Buck rubs and scrapes and when to hunt each

Posted on: September 25, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Rubs and scrapes both have their place as hunting hot spots.

Bucks will visit rubs and scrapes and different times of fall. Hunters need to know when to hunt each.
Photo: Pixabay

Buck rubs and scrapes, both are obvious indications of deer activity.

But which to hunt?

That depends on the time of year, said Mike Stroff, host of Savage Outdoors TV and operator of Southern Outdoor Experience Hunts, a Texas-based guiding service.

Buck rubs – or more specifically, rub lines — can be productive early in the season, when bachelor groups of bucks are disbanding and individual animals are just beginning to rub their antlers.

Buck rubs are obvious signs of a deer's presence.

A series of rubs together in one location is a good sign of early buck activity.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

“Rub lines, if it’s early bow season, that’s close to home. Especially if you see rub, rub, rub, and it’s just tore up, that’s close to home. He spends a lot of time there obviously, to have all that stuff tore up,” Stroff said.

“So that’s a good place to target in that early time.”

He switches to hunting scrapes later in the fall, as the rut approaches and bucks first start cruising the woods looking for mates.

Deer don’t pay any attention to buck rubs then, he said. But they will check scrapes.

“That pre-rut period, before the first does come into season, when the bucks are ready and are waiting on it, all fired up, feeling their oats, that’s when I really like to hunt the scrapes,” Stroff said.

“Because they’re waiting to find that first doe. They’re cruising the woods a lot. That’s when I get aggressive, that’s when I think you can talk to a deer and convince him you’re the real thing and kill him, before he’s found that first doe.”

He’ll set up and rattle over scrapes then, he said.

Tom Richardson, a hunting guide from Carson City, Mich., hunts them another way. He’ll travel miles away from the spot he’s hunting, find another scrape made by another deer, and bring some of that soil back. He’ll clip off a piece of the licking branch above it, too.

Then he’ll mix that soil into the scrape of the buck he’s hunting, and zip tie the licking branch above it.

He’s convinced that, over the next 12 to 48 hours, the buck he’s targeting will visit that scrape more often, and at least some of those visits will be during daylight.

“Because now he’s hunting me, which is exactly what I want,” Richardson said.

Others aren’t so sure those kinds of tactics work.

C.J. Winand, the Maryland-based biologist who writes for Bowhunter magazine, cites some research that looked at deer visitation to scrapes that contained buck urine, doe urine, human urine and no urine at all.

“Statistically speaking, there was no significant difference in any of those samples,” Winand said.

If there’s one clear difference with scrapes, it’s who’s visiting them and when.

Eighty-five percent of deer visitation to scrapes occurs after dark, he said. Older, mature bucks are especially likely to stop by then.

So if you hunt a scrape, Winand said, and using urine to attract deer, expect to see bucks, but not always the biggest ones, he said. They’ll be less frequent callers.

“I would argue that deer urines work much better in a deer herd made up of 1.5-year-old deer versus 5.5-year-old deer,” Winand said.

“I hate to call deer dumb. But deer are much more naive when you’re talking a 1.5-year-old versus a 5.5-year old.”

Don’t focus on on scrapes all season, though.

Stroff said scrapes lose some of their importance once the rut is in full swing. That’s because bucks are actively chasing does. Scrapes move to the background, he said.

When that occurs, he switches to looking for those female whitetails, because where they are the bucks will be, too.

“Then I’m on the food or whatever the does are doing. That’s where I want to be because when he gets on his feet, he’s looking for that next hot doe. That’s where he’s going to be,” Stroff said.

“He’s not going to be running his scrape line at that time.”

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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