Understanding the animal that you are hunting, as well as what to look for, is critical to spot the areas that bucks are likely to be seen at different points throughout the season. Signs like droppings and scents are important, but more obvious are scrapes and rubs which are a fantastic indicator of where a buck might be located.
By recognizing these two signs, as well as knowing what size animal they are likely created by, you can get a better understanding of the paths that the animals are taking and where the boundaries are.
Typically, large bucks will mark their areas and then stay in them for long periods of time, but this isn’t the case for the entire season, and therefore it can be more complicated than just looking for signs. Instead, you need to know what they suggest, when they were made and therefore whether they are significant or not.
What is a Scrape?
A scrape refers to a deer scraping the ground with their hooves to make it clear to other deer that they are in the area. Typically, you will find that these scrapes occur under a low hanging branch because this allows them to rub against it to leave a scent simultaneously. Often, they will then urinate in the scraped area to mark it further as their own.
Scrapes can range in size drastically from less than a foot to many feet in diameter, but this isn’t always a sign of a larger animal. Typically, large scrapes are either caused by a large buck, but they can also be done by a group of smaller deer creating a “community scrape,” and therefore you can’t assume that a large scrape always means a mature buck.
Instead, you should treat a large scrape as one piece of information into your investigation and look for other signs to suggest that a trophy buck could be in the area.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between a “community scrape” and the scraping done by a mature buck is that the older deer will be more logical and uniform. A group of younger animals usually have no rhythm or rhyme, leading to scrapes all over the area with no apparent direction or pattern.
Dominant deer will create a territory line with their scrapes, separated around 50 to 100 feet apart, which lets other animals know that they consider it their territory. By following this line of scrapes, you can identify the precise path that the buck will likely take if they return to the area as they try to walk it to spot any other animals scrapes or scent.
What is a Rub?
A rub is very different to a scrape. Rather than being on the ground, a rub is done with their antlers against a tree, bush or branch. Some hunters argue that they do this early in the season to remove the velvet from their new antlers, but there is very little evidence to suggest this because bucks in captivity naturally lose their velvet without the need for rubbing.
Instead, rubbing is used in the same way as scraping, to create a line of territory and to warn other bucks to keep away. Often these rubs occur on the way between feeding and bedding areas and can give hunters vital information as to where these locations are in which direction they travel.
You can also infer the size of the buck depending on the size and intensity of the rub. Of course, it’s possible for a smaller animal to create large marks by continuously rubbing, but generally, a large marking is from a huge trophy animal.
Using this Information for Hunting
It’s important to recognize that just because a scrape or rub occurred it doesn’t mean that the animal will return to the area again. Instead, you must think about the time of the season with regards to the rut.
Early season scrapes and rubs are of little importance, but what you will want to pay attention to it pre-breeding marks. These scrapes and rubs are often visited by bucks just before they begin to breed.
However, once they begin breeding, they typically will not visit these areas again because their movement will follow the does rather than the area which they have marked as their own. Instead, rubs and scrapes should only be used for dictating hunting areas before the rut.