Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

Read Rubs to Kill More Trophy Whitetail Bucks

A tree that has been shredded by antlers is the most obvious sign that a buck has been in an area. But with some knowledge of deer behavior and a little scouting, a rub can tell you a lot more. You can determine when the rub was made, what the deer was doing when he made it, and the buck's probable age.

Mature bucks make two distinct types of rubs—early-season and breeding—that correspond to late-summer feeding patterns and to the rut. To unravel a buck's routine as he progresses through this period, you must understand the difference between the two types.

AN EARLY START Bucks make early-season rubs for several reasons: Scraping antlers on trees builds up neck and shoulder muscles. It allows bucks to release aggression caused by rising testosterone levels. And the markings designate a buck's territory, both visually and by scent deposited from the forehead glands. Other bucks may rub the same tree, adding their signature smells.

Mature bucks make their initial rubs in September and early October on stout trees, usually 2 to 4 inches in diameter (see sidebar). These mark a buck's primary home range. Clusters and lines of them usually indicate that they were created either as the buck traveled from food sources to thick bedding cover at dawn or on his way back to feed in the late afternoon. Hunting these spots may be your best chance to take a mature animal before the rut.

Start scouting in September and October. Since the most dominant bucks make the first rubs, getting out early will put you onto the oldest deer in the area. Keep the locations of the rubs in a notebook or on a topo map and follow any trails to pinpoint likely bedding territory and early-season foods like alfalfa, clover fields, oak flats, or abandoned orchards. After you've found some rubs near the food sources, backtrack and look for potential stand sites such as funnels, ditches, benches, and saddles where the deer rubbed more trees as he approached his bedding cover. Rubs that face the food source probably were made in the morning as the buck returned to his bed; ones on the opposite side most likely were from some time in the afternoon.

THE LATE SHOW Once the rut begins, you can forget the rubs you found during the early season. The change starts toward the end of October when bucks' testosterone levels build up and does begin to release estrous scents. At this point, bucks will move out of their home ranges and into doe territory where they continue to scrape trees and travel widely, searching for ready mates.

Bucks make breeding rubs primarily to display their prowess, but these visual and olfactory signposts often psychologically and hormonally suppress small bucks to the point where their testosterone levels stay so low that they do not attempt to mate.

Lush areas with gentle terrain near food sources can be good places to look for breeding rubs, particularly in spots with pockets of doe bedding cover like cedar, pine groves, honeysuckle, or sapling thickets.

Even though it might seem as if rubs at this time of year are too random to be of any help, they can be a quick ticket to success in November and December, and even into January in areas where the mating season extends late. The trick rests in finding the rubs that have been made within the last day or two, since they were left by the most fired-up bucks on the scent of does that are going into estrus. But only a brief window of opportunity exists for catching that buck before he moves on. Fresh sap and very ragged bark will help you judge a rub's age. Once you find hot sign, the strategy is simple: Set up quickly downwind and watch the area for as many hours as you can.

BIG RUBS AND BIG BUCKS

Any buck might rub a tree of any size. I've seen 5-year-old bucks demolish finger-size saplings and yearlings rub 4-inch trunks. That said, it's true that you can often guess a buck's size by the proportions of the tree he rubs. These are the general rules:

•Small saplings and thick-stemmed brush, such as autumn olives, attract all sizes of bucks that like to fight with the flexible brush and thrash it to a pulp.

•One- to 2-inch-diameter trees attract yearlings and 2-year-olds.

•Two- to 4-inch-thick trunks draw 3- and 4-year-olds.

•The rare rubs you may find on 4- to 8-inch trunks are typically the hallmark of mature bucks, 5 to 7 years old. —G.A.

Comments (28)

Top Rated
All Comments
from t_holinka wrote 5 years 8 weeks ago

I've heard that you can't tell the size of the deer by the size of the rub.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Damon619 wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

I've seen scrapes in one area for 2 years in a row. I guess i have to smarten up and put a stand there for this year.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from redneck man wrote 4 years 50 weeks ago

I know that there are a ton of deer in my area just from seeing herds on a day-to-day basis but I haven't seen or at least noticed any rubs yet.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from leifjohn wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

I've seen bucks young and old rub different sizes - I think the best clue is how high off the ground the rub is, the higher up, probably a bigger deer since it'd have to be standing taller.

Around here, I've even seen rubs on telephone poles.

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big C wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I have seen a few rubs on huge trees where I hunt. I figured they were made by older, smarter deer and that I was not likely to get a shot at them unless it was during the rut.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 4 years 32 weeks ago

Higher rubs and deeper gouges to me indicate larger deer, a 200 lb buck is going to do more damage to a rub than a 120 lber and his higher horns will rub higher up on the trees.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from 7Derrick wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

Yeah I used to always think bigger tree, bigger buck. But it is probably more appropriate to be looking for hight of rubs and depth of the gashes. Although again, maturity does not always mean bigger buck. I've seen some brutes of animals that were just very thick based, uneven 4x4s ( if you count the brow tines). In the same respect, I've seen younger 2 1/2 year olds beginning to form nice 5x5 racks. As for rubs though its always hard to tell. This article does help though, very well written.

+8 Good Comment? | | Report
from alcoluhuntin wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

I look for height, and for the medium sized trees i look at how far around the rub goes.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from swilmot1 wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

all great info on rubs! Makes you think a little bit more into the rubs then.. well there was a buck here

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from BBD wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

i do believe rubs are good to locate travel routes for buck in the beginning of the season but like scrapes are usually not visited during daylight hours.. Also i believe the width of the tree has little to do with the size of the buck, but rather like its stated in previous comments its how tall/long the actual rub is..

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from udelhofe wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Rub lines are great areas to hunt. I will usually scope out the high rub traffic and leave that area alone until the late pre rut time. Biggest bucks will usually cruise these areas for does while stopping at these areas. The more the rubs better chance you will have at that trophy. Scout those hot areas out and leave them be till the time is right!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buck-itswhatsfo... wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

What are benches, and saddles?

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from codyboyd wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

listen to this post, everything that he says is true. i have pictures to proove it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from atnoga wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

How big would the buck have to be to rub a 14" cedar, leaving brow gouges 8-9" apart on it?

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from eddie21 wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

I agree with leifjohn. Me and my dad saw a 4 point make a pretty big rub but it wasn't as high off the ground as differnt oolder bucks

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from 60256 wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

What we see is that the big bucks go for the widest trees, while the smaller bucks go for the twigs and such.

Nate

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from BowtechWVU wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

Thanks for the intel on the rubs coresponding to the age of the deer

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from jsnsalzman wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

There is a spot at some property I hunt down at the base of a damn. Its about a quarter of an acre we stumbled upon it doing a little man drive and came across about 15 to 20 rubs on trees ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches. I had never seen anything like that.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawgwild.n.ga wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

if you have found the rub line within the first couple of days there should be other sign to the size of the deer like the size of the tracks near the rub and even the deer pellets that may be around.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ksbowman wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

I like to hunt rubs prerut but when the rut kicks in I move to where the does are. Does hold tight to their home range whereas the bucks move to the does during the rut. This hasn't failed me in the past 6 years. I have hunted bucks hard over rubs throughout the season in years past and when the rut hits I would never see another buck as they left to find the does.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redbone wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Very good and helpful info

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from aykt36 wrote 3 years 39 weeks ago

thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from justin isaacs wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

all ways remember little bucks rub little trees but big buck rub both big and little trees

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from scott powers wrote 3 years 28 weeks ago

wow i will have to look are auond the farms that i hunt and see what i got. i hope that my big buck is still there.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from lefty000 wrote 3 years 26 weeks ago

I hunt a river bottom and a lot of my in season scouting consists of locating early rub lines on river crossings. I have seen a lot of nice deer doing this tactic. Generally the does use these same crossings so it is a great ambush location during the rut when mature bucks are on their feet during daylight hours.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from deerhunterrick wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Rubs starting atwaste height and higher are generally bigger class bucks. I also like finding rubs that are 3 or more smaller trees clumped together. When I find these rubs I look from the outer tree damage as well as the backsides for gouges. You find this type of rub you can rest assured it is a shooter class buck. If the clump is busted off in pieces the buck is enraged and will be passing through on a regular basis so look from scraps in the area as well.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buckmaster909 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I look for clusters of rubs in areas where theres some large tracks,(you cant tell buck from doe tracks, unless thers buck sign in the area)the bigger the tracks, the older the deer,(buck or doe)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I look for alot of tracks and the amount of scat. I would come across a nice sized buck 4 points and some where even bigger 6, to eight points.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from leifjohn wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

I've seen bucks young and old rub different sizes - I think the best clue is how high off the ground the rub is, the higher up, probably a bigger deer since it'd have to be standing taller.

Around here, I've even seen rubs on telephone poles.

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from 7Derrick wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

Yeah I used to always think bigger tree, bigger buck. But it is probably more appropriate to be looking for hight of rubs and depth of the gashes. Although again, maturity does not always mean bigger buck. I've seen some brutes of animals that were just very thick based, uneven 4x4s ( if you count the brow tines). In the same respect, I've seen younger 2 1/2 year olds beginning to form nice 5x5 racks. As for rubs though its always hard to tell. This article does help though, very well written.

+8 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big C wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I have seen a few rubs on huge trees where I hunt. I figured they were made by older, smarter deer and that I was not likely to get a shot at them unless it was during the rut.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from t_holinka wrote 5 years 8 weeks ago

I've heard that you can't tell the size of the deer by the size of the rub.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Damon619 wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

I've seen scrapes in one area for 2 years in a row. I guess i have to smarten up and put a stand there for this year.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 4 years 32 weeks ago

Higher rubs and deeper gouges to me indicate larger deer, a 200 lb buck is going to do more damage to a rub than a 120 lber and his higher horns will rub higher up on the trees.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from alcoluhuntin wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

I look for height, and for the medium sized trees i look at how far around the rub goes.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from udelhofe wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Rub lines are great areas to hunt. I will usually scope out the high rub traffic and leave that area alone until the late pre rut time. Biggest bucks will usually cruise these areas for does while stopping at these areas. The more the rubs better chance you will have at that trophy. Scout those hot areas out and leave them be till the time is right!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from swilmot1 wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

all great info on rubs! Makes you think a little bit more into the rubs then.. well there was a buck here

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from BBD wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

i do believe rubs are good to locate travel routes for buck in the beginning of the season but like scrapes are usually not visited during daylight hours.. Also i believe the width of the tree has little to do with the size of the buck, but rather like its stated in previous comments its how tall/long the actual rub is..

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buck-itswhatsfo... wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

What are benches, and saddles?

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from atnoga wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

How big would the buck have to be to rub a 14" cedar, leaving brow gouges 8-9" apart on it?

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from eddie21 wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

I agree with leifjohn. Me and my dad saw a 4 point make a pretty big rub but it wasn't as high off the ground as differnt oolder bucks

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from 60256 wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

What we see is that the big bucks go for the widest trees, while the smaller bucks go for the twigs and such.

Nate

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from BowtechWVU wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

Thanks for the intel on the rubs coresponding to the age of the deer

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from jsnsalzman wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

There is a spot at some property I hunt down at the base of a damn. Its about a quarter of an acre we stumbled upon it doing a little man drive and came across about 15 to 20 rubs on trees ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches. I had never seen anything like that.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawgwild.n.ga wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

if you have found the rub line within the first couple of days there should be other sign to the size of the deer like the size of the tracks near the rub and even the deer pellets that may be around.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ksbowman wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

I like to hunt rubs prerut but when the rut kicks in I move to where the does are. Does hold tight to their home range whereas the bucks move to the does during the rut. This hasn't failed me in the past 6 years. I have hunted bucks hard over rubs throughout the season in years past and when the rut hits I would never see another buck as they left to find the does.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from justin isaacs wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

all ways remember little bucks rub little trees but big buck rub both big and little trees

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from scott powers wrote 3 years 28 weeks ago

wow i will have to look are auond the farms that i hunt and see what i got. i hope that my big buck is still there.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from lefty000 wrote 3 years 26 weeks ago

I hunt a river bottom and a lot of my in season scouting consists of locating early rub lines on river crossings. I have seen a lot of nice deer doing this tactic. Generally the does use these same crossings so it is a great ambush location during the rut when mature bucks are on their feet during daylight hours.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buckmaster909 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I look for clusters of rubs in areas where theres some large tracks,(you cant tell buck from doe tracks, unless thers buck sign in the area)the bigger the tracks, the older the deer,(buck or doe)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from deerhunterrick wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Rubs starting atwaste height and higher are generally bigger class bucks. I also like finding rubs that are 3 or more smaller trees clumped together. When I find these rubs I look from the outer tree damage as well as the backsides for gouges. You find this type of rub you can rest assured it is a shooter class buck. If the clump is busted off in pieces the buck is enraged and will be passing through on a regular basis so look from scraps in the area as well.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from redneck man wrote 4 years 50 weeks ago

I know that there are a ton of deer in my area just from seeing herds on a day-to-day basis but I haven't seen or at least noticed any rubs yet.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from codyboyd wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

listen to this post, everything that he says is true. i have pictures to proove it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redbone wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Very good and helpful info

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from aykt36 wrote 3 years 39 weeks ago

thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I look for alot of tracks and the amount of scat. I would come across a nice sized buck 4 points and some where even bigger 6, to eight points.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment