Sunday, February 15, 2015

What is a Buck Rub?

 Simply put, a Buck rub is a marking left on a tree by a Whitetail buck. It’s really that simple. Or is it? You begin to ask yourself, why does the buck make the rub? Why does he make so many? What does it mean to him? What does it mean to other Bucks in the area? How can I use this to my advantage? Now we are getting into biology, social behavior and even chemistry. But believe me, it’s really simple.

A whitetail buck starts its year of antler growth in velvet. This is the soft coating that protects the antlers as they grow throughout the summer. Just before fall, the antlers will harden to a point where it no long needs the velvet. The velvet will start to itch and irritate the buck so bad that he rubs the velvet off of his antlers. This is where we get our first kind of rubs. I call them shedding rubs. These will most likely be in the buck’s core area. You will mostly find them in a concentrated area rather than on single trees with no others in sight. If you stumble across an area where you can see ten to thirty rubs in one area, you are probably in the buck’s core area. Those are great spots for morning hunts because the buck will surely be near there when he returns after a night of running around. 

Once a buck sheds his velvet, he never stops rubbing. Reasoning behind the rubs does however change. As the days get shorter and the moon phase triggers the onset of the rut, you will begin to see a lot more fresh rubs. These rubs are not shedding rubs. These are travel route rubs. When a buck leaves his bedding area to go feed or drink water, he will stop ever so often to rub trees and brush. He does this for the same reason an athlete will lift weights, to get stronger. His testosterone levels are rising with the diminishing light periods and he feels the rut closing in. He knows he will have to fight; therefore he prepares himself for battle.

Bucks will stop ever so often to rub trees. This creates a Rub Line! Although very underrated, the rub line has lead to the harvest of some monster bucks. With the right setup, rub lines can be far more effective than scrape hunting. A rub line shows the path that a buck likes to travel. This usually means he will be back if he is not already packed into another hunter’s freezer.

When a buck leaves a rub, he doesn’t just leave a visual sign post. He leaves his scent from his forehead glands on the rub as well. This lets other bucks know who’s leaving those rubs. Most of these bucks are familiar with each other. They spend nights in the same feeding areas and some of them may have even been in the same bachelor group during the summer.

Like a dog urinating on his property, a buck will make rubs in areas where he wants his presence to be known. This could be feeding areas, bedding areas or travel routes other deer use to get to and from bedding. Depending on how dominant he is, he will enforce his dominance with his freshly polished antlers he spent all summer growing.

I hope this certainly helps your understanding of a Buck Rub. Rubs can be a deadly tool for a Whitetail hunter. When hunting the big woods of Northern Michigan, this is how I get a jump on mature bucks in my hunting area, and you can do the same thing. If you have any questions about rubs and rub lines, feel free to message me at or on the Michigan Gone wild Facebook page. This is Alvin Sitkiewicz signing off! As always, Stay Wild!