by Scott Bestul
Grant Woods felt like he hit the jackpot years ago when he found giant rubs on a property he was managing. “Some were on trees 20 inches in diameter. For two seasons I hunted that sign–and never even saw a buck.”
Billboards for Bucks
Now a veteran biologist and renowned private deer manager, Woods eventually discovered his error. “The big rubs I was watching were what I’ve come to call ‘signpost’ rubs. They are started by large bucks but visited or worked by young bucks and does, too. Although they don’t have to be on large trees, they typically are. One of the keys to identifying a signpost rub is a tree that’s scarred from years of rubbing. I’ve found them most frequently on aromatic species, such as cedar and sassafras, and in farm country it’s not unusual to see them on fence posts or even telephone poles.”
One other characteristic is also the reason such rubs make poor stand locations, Woods says. “Invariably, I find them in exposed areas–along a field edge, in wide open timber, or in otherwise thin habitat. Bucks want them to serve as billboards for their presence. And you don’t put a billboard back in the weeds and brush. You stick it out where it’s easily seen. Unfortunately for us hunters, big bucks are not likely to visit these open-cover areas during daylight hours.”
Keys to the Corridor
Nonetheless, Woods maintains, signpost rubs are critical spoor for hunters to recognize. “For starters, they’re a prime indicator that one or more mature bucks are living on a property. Second, they indicate a travel corridor that all deer are using heavily.”
To surprise a trophy along this route, look at the rubs to determine the deer’s general line of travel. If it is east-west, for example, consult a map to locate a likely feeding area in one direction and good bedding cover in the other.
Your buck is probably moving between the two, hitting the signpost rub in the middle. To intercept him during shooting light, though, you need to set up closer to his bed. As you move in that direction, look for additional rubs, a scrape line, or large tracks to reveal his exact route, and hang your stand just downwind. The next time that trophy heads toward the signpost to make his mark, he’ll walk right past you.