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Whitetail hunting: Finding rubs

A whitetail buck knows everything that goes on in his territory.
A whitetail buck knows everything that goes on in his territory.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Rubs are a whitetail deer’s signpost.

Bucks will rub their antlers on trees in early fall to help scrape the velvet off before breeding season. But this isn’t the only reason.

Deer practice sparring with trees to strengthen neck muscles and prepare for the knock-down, drag-out fights during the rut. As the rut kicks into gear, mature bucks continue rubbing trees as a way of marking their territory.

Scent from forehead glands is deposited on the tree during rubbing and serves as a marker of what deer has been in the area.

What to look for

A typical rub will appear as white spot where bark has been removed from the tree. The bare wood stands out in the woods and is easy to see from a distance.

As a deer travels, he will stop to make rubs on trees. The rubs will face opposite the direction the deer is traveling.

If you find a rub line, follow the rubs to determine why the buck is using this trail. Is he going to a feeding area or a bedding area? From there you can pick a morning or afternoon stand site.

The rub itself as well as surrounding vegetation can tell you a lot about the deer that made it. Gouges in the rub indicate the presence of brow tines. The deeper the gouge, the longer the brow tines.

If brush on the other side of the tree is damaged, you know the buck has long tines.

Generally the larger the diameter of the tree, the larger the antlers on the buck.


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