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GRANT: The subject of my master’s research was scrape behavior of white-tailed deer. And I spent a couple years out in the woods doing nothing but studying scrapes.
GRANT: But all that time I was seeing all these rubs and that made me have a lot of question about rubs and rub behavior. So when I went on to my Ph.D., the natural subject was rub behavior of white-tailed deer.
GRANT: Rubs are simply where deer primarily use their antlers to remove the bark from a tree and, more importantly, deposit a scent on the tree.
GRANT: No one knows exactly what scent they’re depositing and what communication is occurring there. But, based on a huge amount of research by me and others, we believe we understand a bit more about rubs than a shiny tree in the timber.
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GRANT: Why do deer go to all that effort to remove the bark off a tree? Well, some people think it’s because they’re preparing their neck muscles for fighting. It’s kind of like exercise or a punching bag.
GRANT: There may be something to that. But I think it’s much deeper. I think they do that because inside that bark, that wood will hold scent better and they’re depositing pheromones, especially bucks, from the forehead gland and maybe some from the preorbital gland.
GRANT: So now, we’ve got a visual sign saying, “Come here.” Almost like a burger sign saying, “Your burgers are here.” Except this sign says, ‘You can learn more about me here.”
GRANT: Does often approach rubs and smell them or lick them. Whether they’re just receiving information or leaving information is not known.
GRANT: Small rubs – half-inch, inch or so in diameter – right in the center of the area that was rubbed are rarely re-rubbed. It’s kind of a one-time use only. But they can still be great sign.
GRANT: You go to a field edge and there’s 50 rubs back in the timber 20 yards; a bunch of saplings there – that’s an excellent indicator that’s a staging area. And a buck is spending a lot of time there before he enters the field.
GRANT: Larger rubs – and when I say larger rubs – you know, three, four inches – I have measured rubs as big as my waist, literally. I know some people say, “I’ve never seen a rub that big.” And that’s probably because of the adult sex ratio where you hunt.
GRANT: But large rubs are what we call traditional rubs. They’ll be used year after year after year. And that should be sending signals to every hunter out there.
GRANT: When you’ve got a spot right here – one spot – where deer will come to year after year – at least during a certain period of the year – that’s a great indicator to hunt somewhere in that area at the appropriate time of year.
GRANT: A really simple technique to monitor rubs – see if they’ve been used – without stringing trail cameras everywhere, is a simple pencil. Pencil led is actually graphite. It’s waterproof; it shouldn’t have any odor. And just make some light lines up and down that rub or draw circles around it – just light.
GRANT: It’s waterproof so it’s going to be there even if it rains. And if those lines are removed, you know a buck has been there since you made the marks.
GRANT: Want to go a little deeper in that? Make marks all the way around the rub. If they’re only removed on one side, that tells you a lot about the direction the buck was traveling when he used that rub.
GRANT: A string of rubs, what’s often called a rub line, is an excellent marker of a travel corridor. And those travel corridors are perfect places to hunt during the pre-rut when bucks are still going food/cover, food/cover, and just starting to seek does.
GRANT: They’re getting amped up. Those hormones are raging. They’re making a lot of rubs, leaving a lot of scent in the woods, trying to track a receptive doe.
GRANT: So I use small rubs as an indication of where bucks were, primarily during early season – not one or two. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to one or two rubs.
GRANT: But if I find 20 or 30 or 50 or a line of small rubs, that’s telling me it’s either a staging area or a travel corridor.
GRANT: Large, traditional rubs – you know, four, five, six, ten, twelve inches – it’s telling me there’s a mature buck in the area.
GRANT: I have tons of pictures of immature bucks using traditional rubs. But I’ve never seen a picture or heard of anyone talking about, or seeing any of our video of a small, immature buck opening up a large size rub.
GRANT: So, again, rubs are just points of communication and once a traditional rub is established, mature buck, immature buck, does and fawns will all come there to gather information.
GRANT: Some people claim that rubs mark a buck’s territory. But deer are not territorial. Wolves and many carnivores are territorial. They will mark the edge of their boundaries. If another wolf or coyote gets in there, it’s a fight.
GRANT: Deer are not territorial. They’re territorial around a receptive doe. That moving target for about 36 hours. They’re not territorial of their home range.
GRANT: And rubs are not marking the edge of their home range. They’re marking where they’re traveling.
GRANT: Rubs should really be paid attention to when scouting an area.
GRANT: Now, if the habitat doesn’t change much, you can count on finding the same type of rub in the same area year after year.
GRANT: Rub density is almost always highest at a break of habitat types, maybe young timber, no timber, or going into a field, or across the creek. Those are marking great places to put a stand or blind.
GRANT: Learning about deer behavior is a great way to enjoy Creation and just an entry to understanding the Creator. When you really look around and you think about the seasons and all this behavior that hasn’t changed as long as we’ve been studying these critters, it certainly points to a Creator.
GRANT: And I hope you’ll take time this year to be quiet every day and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.