I saw “Blades” only three times in four months. But I learned his favorite hangouts just the same, by studying his rubs. Eventually, the big 10 I named for G2s that looked like fillet knives gave me a 12-yard shot. And I whiffed.
Still, that buck taught me a useful lesson: that as a buck ages, he becomes increasingly predictable about where he rubs, how he rubs, and what his rubs look like. And you can use that information to set up an ambush. Here are five things to look for when unraveling the rub-making habits of an older buck:
Most whitetails pick on trees with sappy, aromatic bark, including aspen, pine, cedar, and sassafras. But an older buck will often pick one species to the exclusion of all others. Blades adored red cedar. I’ve hunted other bucks with a preference for ash, white cedar, or even wooden fence posts.
Bucks often favor tree trunks of a specific size. Blades focused on calf-thick trees. One of my buddies hunted a huge buck that tortured any red pine with a 3-inch diameter—because they were the biggest trees he could fit between his near-touching antler tips.
Terrain and Cover
Bucks can be very particular about where they rub. Blades rarely did so on flats or field edges, but he’d tear a swath along a hillside. I’ve hunted bucks that rub only in swamps, even though their favorite tree species also grows on uplands.
Funky racks make for one-of-a-kind rubs. Blades had a forked brow tine on his right side that left an unmistakable gouge. Really wide bucks often wreak collateral damage on nearby saplings and brush. Some unique artistry is obvious, some not so much. So get in the habit of inspecting rubs closely.
Some bucks only rub down low, topping out at just 2 feet above the ground. Others crane their necks skyward to leave elk-high markings 5 or 6 feet up. Find a bunch of the latter and you can bet that they were made by the same buck—and that he’d look good on your wall.