Ask The Biologist

There’s the Rub

There’s the Rub

By Bob Humphrey

Don’t confuse buck rubs with activity associated with licking branches.

QUESTION: Will a buck rub limbs 5 to 6 feet high in a tree, and will a buck rub in early February? – Tyler N.

ANSWER: The answer depends partly on your location. Dr. John Ozoga is credited with being the first to recognize the importance of an overhanging limb in relation to scrape activity. His research found that the presence of what we often refer to as a licking branch can induce bucks to scrape, and he recommended the branch be 4-5 feet above the ground. Scraping and rubbing would be less likely to occur on higher branches, unless the area receives significant snowfall, effectively making higher branches lower.

What most hunters refer to as rubbing is not done on branches, but on the main stem of a tree or shrub. A mature buck stands about 3 feet high at the shoulders. As they typically lower their head to rub, most rubs no higher than 3 feet off the ground.

Bucks may rub any time they’re carrying antlers, but are most likely to do so while shedding velvet and during the rut and pre-rut periods. While timing of the rut is fairly regular in northern latitudes – around mid-November – it can be highly variable in Southern states, occurring well into February in some (Florida, for example).

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