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Reading the pre-rut signs

1146 Views 12 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Fletcher
I hunt public land and to me land is land. However, no baiting on public land. Private land you can bait. Regardless, over the last three weeks I've found two ridge areas I call rub and scrape alley on top of two ridges that are the same elevation, 500 yards apart. Not fully understanding how to connect next steps I have researched the signs to improve my chances. My challenge is determining the bedding area for bucks. I'm lost on that one. Which one or how to locate it.

To date: On top of the same ridge I've been busted by a nice buck, could have shot a doe at 7 yards (both of them 2:30pm and 3pm) and jumped a doe walking to this ridge line. Right now I will not shoot a doe because rut has to be so close to being on. Now I need to figure out where these bucks are bedding. I am lost with my next steps and I'm trying to understand pre-rut deer behavior without baiting.

Any suggestions appreciated.

My son says most of these rubs and scrapes are mostly done during the night so am I'm waisting my time to stay up on the ridge?

  1. Scrapes
    1. Boundary scrapes: early in the rutting season bucks will make scrapes around the perimeter or on a partial edge of their territory.
      1. Scrapes are usually small and quickly made. Seen them on top of the ridge.
      2. Made by bucks during the pre-rut (prior to peak breeding) as they begin to stakeout and mark their territory.
      3. Is an invitation for does and a “keep out” warning sign for other bucks
    2. Random or secondary scrapes:
      1. May form a line, called a scrape line, leading to a primary scrape.
    3. A primary scrape is a large area, at least 3 by 3 feet,
      1. made by a buck in an area where he feels comfortable and secure breeding with a doe.
      2. A primary scrape is always made under an overhanging branch that is about 5 feet from the ground. I have located this a primary scrape at the top of my ridge. Even saw a doe go near then down into a small ravine with thick cover.
      3. The buck will then stand in the middle of the scrape, hold his back legs together and urinate over his tarsal glands, allowing the combined excretions to fall into the scrape. I have been peeing in this one primary scrape and raking lines with a stick. Boy has there been activity!
  2. Rubs: A rub is an area on a tree 1 to 3 feet off the ground where a buck has rubbed the bark off the tree to polish his antlers and strengthen his neck muscles during the pre-rut.
    1. Three types of rubs:
      1. Minor: (usually on saplings), rubs that appear in a line are called a rub line. made by bucks as they break away from summer bachelor groups, an indication that the breeding process is beginning
      2. Cluster rubs may appear as a group, and there may be six or more in one location. Also, are made by bucks to advertise their presence to does. Often these rubs are made in high doe traffic areas or near food sources. These rubs also tell an intruder buck, “Stay out, this is my turf.”
      3. Signpost rubs, like cluster rubs, serve as a stop sign for does, and a warning sign for other bucks. Signpost rubs are usually on a tree that is 4 inches in diameter or larger, and they are very visible. Signposts are regularly freshened during the early season and may be used by more than one buck. Signpost rubs are also used year after year by generations of bucks. I've seen these rubs down off the ridge near a creek near heavy brush.
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Personally, I don't hunt rub lines or scrapes specifically. For me, it's as simple as catch them coming and going to food or bed. Hunt the does as they'll draw the bucks. Play the wind. You'll have to be very aware of thermals with the elevation changes there. IF you can be where they're going before they arrive and you're downwind of them. Boom. Done deal.

I've killed 4 deer so far this year with the exception of the buck in my avatar, they were all coming to food. He was unlucky enough to be coming with the hot doe that was coming to the food. 4 of the 4 were coming to acorns, no food plots or feeding stations just mother natures home grown acorns.

One other thing I'd suggest is to limit your time on the ground in there when you're not hunting. Bumping deer scouting really freaks me out. Hang a couple stands or put up blinds, whatever your preferred method and leave them alone until you're in hunting mode.

Good luck, stack em up!

One last thing, I killed that buck at 11am. Deer move a lot during the day, not just dawn and dusk.
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So why so much activity on top of the ridge? Any thoughts appreciated.
Ridge on the top of the pic? Looks like a really heavy travel route. Be a good spot to hang a stand. Oaks on that ridge? If so, all the better!
My theory is to hunt the does and the bucks will be there. That said....does are going to the food, therefore I hunt the food sources.;) Rubs and pawings tells me the bucks are there and you can also get a pretty good feel from the numbers of rubs and pawing how many bucks might be there. If the woods are slap tore up then I figure there's a fair amount of bucks using the area.

I have hunted scrapes and have killed a some bucks doing so. Ive also found that what I thought was a hot-spot was getting all the activity at night. Good thing about trail cameras now. They can scout out those ridge lines for ya. Since switching to food sources I see WAY more bucks. I try avoiding where I think the deer bed as I dont want to "bump" a deer off the property I'm hunting. I steer clear by along ways of those areas. Good luck to ya.
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Thanks gents! I did watch the doe walk down the ridge trail to the "primary scrap" then go down into a ravine that was thick with small hardwood with some green leaves still on the trees (sparsely on the tree) then lost sight of her. That ravine was about a 20 yard drop from the very top ridge I was on with all the signs.
Most of my nice bucks come off ridge tops Tom and I do not live far from you. I like being on the top of a ridge so my scent is above the deer when possible. I like it even better if I can set up with the wind in my face and a drop off ridge to my back. There are lots of rubs up there as the buck is using it as a bedroom probably. I do not really target scrapes but they are nice to have around. I have only killed one real nice buck direct off a scrape over the years but have watched many bucks work scrapes. Get in there in the dark and get set up as quite as you can.
I hope you kill a nice one. :)
I can't thank you you all enough for you comments. You have me thinking instead of just going and sitting in a tree. I want to improve my luck! :) Hunting is not easy and I appreciate that.
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Tom, killing a deer aint hard. Killing the one you want is another thing. That's what makes hunting fun!;):)
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Tom, killing a deer aint hard. Killing the one you want is another thing. That's what makes hunting fun!;):)
Well said!
Still doing my research to improve my skills on public land. So many valued comments for folks.

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