A good argument for Spring Scouting — notice how both antler rubs and ground scrapes are November fresh in early May — this combo is a dream maker!
Whereas most whitetail hunters consider antler rubs to be prime buck signs, along with ground scrapes, few consider their locations to be worthwhile stand sites. Perhaps rightfully so. During the latter half of November when most firearm deer hunting seasons are in progress, few bucks are interested in making or renewing previously made antler rubs, or for that matter, making or renewing previously made ground scrapes. The best period for hunting near such deer signs is the 2–3 weeks before breeding begins, during the latter half of October and the first few days of November, i.e., archery hunting season. The last time I deliberately stand hunted near a freshly renewed antler rub (with shredded bark on top of the snow at its base), it was late November (archery season) when the temperature was 27-below zero and a 20–40 mph wind was blowing. When I could stand it no longer and stood up to head to an adjacent wooded ravine to build a life-restoring bonfire, a big 10-pointer jumped from the trail I had been watching and disappeared into the ravine with a single bound, after which it snorted at least ten times as it raced away unseen (a very alarmed buck). If I had taken that buck, I’d probably be more interested in hunting near rubs yet today.
Today, however, antler rubs are mostly my starting points when scouting in early spring (right after snow melt and before leaves begin to grow), a time when rubs made during the previous fall are still brightly colored and easy to spot great distances away. Along deer trails where single rubs are found, especially those close to known feeding areas, or in buck bedding areas where clusters are found, I search for also easily spotted fresh tracks and droppings of sizes made by mature bucks. Before long, I’ll know how many mature bucks my hunting partners and I will have to hunt in fall and where they live. Trails favored by mature bucks at this time of the year will generally be the same trails they will favor after leaves have fallen in autumn, making them good starting places for final scouting 2–3 weeks before archery hunting in October or firearm hunting in November. When used for this purpose, antler rubs have great hunting value, enabling my sons, grandsons and me to quickly discover what we need to know to ensure another successful season of hunting mature bucks.