Should We Hunt Rubs or Scrapes?

When I wore a younger man’s clothes, the question of the best place to hunt for deer often came to my mind. I can remember hours spent pondering this very thought while waiting for a whitetail to magically appear.

As the years passed and my knowledge of a whitetail’s behavior grew, I finally came to the conclusion that rubs as well as scrapes found in the woods can be a great place to hunt― but at different times of the season.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a rub or a scrape, let me enlighten you. A rub is the place where a deer rubs his antlers on a tree or a sapling to remove the velvet. A scrape, on the other hand, is where a buck scrapes the ground clear of any debris and leaves his scent everywhere in and around it.

Which is the better spot to be when hunting season comes around? Should we just abandon the thought of hunting near a rub or scrape and just try our luck near a well-used deer trail?

The short answer is that all three spots that I just mentioned will offer plenty of opportunities for success on deer―but is one spot better than another?

If I were just looking to fill my freezer with venison, or if I simply wanted to better manage the deer herd in the area I was hunting, then the better choice would be to hunt a well-used deer trail. Chances are much better to see more deer and certainly more does working the trail both to and from the feeding grounds. If your decision is to hunt the bucks in your area and only the bucks, then a different approach might prove to be a better choice.

Before I continue, let me explain that in order to keep a deer herd healthy, there are times when you need to take more does. Remember that every time a doe gives birth, she usually will have a set of twins. On occasion, she will bear three fawns.

With this in mind, you can see how it would not take too long before the herd is out of control. Soon there are too many deer for that area making it impossible for deer to survive on what little food they can find. An adult whitetail needs about five pounds of wet browse every day. It should be easy to understand why we, as ethical and responsible hunters, need to control the number of does in our hunting area.

That being said, if we decide that today is the day you want to try your luck for a nice buck, then we should try different methods. Both a rub and a scrape are tell-tale signs that a buck is definitely in the area, and this is a good place to start if you want a buck.

Rubs are usually made starting at the end of August and continuing throughout the hunting season. As I said earlier, bucks rub their antlers on trees and saplings to remove the itchy velvet from their antlers.

It is not unusual to see more than one rub at a time. In fact, if you take the time, you should be able to locate exactly where the buck walks, by locating the rub line he made.

Some say he makes that rub line to navigate through the woods. I do not believe that for a minute. His only purpose of making a rub line is to simply remove that velvet. What a rub line does tell us, however, is the fact that a certain buck prefers to walk that area to and from his feeding and bedding areas. Good to know; especially early in the season.

You might have some good luck if you set your tree stand about 20 yards or so downwind from one of these rub lines. However, as the season progresses, the rubs are abandoned for scrapes.

Scrapes, much like rubs, are made along a field’s edges at first. Soon they will be found in the woods, and these are the ones you need to pay close attention to.

Scrapes are the calling card of the bucks. They are made to attract does that are ready to go into estrous, and the buck or bucks that made the scrape will often return to the scrape to see if a “hot” doe has been around.

It is particularly important if there is an overhanging branch that leans over the scrape. These are called primary scrapes and bucks will visit these more often than the others. They will leave their scent everywhere around that scrape to attract a receptive doe.

It is this writer’s opinion that you should NEVER walk in a scrape or contaminate it in any way with your human scent. Nothing will drive a whitetail away from an area faster than the smell of a human. Some hunters might disagree with me, but that is my train of thought. I have decided long ago to respect the nose of a whitetail deer.

The question remains as to how to hunt a scrape once you locate it. I have a friend, Cy Weichert who is the CEO of ScoutLook (an app that will determine the weather in your immediate hunting area as well as many other things)

Cy is a very successful, world-renowned bow hunter. His trophy wall at his retreat house will humble any hunter I know. It is absolutely full of mature whitetail mounts. In short, the man knows how to hunt.

In a recent conversation with him about scrape hunting, he revealed to me something I hadn’t considered before. When he sets his stand near a well-used scrape, he does not face the scrape. That’s right―He DOES NOT face the scrape.

He knows that a mature buck will circle the scrape to wind it from a distance instead of coming directly into the scrape. He waits to see the buck coming and takes his shot before the wind gives his location away. After that conversation I walked away knowing that I am never too old to learn something new. All I can tell you is that Cy has no problem at all filling his deer tags every year with HUGE whitetail bucks.

So, if you are after a buck this season, plan on hunting the rub lines early and move to the scrapes later. Another friend of mine once told me to move to the movement, if you want to be successful in the whitetail woods.

I believe him!

Story by Lou Marullo

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