When searching for the ideal location to place a hunting blind or stand, the very first thing you should do is check for deer activity in the area. Hunting in an area with no deer is much like fishing in an empty pond. You can sit there all day, but you are never going to catch anything. Just because you saw a deer standing by the side of the road several miles back doesn’t mean that the land you are hunting on will have them now. Despite the fact that the land is deer-less, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. There are steps that you can take to attract them to the area you are hunting on. Building a mock deer rub is one of them.
Feeder plots, mock scrapes, and even lick sites are all things that you can do to entice the deer to travel your way. Mock rubs are not difficult, and in some cases work very well. A deer will generally pick an existing rub to mark their territory, rather than making a new one. Creating a mock rub is a great way to attract them to your property as well as target trees that you want them to rub on.
A male fawn is not born with any antlers and in fact, it takes almost a year before they begin to grow their first set. In that time, they will work on growing their pedicals, which is like a base that the antlers grow from. In the spring, usually around March or April, the of age bucks, will begin to grow a new set of antlers, at an astonishing rate too. Deer antlers are the fastest growing tissue known to man growing at a rate of a half of an inch to an inch each day. As the antlers protrude from the pedicles of the animal they are covered with a velvet-like substance. This velvet material is what protects the antlers from breaking as they grow. It also provides the needed blood, and nutrients it needs to grow healthy and strong.
Throughout much of the spring, and all of the summer the antlers will continue to grow. The antlers will grow larger each year of the animals life, maxing out in size when it is about five or six years old. After this, the antlers will return smaller and smaller each year. A healthy buck will generally grow a larger rack as opposed to an older, unhealthy one. Genetics, also play a part in size, but diet helps as well. Hunters will often provide mineral lick sites to assist with the diet, and ultimately the growth of the antlers.
In the fall when the antlers have finished growing the velvet substance will start to fall off. This is generally sparked by a larger amount of testosterone levels. To assist with the removal process the deer will locate small trees, and rub the antlers against the bark to scrape away the velvet to expose the beautiful antlers beneath. By doing the excessive rubbing it not only relieves them of the velvet it also strengthens their necks for the upcoming rut period and alerts the doe that they are ready to mate.
Typically the rub period initiates between August and September. Younger bucks and elder, unhealthy bucks are commonly delayed by a few weeks. The more dominant bucks will produce the needed testosterone levels sooner and therefore start the rub period sooner. Younger bucks won’t make as many rubs, as opposed to older bucks, who may make several clustered over a larger area.
The deer will rub in areas that they travel to get to food, and drink, and around the area that they bed. Think of it like an itch when they need to scratch they will do so on the nearest tree to where they are. When considering where to place a mock rub look for other signs of life nearby. Rubs will be used by multiple bucks, not just one. They use them to mark their territory. They will rub the tree, leaving evidence and hormones on the bark. This process alerts the doe population that there is a buck nearby that is ready to mate.
When building a mock rub there are two ways to do this. The first is to find existing trees in the area that are near trails, water, or food sources. Hold a sharp blade against the tree, and slide it up and down to scrape away the bark, much in the same way a buck would do when rubbing the velvet off the antlers. Scrape away the bark on one side of the tree, at the same height as your torso. Do not scrape all the way around. Removing the bark completely around the trunk of the tree will kill it. Stand on one side of the tree and scrape away a small section approximately two feet tall and a couple inches wide.
This method is the most economical and practical way to create a mock rub. When choosing a tree, locate the ones that are no larger than 4 inches in diameter. A much older buck may use a larger tree but typically they will be no larger than 8 inches in diameter. This provides enough space to get the antlers around the trunk and rub. Clear away any overgrowth from around the trunk to provide easy access for the deer to reach the tree. If they can’t get to it easily, chances are they will never use it.
The second is the most expensive option and usually works better next to fences that need to be protected. Travel to the hardware store and purchase several cedar fence posts, again, 4 to 8 inches in size. Install them in a row along the side of a corn field. Repeat the steps described earlier on the trees. Installing these mock rubs alongside a fence line protects the installed fence, and provides an area for the deer to mark their territory.