If you’re a bowhunter waiting for things to heat up before you head afield, you better gear up, now.
Bucks have really started moving over the past week with new rubs and scrapes popping up regularly.
If you ask me, this is, hands down, the best time to be in the woods. The rut is great, but once does start coming into estrus and are receptive a buck’s obsession, those bucks can get locked down with a doe and won’t leave her side for a solid day or two. They won;t travel far and basically remain in the same, usually, secluded area. Hunting that buck can be an act in frustration.
However, right now the bocks are antsy, but the does aren’t interested yet, which drives the bucks crazy and keeps them moving. They move from doe pod to doe pod looking for the first doe in the area to go into estrus.
That’s why the woods are filling with rubs and scrapes right now. Bucks are letting does – and other bucks – know they are ready and willing. They are traveling through their known doe areas and leaving behind signs of that willingness.
Keep in mind that all rubs and scrapes are not the same, and often tell a different story.
The size of a rub can sometimes relate to the size of the buck. Big bucks will rub small, medium and large trees, but young bucks generally will only rub smaller trees. That said, if you run into a large rub or two, they almost always came from a large buck.
A buck on the move will rub up a tree here and there while he’s passing through an area, but usually won’t spend any serious amount of time in one particular area. On the other hand, if you find several rubs in the same area, or in a long line, some rubbed completely free of bark, you’ve likely found a bucks home range or travel route. They’ll rub several trees while lounging around, or en route from one spot to another, leaving telltale signs of their preferred hangouts.
Ditto with scrapes.
Bucks will always create a scrape beneath a hanging branch, or clump of vines. They’ll lick and rub their head on this overhang to leave their individual scent on it. Other deer that encounter the scrape will do the same, so each deer can tell by scent checking this “licking stick” which other deer have visited the scrape. They also mark the scrape by urinating over their tarsal glands on their back legs and letting that pungent urine run directly into the scrape.
Size matters – sometimes. If you find a relatively small scrape, say the size of a grapefruit or melon, it may be a hot scrape, or it may be a passing scrape, made while a buck is meandering through an area because that’s what they instinctively do at this time of year. He may have been in a hurry for some reason and will return to check the scrape and, perhaps enlarge it. On the other hand, he may abandon that scrape in favor of a hotter one somewhere down the line.
If you find a large scrape, say the size of a dinner plate or larger, or a cluster of two, three or more scrapes in one area, you know a buck spent some serious time there and he is likely tending to it regularly. Perhaps several deer have visited it already and added to its dimension.
I don’t disregard any rubs or scrapes. They all tell a story and were made intentionally by a buck, that visited the area and is likely still in the area. However, I do give more considerations to larger active or community scrapes and rub clusters or rub lines.
The bottom line is that bucks are on the prowl right now, looking for does and most of the does aren’t interested in breeding quite yet. If you’re hunting in an area that holds does on a daily basis, sit tight. The bucks are on the way. It you find an area with telltale signs of a bucks presence, consider sneaking in for a hunt or two. Make sure you’re downwind and make every effort to cover your human scent.
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