus, it is easy to tell the direction the buck travels when using this trail.

Deer Dispersal

The rut is a time of increased buck activity and the social interactions between bucks are a factor that can greatly affect your hunting. Aggressive activity of dominant bucks towards younger, smaller bucks causes dispersal of these younger bucks from their normal haunts. Thus, during the rut, there will be a number of deer moving through your hunting area that may be from other areas. This makes the displaced deer more susceptible to your hunting techniques.

The dispersed deer haven't been exposed to the stand sites that you frequent, nor have they learned where your paths to and from your stand are located.

How much dispersal of deer can one expect during the rut? A study in Northern Georgia showed a dispersal of 6 of 19 bucks from their normal home range during the rut. Another study in Virginia showed more than 40 percent of yearling and 2.5 year-old bucks moved out of their normal home range during the rut. One study in Illinois broke down the movements of deer from their normal home range during the rut as follows: four percent for fawns, seven percent for adult does, 10 percent for adult bucks, 13 percent for yearling does, and more than 80 percent for yearling bucks! A lot of the deer movement that you typically see during the rut may be due to the dispersal of deer as much as to the movements of dominant bucks looking for receptive does. The point is that you can expect movement of a lot of deer of all age classes, and does as well as bucks during the rut!

Big Bruiser Bucks

Studies done at Texas A&M University found that during the rut there were three classes of bucks. One class was made up of the smaller, immature bucks that tended to move around a great deal looking for a place where larger bucks were not acting aggressively toward them. These young bucks were most susceptible to hunting.

The second class of bucks was composed of older, dominant bucks that had established a specific territory and defended it successfully against other bucks. The third category of bucks was the "dominant-floater" bucks.

This group was typically composed of the largest, most dominant bucks that floated from one home range to another and seemed to take over wherever they went. So when hunting your favorite area during the rut this fall, realize that a dominant-floater could pass through at any time. It adds an extra element of spice to hunting during the rut when you realize that one of those big, bruiser bucks that you may have never seen before could just come walking down the trail at any moment! Don't necessarily bet the farm on it, but it's like holding a lottery ticket--you always have a chance to win!

Cold Weather

Now that fall is here and cooler weather is approaching, I would be remiss if I didn't give you one little secret for hunting in cold weather when snow is on the ground. How many of you have ever worked with cattle or sheep and fed them hay when the snow covers the ground? One of the common behaviors of these animals is to lay down on hay that was spread out for them to eat! This is explained by scientists as thermo-regulatory behavior, which is just a fancy way of saying it's a way of keeping warm. The hair on animals is thickest along their backs. Moving from the backbone down the body, the amount of hair decreases closer to their stomachs, which have the least hair. Thus, it's often warmer for them to stand than to lay down and put their relatively unprotected bellies on that cold snow. This is why you see these animals lying on hay spread along the ground!

Deer exhibit similar thermo-regulatory behavior with slight differences. Deer don't usually have hay conveniently available to lie on, but when a snow first begins to melt, the bare patches of ground show up first on the sunny, southern slopes. Deer will seek out these areas and bed on the south side of bushes or trees that are on southern slopes.

The key is to still-hunt these areas paying particular attention to the sunny sides of bushes and trees on southern slopes. Timing is critical to the success of this technique. It only works during the period after a snowstorm when the snow begins to melt. If you wait too long, the snow has melted from many areas and deer will not be concentrated on the southern slopes. If you try using this technique too soon after a snow, the melting has not progressed to the point that sufficient bare patches of ground are visible on the southern slopes. However, if you time it just right, it can be a great hunting technique to combine with your knowledge of rubs, scrape activity and rut movements!

Tip of the Month: When a buck makes antler rubs along a trail, he will tend to rub on the side of the tree he approaches from. Thus, by watching which side of the trees are rubbed along a trail, it is often possible to tell the direction that the buck travels on that particular trail.
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Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Previous Article:Testing Traditional Bows.
Next Article:The Quiet Bow.

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