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Buck Rubs

Jul 4, 2008
Buck rubs are not the outcome of velvet shedding, nor are they made because bucks are intentionally trying to polish their antlers. It's true that during the process of removing velvet, bucks do some rubbing on trees and saplings, but they commonly complete this whole process within twenty-four hours. Growing testosterone levels cause bucks to become more aggressive, which drives them to advertise themselves through scent marking. Basically, this is the purpose of rubbing. In a strict sense, white-tailed deer are not territorial yet rubs do serve to inform deer of the social hierarchy within a given area.

Buck rubs are part of the communication system of deer. We detect rubs-the white scars of the deer forest-by sight. More likely deer detect them by smell. When a buck rubs a sapling, he deposits odor from glands in the forehead, and he will also pause to actually lick the rubbed tree or sapling. Other bucks visit that rub to detect these pheromones, or chemical messages. Bucks do not make rubs with their antler tines, but instead with the ridges on the base and burr of the antlers. Like using a vegetable shredder, the buck grates the bark from the tree into long strings, which he often eats.

When locating buck rubs while scouting, a significant clue remains the diameter of the tree. It's true that large bucks will rub small trees, but rarely do small bucks rub large trees. Thus when you find a rub that sticks out in terms of tree size, you can be quite certain it was made by a big buck. Also keep in mind that the scrapes of a buck will generally be found within 100 to 200 yards of his rubs.

Generally small bucks do not make many rubs. Large bucks forbid small bucks from breeding, so small bucks have little need to advertise their presence. The more dominant a buck, the more active his forehead scent glands, thus the more rubs he makes. The rubs of a dominant buck serve as sign-posts to inform other bucks of who is the superior deer in a certain area. The companions of the dominant buck will freely travel the same range' however, they heed the warnings the lead male posts and act submissively whenever he's in the immediate vicinity.

Studies show that an individual buck may make 500 or more rubs in a single season. The 100 to 300 figure, however, is probably more common. Still, this amounts to at least one or more rubs per day over a four-month period for the average buck. It is not unusual to see forty young, even-aged timber such as aspen.

Regardless of where you find the white-tailed deer, bucks seem to prefer saplings with a strong resinous sap above all others. Pine remains a favorite softwood species for rubbing as well as cedar, tamarack and balsam. In hardwoods, black cherry and apple are common targets for rubs. Bucks also rub wooden fence posts and power line poles. Bucks often return to the same tree for rubbing, and the same tree may be rubbed several times over a period of years. Some of the smaller saplings die after the first rubbing, but many trees survive the first and subsequent wounds.

Breeding rubs differ entirely in their appearance from rubs made in early fall. These savage rubs, the white scars of the deer forest, frequently damage or kill bushed. Branches and roots in and around the main target. Search an area with a high density of breeding rubs, for being in an area with big rubs results in seeing big bucks. Check particularly for areas that exhibit vigorous rubbing activity over a period of many years in the same small spots.
About the Author
Outdoorsman and author Ethan O. Tanner explains the reason for buck rubs and gives tips for identifying buck rubs
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