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Scrapes, rubs provide communication information for both deer, hunter


Coming upon scrapes or rubs in the woods gives confidence to a hunter because those markings are a visual sign that a buck has visited the area. For white-tailed deer, though, scrapes and rubs are not only visual signs, the markings are also olfactory ones. In essence, scrapes and rubs are a means of communication among the deer, particularly bucks in a given area. Outdoor writer Oak Dukes refers to scrapes and rubs as the “Whitetail Internet,” and, in fact, scrapes and rubs do for deer what Facebook postings do for humans.

Although scrapes and rubs vary with the individuality of the maker, today’s column looks at the basics of whitetail scrapes and rubs.

Whitetail Scrapes

A scrape is an area that a buck paws up with his hooves to remove leaves and grass so that only bare ground shows. Generally oval in shape, a scrape often has a tree branch directly overhead. A buck works the overhanging branch by biting or nibbling at it; sometimes a buck will even shred the overhanging branch with his antlers. Too, the buck will rub the branch with his forehead and lick the branch in order to deposit his scent and to communicate his presence to other deer in the area.

For the most part, scrapes are buck-to-buck communications. Wildlife biologists believe that scrapes allow bucks with overlapping areas to monitor one another especially in light of their social rank. Scrapes are one method by which older bucks display their dominance. While scraping may take place year round, the majority of scrape behavior takes place during the pre-rut period. Scrapes appear at a higher frequency when a balanced buck-to-doe ratio exists and when the herd is comprised of a good number of mature bucks.

Scrapes are generally classified as secondary or primary. Secondary scrapes are often randomly placed, and they receive minimal, if any, follow-up attention. Many secondary scrapes are testosterone-driven where a buck will simply do some scraping prior to the does coming into estrus. Too, subordinate bucks create scrapes to announce their presence in an area, and just as a dog marks his territory so may a deer make boundary scrapes.

Unlike secondary scrapes, primary ones are strategically placed, primarily in high-traffic areas such as feeding sites, travel corridors, intersections of major runways, and bottlenecks. Mature bucks make primary scrapes, and because other deer tend to visit these scrapes, they are sometimes called community scrapes. Research indicates that 70 percent of scrape activity occurs under the cover of darkness, and that dominant bucks may or may not revisit and refresh their scrapes.

Buck Rubs

As the name suggests, a rub occurs when a buck rubs the base of his antlers against the lower portion of a tree or sapling. Both whitetails and hunters readily identify rubs because the bark has been scraped from the tree. Rubs are the most common visual sign that bucks make, although rubs have an olfactory feature, too, because bucks rub their forehead glands and lick the rub. A rub is essentially a signpost, and when other deer encounter a rub, they can identify the individual buck who rubbed there.

Some hunters believe that the size of a buck can be determined by the size of the tree on which a rub has occurred, but authorities disclaim this belief. While it is generally true that large bucks rub larger trees and smaller bucks work smaller trees, research has shown that big bucks will rub saplings and young bucks will rub trees with a six-inch diameter.

Experts generally acknowledge three patterns of rubs. One is the rub line, a series of rubs that follow a meandering path between a buck’s bedding and feeding areas. The second pattern is a cluster of rubs, and as the name suggests, cluster rubs occur in bunches and are commonly found in the vicinity of a buck’s bedding area. The third pattern is actually not a pattern at all because these rubs are random ones. Bucks make random rubs in their wanderings, and such rubs are often testosterone-driven.

Authorities believe that dominant bucks do most of the rubbing. If an area beams with rubs, one can conclude that a mature buck has made the rubs and that a balanced buck-to-doe ratio exists. Experts contend that rubs serve as an expression of dominance, and that a mature buck’s rubs say to lesser bucks in the area, “No trespassing”.

Outdoor Calendar

Today-May 1: Boaters must wear PFDs on vessels Less than 21 feet.

Wednesday: American Woodcock season closes.

Saturday: Regular Deer Season opens in Southern Zone.

Dec. 2: Regular Deer Season closes in Northern Zone.

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