Two Kinds Of Buck Rubs

buck rubs
Finding buck rubs like the one pictured here can greatly increase your success in the deer woods. You know a big buck is working the area, you just have to find him during daylight hours! Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

There are few things that excite the deer hunter more than the sight of a large, fresh buck rub on their hunting property. Upon first seeing the rub we immediately visualize a powerful, mature buck, wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting tree or bush. We then immediately begin to plot a masterful plan that will hopefully allow us to arrow the animal responsible for our childlike excitement. Most deer hunters recognize what a rub is, but few realize the plethora of information which it contains, both to the deer hunter and to the deer itself.

Buck rubs are visual signposts or advertisements, if you will, left by a buck with a purpose. That purpose is to let all other bucks know that this is his domain and intruders are not welcome. But why did that buck rub that young cedar as opposed to the maple sapling right beside it? Why do some rubs appear uniformly along a travel corridor, while others appear sporadically throughout the timber? What, if any, information is left to be interpreted by the other deer of the herd? Read on for answers to these questions, as well as additional knowledge concerning buck rubs and how to hunt them.

The buck rub on the tree in foreground was made on a Virginia pine, while the rub in the background was made on a white cedar. The bark of both species is aromatic, intensifying and elongating the presence of the scent left by the buck’s forehead gland.

There are essentially two types of buck rubs, both of which are made at very predictable times during the year. The first rubs are made by bucks of all age classes when they begin to shed their velvet. This varies both geographically as well as genetically, but one can assume these rubs are made in late August and during the first two weeks of September. Since a mature buck’s antlers harden sooner than those of subordinate bucks, mature bucks usually peel their velvet first, thus producing those first rubs you may be seeing in the woods. Deer hunting near large concentrations of these early rubs from mid-September into the early parts of October can prove to be a very successful tactic.

The next sets of bucks rubs tend to start appearing in mid-October. Once again mature bucks will make these rubs before younger bucks because of the increased levels of testosterone which occur after velvet shedding. These are the buck rubs you find along trails, through travel corridors, pinch points and funnels and will increase in number and size as the rut approaches. These rubs generally appear in what is commonly known as a “rub line.” Hunting rub lines can be tricky, but also a very effective for getting close to a mature whitetail during mid to late October.

buck rubs from a mature buck
Buck rubs made on trees this large belong to an old, mature buck. While mature bucks will rub trees of all sizes, one thing is for sure: the bigger the rub the bigger the buck.

As mentioned earlier, buck rubs are visual advertisements for deer. Think of where you see the most billboards and roadside advertisements; not along back country roads, but along major highways and interstates where they can be seen from great distances and easily read. The same applies to a rub line. The white bark exposed by a freshly rubbed tree is easily seen and identified by passing deer. Not only does a rub serve as a visual warning to other bucks that this territory has been claimed, but it also possesses chemical information. After a buck has stripped the bark off a tree with his antlers, he will then rub his forehead and pre-orbital glands on the exposed area. This glands deposit scent that is as individualistic as the buck that left it.

The majority of buck rubs are made on young saplings. This is because a young tree is likely to be more flexible, allowing bucks to work the tree back and forth, strengthening their neck muscles for the inevitable fights that will soon follow during the deer rut. While it would appear that bucks simply choose whatever tree is closest, (and at times this is the case) they prefer to rub those of pine, cedar, or other conifers because of their aromatic and often softer bark. The scent left by the buck via his forehead gland will intensify and last longer having come in contact with the soft, sappy bark of these trees.

licking stick
This buck rub, more specifically known as a licking stick, is a whitetail magnet. First, the buck will expose the bark while breaking off the sapling 2-3 feet off the ground. He will then lick the exposed area, and deer of both sexes will be attracted to this rub.

Monster buck rubs make even the most seasoned deer hunters weak in the knees. Rubs also present an opportunity for the hunter to better understand why that rub was made and why that buck made it where he did. Realizing that bucks make rubs for a variety of reasons not only makes a better hunter, but gives an overall greater appreciation for the animal.

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