My mailbox is running over with questions about rubs and scrapes made by whitetail deer during the fall and winter. There are many myths floating around that need to be debunked.
A rub occurs when a buck deer rubs a tree with his antlers, leaving the tree scarred -- often completely destroyed. For decades, it was believed that the buck rubbed the trees to rid his antlers of the velvet. The myth concluded that the velvet on the antlers begins to itch and the deer rubs it off to relieve himself of the itching agony. Actually, the velvet doesnt itch the buck. The velvet would fall off all by itself if left alone.
When the velvet comes off, the antlers are hard, although there might be evidence of slight bleeding. Despite old stories, the buck does not have to hone the antler tips into sharp points. Rubs are a sign of territorial boundaries and establishment of a pecking order.
It is also believed that large bucks rub large trees and small bucks rub small trees. It is true that small bucks rub small trees, but large bucks are known to rub any size tree from 12-inch diameter trees down to wrist-size saplings.
Many hunters claim that the higher up on the tree you find the rub, the taller -- and heavier -- the buck. Wrong again. Some bucks will stand on their hind feet to rub trees. Others will rub the tree down low. Still others will straddle a sapling and push it down, causing the rub to appear to have been made by a 10-foot-tall monster.
Other stories are told regarding scrapes. I once heard two hunters talking over a cup of coffee. One said, A scrape is a scrape, and its made by a buck going into estrus. Actually, a buck does not go into estrus. This is a function of does only. And a scrape is not just a scrape. There are secondary scrapes, boundary scrapes, primary scrapes, community scrapes and even doe scrapes.
Boundary scrapes are made early in the season by dominant bucks that are marking their territory boundaries. We dont yet know why a doe makes a scrape, and it isnt important in the hunting concept. Doe scrapes are different from buck scrapes in that does do not completely scrape away all leaves and grass down to bare earth. Actually, a doe scrape is similar to the pawing of a coyote that makes a territorial scratch.
The scrape the hunter is most interested in is the primary scrape, one that is large and totally clean of foreign matter and is usually beneath an overhanging limb that has been bitten off by the buck.
One of the hunters that were analyzing scrapes over coffee also said, When the bucks stop visiting the scrapes and cease to clean them out, the rut is over. Nothing could be more wrong. When the bucks stop cleaning up the scrapes, the rut is just beginning.
Emory Josey writes a weekly outdoors column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org